I think more people are reading and writing because of me, says India’s best-selling author Chetan Bhagat
Love him or hate him, but you cannot simply ignore the fact that Chetan Bhagat is India’s best-selling author. With a voice beyond his books, Chetan also aims to listen to the “voice of the youth” and bring about change in the country through his columns and opinion pieces.
His latest book, One Arranged Murder, is a killer-thriller, the kind with many sub-plots, complex characters, and a gripping tale.
Saurabh Maheshwari is engaged to Prerna Malhotra and also her dysfunctional family. Life takes a turn when Prerna is pushed off the terrace on karva chauth day. Saurabh, along with his friend Keshav, is determined to get to the bottom of the murder, and family secrets that unravel at every turn. Surely, a plot perfect for a movie, like Chetan’s other books.
One Arranged Murder is more gripping than his previous one, Girl in Room 105, again a murder mystery of sorts. Chetan says, releasing the book in the middle of a pandemic was a gamble that paid off. Not surprisingly, it remains No. 1 under Indian writing on Amazon’s best-seller charts .
In a conversation with YSWeekender, Chetan Bhagat talks about the new book, the murder mystery genre, having a voice, and dealing with criticism.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
YS Weekender [YSW]: Congratulations on your new book, One Arranged Murder. After seven fiction novels, why did you think of a full-fledged murder mystery this time…
Chetan Bhagat [CB]: I believe young people these days have very less attention spans. They are watching a lot of videos and if they had to pick up a book, it has to be gripping. Also, for my own satisfaction, I wanted to attempt something different. I have done a lot of love stories, though this one does have everything – love and friendship. It also has the mystery element which keeps people guessing who the killer is. I think it makes it a little more fun to read.
YSW: Did you work differently on the plot?
CB: Yes, writing a murder mystery is different from writing other books, because people are trying to solve the case with you. I had to learn, read a lot of mystery books, and educate myself.
YSW: Over the years, have readers come to expect something specific from a Chetan Bhagat book that is different as well?
CB: Though this is my second murder mystery after The Girl in Room 105, this is a better book, crisper, and gripping with more humour. Though I was quite sceptical to launch the book in the middle of the pandemic, the response has been fabulous. People are at home, keen to try new things, and also read a book.
There are have been limitations, of course, I cannot do too many interviews or visit bookstores, though I am connecting with people through social media. Despite these challenges, the book is No. 1 on Amazon.
YSW: From Five Point Someone to One Arranged Murder, how have you evolved as a writer?
CB: I think I have become a better writer, and better at writing more complex plots. This book may seem deceptively simple, but it was not an easy one to write. I also handle criticism better, I used to get very agitated before over critics responding a certain way to my books. But not anymore. I think I have also become a better person.
YSW: As India’s best-selling author in English, do you think you have created a trend of more Indian authors writing in English?
CB: That’s what people say. I think people are reading and writing because of me. There’s a certain set of people who never read books but began reading and some of them have gone on to become writers. It’s definitely a good trend.
YSW: What do Indian readers look for in a book?
CB: I don’t think people want to read ‘dense books,’ or those that are hard to read in terms of length, sentence structure, or vocabulary. They want something easy they can relate to.
YSW: Marketing has also played a significant role in the success of your books…
CB: I have no hesitation in saying I love marketing – it’s a skill and an art. Having said that, you cannot market a bad thing and make it a success over and again. Firstly, you have to write a good book, and even if you have written a good one, you will not be able to sell it or hope for people to read it unless you market it well. I do come up with innovative ways to market my book.
YSW: Is it imperative for authors to have a voice beyond their books? You are quite vocal on social media…
CB: Not everybody is that way. Some want to just write. I am different. I want to write to bring change in the country, influence the youth, and take them to a better place. I feel it gives more meaning to what I do.
YSW: Speaking up also brings with it, criticism… How do you deal with trolls?
CB: It comes with the territory. Believe it or not, I try to avoid controversy. I try not to get personal; I don’t take names and I am not abusive. I think a lot about what I have to say, and some people may feel that it comes across as something very strong. But hey, that’s my job!