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A missing painting. A thrilling chase. A conman at his peak. The heist of a lifetime.

Life&More March 1, 2019
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Saurabh Tankha

Author of seven bestselling crime fiction books, he is regarded as ‘top 51 Indian authors to follow’ by ebooks India. He was titled as ‘India’s John Grisham’ for stimulating the genre of legal fiction in India, which was almost non-existent before his arrival on the scene. Even today, he is the only one who writes legal fiction. Britain-based author Vish Dhamija recently released his latest work, The Heist Artist which is an ingeniously crafted page-turner about an audacious modern-day heist. We had a chat with Vish…

Tell us more about the book and how did you go about writing it?
The Heist Artist is a Crime Caper where the perpetrator of the crime is actually the protagonist and the story is told from his/ her protagonist. I wanted to write a story of a heist from a first person perspective, and so it happened…
Your ideas germinate from…
Reality. I was told about Van Gogh’s stolen paintings at the Van Gogh Museum at Amsterdam!
If you could have been an original author of a book, which one it would be and why?
Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly among my contemporaries. He is my favourite author and you have to read the book (or see the film) to understand how good the story is.
How different are you from other authors?
The only difference is I do not stick to what I have been bracketed as. So when they say I write legal thrillers, I end up writing a Crime Caper. I don’t want to be slotted into any hard-coded genre. (Yes, it is all crime fiction, but…)
What if your creative work doesn’t get good reviews?
Hate it as it hurts. But at the end of the day, one has to realise itthat  is only an opinion. Take it in your stride and move on. You can’t even get 100% of the world to Picasso so who am I in the grand scheme of things anyway?
In your opinion, what is that one thing which is the most important part of a book?
Characters. Long after the story of Sholay is forgotten — Gabbar Singh, Thakur and Jay-Veeru stay in your mind, don’t they?
Is writing energising or exhausting?
Energising for me.

The word “creative” to you means…
Freedom to express; I write what I please, not restrained by what the publishers want.
Are authors friends with other authors or are they competitors?
Friends, and I am honest. I love when I meet them; it’s an honest love at Lit Fests we attend!
You spent your first advance on…
Never got an advance for the first book L. I spent the first royalty cheque on dinner with my wife!
Best way to market a creative work…
Be honest. People love honesty, and they can see through it.
How much time do you write in a day?
Two-three hours when I get into the mood, but it’s not daily.
Do you believe in a writer’s block?
Nope. It’s a something the writer’s have invented themselves to not let anyone call them lazy J.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Golf. Music. Travel. Whisky.
Any book that inspired you to take up writing?
It wasn’t one particular book, but yes Black Dahlia by James Ellroy made me think of writing noir.
What does it take to be good storyteller?
Story, yes but the narrative is even more important—the readers have to like the characters.
Do you write at home or travel to a destination for writing?
I write at home. I also write when I travel. I always carry my laptop with me.
Did a publisher reject any of your creative works?
Oh yes, you bet. Irrespective of how good the manuscript is, it has to be commercially viable or it will get rejected, believe me.
Do book covers matter as much as the content?
I think they do, and that’s why I always leave it to the sales/ marketing guys of the publisher. They know best. Give you input and wait… it brings out the best in them.
Fiction or non-fiction…
Fiction, any day!
Favourite childhood book…
Tintin by Hergé.
Favourite childhood author…
Hergé. Enid Blyton. Agatha Christie (in that order)
Favourite author now…
Michael Connelly.
Do you watch movies? If yes, what genre and if no, then why not?
Mostly crime fiction.
One advice for existing authors…
Keep doing the good work!
One advice for budding authors…
Read, read, and read more. Write, edit, and write. Never give up.
You are, at present, reading…
Dirty Money by Richard Stark.
One thing you would want to change about yourself…
Nothing.
Your biggest plus…
Do I have any?
Your biggest minus…
I need to be less emotional.
Do you have any secret talents?
Nope.
If you had a superpower, what and why?
To get rid of all organised religions in the world — they’ve done more harm than good to the human race.
If you were a superhero, who and why?
Phantom to cure the world of all the evil in this world, and be the ghost that never dies!
One thing you would want to accomplish…
Learn to fly an aircraft.
Do you believe in life after death?
No. Heaven and hell are both places on earth. Afterlife is nothing but how people remember you as. Hitler will always be remembered as evil; Mahatma Gandhi will always be remembered as a superhuman. How people remember you after you’re gone is your afterlife?

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