BENGALURU: Amplifying Ernest Hemingway’s thought, author Ashwin Sanghi says, “Write when drunk, edit when sober, and marketing is your hangover.” Clearly emphasising on the critical role that promotions play in ensuring a novel’s success, the bestselling author, who was in the city to launch his book, The Sialkot Saga, asserts that even though he is not trying to eke out a living by writing, the possibility of making money from novels was laughable when he began writing. “But in the last eight to 10 years there has been a sea change and if I wanted to live on my royalty, I could,” says the author of bestsellers, The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key, all published by Westland.
For a businessman, who was actively involved in his family business of automobile distribution, real estate development among others, until he got interested in writing, The Sialkot Saga is a result of an inspiration from Chankaya’s Chant. “I was partially inspired by my second book because it revolved around the games people play in politics and I believe that politics and business are two sides of the same coin. The trigger was the five years of the UPA government when Commonwealth Games scam to the coal scam brought to light the incestuous relationship between politics and business,” he says.
Speaking about the book, which is a business thriller, he informs that it revolves around the trajectories of the protagonists, Arvind and Arbaaz, both businessmen whose lives are unwillingly intertwined as they weave plots for one-upmanship without realising that a secret connects both.
Ashwin has cleverly stitched the Hindu-Muslim feel, taking the story back to partition to the year 2010, while using real life characters to lend a sense of time. “There is Nehru addressing the public at the Red Fort and Atal Bihari Vajpayee meeting Arvind because I love facts that sound like fiction and fiction that sounds like fact,” he says and adds that it was not religious beliefs and the differences in them that he wanted to bring forth but a natural human tendency for materialistic pleasures. “In terms of the quest for gold, nothing has changed in thousands of years. When it comes to money, whether you are Hindu or Muslim is inconsequential,” he mentions.
Speaking about his initial days of writing, Ashwin makes no secret of the fact that he never knew the complexities of the publishing world. “When writing The Rozabal Line, I did not make any effort to understand the publishing world. Later, on approaching, every agent and publisher had a problem with my writing. So, I decided to self-publish the book. In a way, the ignorance was good because had I known how it would be, I would not have written at all or would have written it differently. The originality of my thoughts would have gone,” he says.
His book remained unavailable in India since the US-based self-publishing platform was selling his books only through American online retail channels. The initial struggle saw Ashwin make rounds of book stores. “One salesman suggested writing to distributors and he gave me few contacts. One distributor turned helpful. He gave me another 80 contacts and I sent a copy of my book to all of them. Only one replied. It was East West Books based in Chennai, which was the parent of Westland,” he recollects.
Hemu Ramaiah, founder of Landmark Book Stores, who had collaborated with East West Books to form Westland, suggested Ashwin to get in touch with Gautam Padmanabhan, the CEO of Westland who read and created a target group of five people and asked for their feedback. “Luckily for me, all of them liked it,” he chuckles.
Meanwhile, Ashwin is working on his second collaboration with James Patterson for the Private series after Private India which will be Private Delhi. His non-fiction, 13 Steps to Blood Good Luck will also find a series which will be co-authored. “I plan to bring out 2-3 in the series every year,” he informs.