RV Raman is retired from fulltime roles after three decades in the corporate world. He is currently doing a basket of things including teaching (at an IIM), advising corporates, mentoring youngsters and writing. Let us know more about his writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
Nothing specific. It just began as a hobby, which it continues to be. It all started with a family discussion about how compelling the Lord of the Rings world was, which then led to an attempt to create my own fictional world. Thus began a foray into epic fantasy and writing.
A little later, when I realised that Indian publishers weren’t interested in fantasy that is not linked to Indian mythology, I decided to try my hand at crime fiction. That became Fraudster.
What did you like to read when you were a boy?
Virtually anything I could lay my hands on, other than romance and horror. As with my friends, the spark was ignited by Enid Blyton. It soon became a roaring fire fed by the likes of Wodehouse, Conan Doyle, Christie, Alistair McLean, Isaac Asimov, Forsyth, GK Chesterton and Tolkien.
In fiction, I had a marked preference for mystery, adventure, crime, science fiction and fantasy, something that continues to this day. In non-fiction, I devoured a wide range of books from war and history to science and anthropology.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Two main challenges.
The first is the craft itself. In commercial fiction, the writing/language must not come in the way. After all it is just the medium. It must be natural and shouldn’t feel forced, and must do its job without calling too much attention to itself. But when one begins writing, the initial attempts often turn out being amateurish, affected, stilted or otherwise distracting. Similarly, characters and plots feel contrived, and often lack credibility. Avoiding these pitfalls is a significant challenge, especially for someone who has been steeped in business correspondence and PowerPoints. Unless you are a naturally gifted writer (which I am not), the transition takes some doing, and requires a good deal of time.
The second challenge in credibility. One needs to ensure that the story – with its plot elements, modus operandi, dialogues, character actions and crimes – remains credible. Since my target readership includes exacting readers (CXOs, company directors and seasoned business executives) who know corporate India well, my novels must reflect the real world, and not something that feels as if it’s come from Tinseltown. But at the same time, the story must be new and exciting enough to hold readers’ attention, and should push the envelope of everyday corporate life. That is a fine balance to strike.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
It depends on the book. I didn’t have to do much research for Fraudster as I am quite familiar with the weaknesses and temptations in corporate India and the banking sector. These formed the basis on which the modus operandi of the crime in Fraudster was constructed.
However, I do need to research laws, regulations and technology, so that my novels reflect reality in corporate India. My next novel, which is set in the stock exchange, required me to spend a fair amount of time researching the regulations and technology in the Indian capital market, and to look at parallels in the western stock markets. For some technical aspects and details, I consulted a couple of people who are more familiar with that area than I am.
What motivated you to write the book “Fraudster”?
As I said earlier, the reluctance of Indian publishers to look at fantasy-sans-Indian-mythology made me take a shot at crime fiction. Once I had decided that, I set about shortlisting milieus and settings for my first crime novel. I soon found that I had enough material for several novels, having spent three decades in the corporate world.
But I was not sure about the demand for corporate thrillers. A few visits to bookshops made it apparent that this was a reasonably unpopulated field with few writers. Now, that was both an advantage and a drawback – were there fewer writers in this space because there wasn’t enough demand?
After mulling over it for a while, I made my decision – I would pick an area I know well, even if the market potential was uncertain. I listed four sectors in corporate India to set stories in, the first of which being banking (so much scope for fraud there!). That first attempt became Fraudster.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “Fraudster”?
I am not sure I should say anything more about the story than what is said in the blurb. That would end up spoiling the experience of reading the novel. However, I will say this:
The fraud/scam in the novel has a number of elements, all of which have been taken from the real world. Bankers, accountants and seasoned executives would relate to many of them. However, the fraud/scam that has been constructed from these many elements is entirely new, and has not (to the best of my knowledge) been perpetrated before. It is a very Indian crime in its DNA.
How did you come up with the idea of writing crime fiction genre book?
Crime fiction is one of my three favourite genres – SFF, humour and crime. I had already tried my hand at fantasy, and I am utterly incapable of writing humour. What remained was crime, the genre that I had read the most. So, it just selected itself.
Who are your favourite authors?
PG Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov, Frederick Forsyth, GK Chesterton, Edgar Wallace, JRR Tolkien.
How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
I have no fixed schedule. To me, writing is a hobby, and I want to leave it unstructured. The whole idea is to enjoy it. A schedule can turn a hobby into a chore, making the fun vanish.
So, the time I spend writing is very variable. Sometimes, I write it like a man possessed. At other times, I don’t touch it for weeks. And before one starts writing, one needs to spend weeks thinking, researching and developing ideas.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
None. I’m a rookie. I have many miles to go.
You can buy his book now: