Robin "Einstein" Varghese will be with you shortly... again.

by sidin in

Finally. After a delay of CWG proportions, I have just completed the first draft of Dork 2. It happened approximately 5 hours ago. For now I am calling it D2D1. The version you will see in ex-tree/Kindle/iPad/Xoom/modern-dance format will most probably be D2D3. Next the missus will scan the whole thing. Meanwhile I will clean out odds and ends like the author's note, acknowledgements, and making character names and proper nouns consistent. The end result, D2D2, will then go to Penguin. Who will then send feedback. Which I will incorporate into D2D3. Which will go to press.

I know all this sounds terribly boring. But in reality it is spectacularly boring. But it must be done. Personally I am a believer in freestyle spelling. But many readers get very upset and send emails. Which I would like to avoid this time round. So more attention will be paid to grammar and niggling things like tense shifts. (D1 was full of horrendous tense shift things. Did you noticed it?)

D2 carries on a few months after D1 and takes place almost completely in London. This is not because I've been living here of late. It was always planned like that, with D3 happening back in India. But there is really very little London in it. (Unless lots of London will make you buy the book. In which case it is brimming with London.) But it was a pleasant coincidence to write of the same city you are typing in.

Our plan, ever since Penguin and I first discussed it in mid-2008, has been to tell Robin's story in three books, with the ultimate aim being to make him CEO by Book 3. That plan is proceeding well. Otherwise significant changes have been made from my initial plan for the book. There was too much material in the CDs I found under the sink. So I had to cut and chop and shift things a bit. (Ahem.)

Anyway I won't bore you with all those things right now. There is plenty of time for that. Also I need to leave some gossip for marketing no?

Instead let me share some data points that will, I hope, whet your appetite:

  • D2D1 is currently 62770 words long. That will increase by another 2000 words by the time D2D3 is finished.
  • That should translate to approximately 300 pages or so in print. But this is fully variable.
  • Most of the book was written using Scrivener on a desktop and a laptop.
  • A Dropbox account was used to sync the project between both machines.
  • The whole things took around 5 months to write. But most of the writing happened in the last two weeks.
  • Writing was usually done to background music by Earl Klugh, Fourplay, George Benson and this wonderful mix of Rainymood and The Fragrance of Dark Coffee. Anything with lyrics completely distracts me. So does anything that is too fast, too slow and too complicated. Smooth Jazz seems to be working of late.
  • During the writing process I read the following: A history of the Popes, a biography of Paul Dirac, The Eye of the Red Tsar and, as I got closer to the deadline, Michael Palin's Around The World in 80 Days. Reading humour books keep me cheerful. But I am paranoid about being too influenced by what I am reading. Palin's travel non-fiction is most satisfying without leaking into Robin's head. Now I am reading Jo Nesbo's Nemesis.
  • I write entirely in 14-point Georgia font. Have been doing so for 4 or 5 years now.
  • In order to help me focus I removed a bunch of apps from my computers, and stayed off updating Twitter for two weeks. Whenever I wanted a break I played Stick Cricket on the iPhone.
  • It will take at least 6 months from now till release date. Which means November-ish maybe? I hope so
  • I am thinking of doing something online as a bonus track, if you will, for the book.
  • The next project that is already beginning to ferment in the brain is a crime novel. (Yes, I know you are going to make Sreesanth-bowling jokes.) But no, seriously. A crime novel has been obsessing the mind for months. I have written just a little bit. Why not? You live only one life.
  • Otherwise life carries on as usual. Mint, Cricinfo, Twitter and now a little Facebook.
  • I intend to spend the next two weeks doing nothing but watch cricket, eat, cycle a little bit, read and blog/tweet/poke.

What else? Nothing much.

Enough about me. You tell me. What is up?

Top 10 ways to be passive aggressive with small-time authors

by sidin in

As some of you may know, thanks to that zonking huge cover in the right sidebar there, in January this year my debut novel was published by Penguin Books India. And--touch wood, kiss wood, dry hump wood--it has been doing respectably since then. A reprint has happened. Some good reviews have come. And overall we are reasonably pleased. Yes, there was the matter of the Booker shortlist. But I am over that now.

However this is not to say that life has been all milk and honey and single malts and paal payasam. Not at all. Writing a book itself is fraught with insecurities and doubts and fear of failure. Like any pursuit, I am sure, that is vulnerable to public criticism.

Yet I naively assumed that once the writing process was over,  the book published, and the reviews dealt with, the emotional turmoil of it all would be over. I would be free of the book, and vice versa, and life would go on.

Ha ha ha. And I as I say this I am walking down a flight of stairs clapping my hands slowly in a sinister fashion.

Ha ha ha.

I was a fool.

I was entirely unprepared for the petty politics, mini passive aggressions and tiny stabbings in the back that, I now understand, all small-time authors have to deal with.

Writers of greater success and wider critical acclaim don't have to worry about such things. If you go and try being sly or clever with Rushdie, Naipaul or Seth, I am sure they'll tear you a new one. (And you could then auction this new one on ebay later for the celebrity premium.)

But small-time writerdom, the vast, soft underbelly of the publishing business, are not spared a single thing. There is no escaping the sly observations, snide remarks and judgmental subtext.

Dear god. The judgmental subtext. That is the worst shit. That play of words where it seems like condescension on the surface but, deep inside, is actually snobbish dismissal. When this happens at Khan Market, and it mostly happens at Khan Market,  you want to reach for a shawarma knife and slap them across the face with it.

