There is danger, deception and love in Vinod Joseph’s second book, When the Snow Melts. This spy thriller, set in London, has the good guys playing deadly roulette with al Qaeda, ISI and the likes. The author, also a corporate lawyer, tells DNA about how he “wanted a realistic plot, one that would hold water, one that could stand up to scrutiny, with the right number of twists and turns” and got it.
When and how did you discover you could write?
Only when I completed the first draft of my first novel, Hitchhiker. I was in London in the midst of a masters degree in corporate and commercial laws at the London School of Economics, when I started writing Hitchhiker and I had no idea if I could successfully complete it. Many years before that, when I was still a teenager, I had planned a novel, but got nowhere.
What was most difficult about writing When the Snow Melts?
Getting the plot right. Since I am a realist, I wanted a realistic plot, one that would hold water, one that could stand up to scrutiny, with the right number of twists and turns.
What kind of homework did you do for it?
I had read many spy novels, ranging from Forsyth to Maclean to le Carre over a period of time and so I knew what any reader would expect from a spy thriller. I read a few memoirs written by former spies, but they weren’t of much use in what I planned to write. I read up about the al Qaeda and the Taliban, mainly non-fiction books that were good at providing a general idea about those organisations. But when you want to spin a yarn, almost all of it has to come of out your own head.
Why did you choose to write a spy thriller?
For a change, actually. My first novel, Hitchhiker, dealt with social issues. After Hitchhiker, I started work on a novel about a politician, which is still incomplete. I wrote many short stories for my blog (www.winnowed.blogspot.com) on topics ranging from cabbages to kings. I wanted to do write something that was different from what I had written in the previous five years. Something light and easy to read.
Have you ever been blocked, unable to write, and if so, how did you get going again?
At times, yes, though most of the time I am a compulsive writer, struggling to find time to write. When I have a block, I enjoy the break and wait for it to go away. It always does.
Did you have an imaginary reader while writing?
Not for When the Snow Melts. For my first novel, I did and after I finished writing, many of the people I expected to read and welcome my book didn’t . And those I thought wouldn’t be interested, showed a great deal of curiosity. So, when I wrote When the Snow Melts, I decided to get on with it, without worrying who would like it and who would not.
Tell us about a few literary techniques you followed.
I hate using the word “technique” since I like my words to flow naturally. After every couple of thousand words, I force myself to stop and go back to edit and revise.
Who or what inspires you?
Feedback from a satisfied reader.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you on writing well?
A blogger once told me, after reading one of the short stories on my blog, that I need to ‘show more and tell less’. That was before I wrote When the Snow Melts. I have tried to follow that advice ever since.
Writers you admire the most.
Graham Greene, JM Coetzee, Hilary Mantel, Nadine Gordimer, Leo Tolstoy, Mikhail Sholokhov
Name a book you wish you’d written.
The Quiet American by Graham Greene