“But the success of If God was a Banker changed everything. It won me an award, then Devil in Pinstripes got me critical acclaim, and finally the tremendous success of The Incredible Banker, which went on to win the Economist Crossword Book Award” Says Ravi Subramanian. Shivangi Singh talks to the banker and the amazing author about his journey.
What inspired you to become a writer?
When I wrote If God was a Banker, all I wanted to do was to write one book which would have given me the right to brag about it to my grandchildren. I wanted to leave a legacy so that long after one is gone, a book in some nondescript library would remind people about an author called Ravi Subramanian, who walked this planet. That’s all I wanted to do. But the success of If God was a Banker changed everything. It won me an award, then Devil in Pinstripes got me critical acclaim, and finally the tremendous success of The Incredible Banker, which went on to win the Economist Crossword Book Award. My most recent book, THE BANKSTER has met with great success and for the last four weeks has been No.1 on both the Crossword and Landmark bestseller lists.
You are a banker first and then an author. Do you suppose it would have been tough for you to start simply as an author?
It is almost impossible for one to predict the way life would have gone. However it is quite unlikely that I would have started off as a full time author. Creativity is at its best when one does not have the need to live off it commercially. And writing is a lot more fun, when I know I have a day job to take care of my family back home.
From being a bestseller to winning the prestigious Economist Crossword Book Award- How would you describe your journey?
It’s been a journey full of joy, learning and fun. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but God has been kind to me and the hard work has paid off. Winning an award in the popular category, beating favourites has been extremely satisfying to a storyteller like me.
How tough is it being an author in our country? What challenges did you have to face?
When I wrote If God was a Banker, I sent the completed manuscript to four publishers. Three didn’t even respond. Rupa did. That’s how the relationship began. Thereafter all my books have been with Rupa. I guess I got lucky. However things are much more positive these days. As I said earlier, publishers are waiting to lap up authors with a good story and who they feel, will be able to stand up and market their books well. However the challenge they face is not as much in getting it published, as much as it is in getting noticed in the ocean of new books and getting picked up by the audience that they are targeting.
Your books are mostly thrillers with a banking backdrop. Is it difficult to find thrill in a job such as banking, which is generally considered mundane?
I love writing stories based in the banking and financial services industry. It is an industry where you have money, people, relationships, crime, fraud, investigations, sleaze and greed – all ingredients which make a great potboiler. Who says banking is mundane and boring?
When can we expect a book of a different genre from you? What other themes would you like to touch?
As I said earlier, I prefer writing stories set in the genre of corporate thrillers. Strangely not many people write stories set in the backdrop of this industry, which touches every individual’s life in some way or the other. I see myself writing a few more stories based in this industry for sure. Whether I will experiment with any other genre is a difficult one to say. The day I feel that I am not able to churn out fresh stories set in the enormously sexy global banking industry, I will definitely stop writing about bankers and banking.
These days a lot of the Indian authors are IIM alumni. Do you think it is becoming a trend for B-School pass-outs to end up as writers or columnists for popular newspapers/magazines?
IIM Alumni are a lot more ambitious as compared to MBA’s from other institutes. These days being a successful author is a sure shot way to become intellectually glamorous – which is what most of the new generation authors are after. Also most of the publishers court them because given their business acumen and networking, most of them will definitely sell the bare minimum a publisher requires to break even. IIM Authors are a publisher’s safety net. So it’s a mix of ambition, saleable product and willing publishers.
What would be your suggestion for youngsters who dream of becoming a bestselling author?
Most people who want to write, never even begin their journey because of two reasons – firstly they are unable to find time to write and secondly they keep waiting for the entire story to take concrete shape. The former is easier to handle through proper prioritisation of time spent on daily activities. As far as the latter is concerned, most of the writers do not wait for the story to take shape from end to end, before they begin writing. All they need is an idea. For example in The Bankster, the story has taken a completely different shape from what I had envisaged when I began writing. So if you have an idea, start writing. Like any other journey, the first five pages you write will give you ideas for the next ten and thereon the story will evolve. This is the best way to give yourself a realistic chance of finishing that all-elusive book. Times have never been so good for an Indian Author as they are today. Publishers, distributers, bookstores and readers are all laying out the red carpet for you. Back yourself and prepare to walk bravely on the red strip.