So if you are a budding author or an ambitious writer, you need to be prepared for the minefield of subtle insult that awaits. In order to help you I herewith list the top 10 passive aggressive things people have told me over the past few months. I hope this will assist in your literary pursuits.

Top 10 ways to be passive aggressive with small-time authors

1. "Hi Sidin. Congratulations. I read your book last week!" *Turns around and walks away*

Interpretation: "Ok listen, I saw your book at Bahri Sons and bought it. Ok so you wrote a book. What do you want me to do? Rip my clothes off and do it with you here in front of Cocoberry? Fat-free chance of that happening! I could have easily written a better book. Whatever. I am not even going to lie to you about it. But in the off-chance you become famous I will come back and leech on your fame and fortune. Till then you are pond-scum to me."

2. "Wow. Nice. Indian fiction is just so vibrant now no?"

Interpretation: "Bastard. You think you are Rohinton Mistry?? Fool. Stupid book. Just because people buy it doesn't mean you are some intellectual. Any shit gets published these days. When I say vibrant I mean it in the way that Padma Lakshmi eats Cockroach 65 in Taiwan and says 'Interesting'. In reality, she wants to throw up. So do I. If you win an award, I will slash my wrists."

3. "Reprint? Too much boss! A lot of alumni must have bought it..."

Interpretation: "You are worthless without your MBA. If it wasn't for that diploma from Ahmedabad you'd just be a bottom-feeding loser. And now you and your brotherhood of suit-wearing group-wankers perpetuate your greatness. You disgust me. If I had not graduated from the elite Chengalpet Institute of Tantric Dentistry, annual batch size: 23, my book too would have become super hit. Also can you tell my son how to deal with the Data Interpretation part of CAT?"

4. "Someone just told me about the reprint! Whatay! I've been seeing it bookshops everywhere. There are 15 copies at Oxford... super distribution..."

Interpretation: "Cut the crap dude. No one is buying your Dork. When you say reprint, you mean they are reprinting the stupid plot with a new one? Ha ha! Comedy! I am waiting for it to reach Big Bazaar. Unless you can give me a free copy..."

5. "DOOOD! Saw you on NDTV last night. Superb. That's the benefit of getting people like Penguin on board."

Interpretation: "Yeah right. Someone at NDTV just *noticed* your book. Pfft. Sure. And the Chengalpet Institute of Tantric Dentistry is a real college. Screw you man. It's all marketing and bribing and sexual favours. I know how all this works. Ok, I just came back from visiting an important client. I need to take a shower and disinfect myself."

6. Book journalists: "Arrey, hold on yaar. I haven't finished reading it yet. Just been really busy. But I like what I see so far."

Interpretation: "Ok see this is the problem: I don't want to say anything till some of the other reviewers say something. I like it and all. But what if Jai Arjun Singh says it  sucks? Then I don't want to be seen as having an individual opinion of my own. Remember what happened few years ago when I said that one particular book was average, and then it won the Booker? Therefore I am now as insecure as the Gilgit-Baltistan region. So please wait."

7. "Really really liked it. Good work. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been. Penguin must have really run you up the wall with editing requests no?"

Interpretation: "Ha ha ha ha ha. You wrote this book on your own? Ha ha ha ha ha. You fraud."

8. "It was very interesting to see Dork on the bestseller list. Great. It is not my genre, to be honest, but I am really happy for you.

Interpretation: "Have you seen my collection of books? I read Proust man. Proust. And Kafka. Also Saul Bellow. And Paul Auster and Le Clezio. Do you even know what post-modern means? Plebeian asshole. Be gone! Oh, I am so sorry. Plebeian means commoner. A peasant. Just 300 pages, and you call this a book."

9. "Bought it weeks ago. I have to rush now. Let me email you what I think."

Interpretation: "Honestly speaking I think it is really nice. But admitting that in front of other people would ruin my high-literary positioning. I have a reputation here and also at the Habitat Center. Admitting to like Ulysses? Maybe. Dork? Poda patti."

10. "Oh you wrote that book? I got a free copy at that reading at Lodhi. My husband really likes it!"

Interpretation: "Look, my husband is a classless beer-drinking brute. I am the creative one in the family. I attend book readings and debates and do shit for the United Nations. He liked your stuff. But I really married him for his house on Amrita Sher Gill Marg.

Me? Read your nonsense? Dude... I once gave Aravind Adiga a bouquet of flowers in Jaipur. So shut it slave, and bring me some white wine and a cocktail samosa."


Ackowledgements: Cartoon from the NakedPastor. Thanks dude.

The black kurta is famous

by sidin in

(Note: Youtube video has now been obtained.) Sunil Sethi and I recently chatted about Dork and a bunch of other things on NDTV's Just Books show.

The outcomes of this were threefold:

1. I appeared on TV. This has made many people on both sides of the family very happy indeed. Kapoors and Vadukuts from Agra to Alleppey were overjoyed. The in-laws are finally beginning to reconcile with my career decisions.

2. I got to meet Sunil Sethi. And listen to him talk about growing up in Delhi as a lover of books. We recorded for maybe 12 minutes. And then stood around chatting for around a couple of hours.

3. I had no idea there was an Olive restaurant near the Qutub. Two thumbs up.

And this is the video.


NDTV: (full show including Aishwarya Rai and Karan Bajaj sequences)

I know I know. I laugh too much. Sigh.

A coworker said I looked "eerily unfamiliar" in the video. Do I?

P.S. Just noticed. It says "Author 'Dork'". Ugh.