K P Singh Talka about his Raisina Series
I have been interacting with KP since I read his first book Young Turks followed by his second Delhi Durbar. His third book The War Ministry took some, and once I was done with the series, I thought it was time to ask him some questions.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up, what did you study and where do you live now?
Son of a diplomat, so grew up all across the globe but spent the most time in Delhi, which is where I live now, and about which I write.
When and how did you gravitate towards writing?
Well, I was a banker for most of my twenties, and the worst banker in the world, so when I finally got laid off I decided to do something useful with my life and began writing. It had to be fiction, and since I am a political junkie, it had to be political fiction.
How was the Idea of Raisina Series born in your head?
The Raisina Series was an idea that came latterly, first came Young Turks (aka Road to Raisina) in which I basically tried to answer a single question: Could a Muslim become Prime Minister of India, and if so, under what circumstances? That question arose in my mind after the 2002 Gujarat riots. The television images of hate and violence awoke me from my intellectual slumber and made me ask questions about what it meant to be Indian and how I could play my small part in the ongoing battle to define the idea of India. I’ve always believed novels provide the best avenue towards exploring such weighty questions. My passion for Indian politics drove me right to my first novel, and then the two that have followed. The Raisina books led me on the most amazing and thrilling journey of discovery.
Did you know there will be three books to begin with or as I say in my review, there is scope open for another book?
No, never knew Raisina Series would be a series, it just happened one after the other. I just felt I hadn’t done my two main characters, Azim Khan and Karan Nehru, justice till I finished War Ministry, they haunted my thoughts. But three thick books later I now feel that I’ve fulfilled my responsibility, and it is time to move on. No more Raisina books, at least for now. Never say never, thgh.
Your character spread is very dreamy, a muslim good boy, a naughty Nehru, a sardar wheeler dealer and slowly over the books you have been adding whoever is missing from the Indian diversity. Your comments.
To be Indian is to value its diversity, and I have tried to introduce characters whose background would reflect our country’s heterogeneity. So, you’re very correct, the characters in the books have become increasingly diverse as I’ve gone forward. It adds to the authenticity of the novels, I believe.
You have tried innovative ways to market your books. Your second book came with a money back guarantee and we are keen to know if you someone actually asked for it?
Yeah, we’ve tried something new with the marketing of the books. My publishers Hachette India are extremely innovative, and I was happy to go along with their brilliant ideas. With Delhi Durbar we offered the readers their money back if they didn’t like the book after reading it. Only 11 copies were returned nationally, out of thousands sold. For War Ministry we have done an essay contest where the winner gets a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh. The winner will be announced on 25th March. A shortlist of ten has already been announced.
The war ministry came with an essay writing contest that promises prize money of Rs 1 Lakh. Tell us how do you and your publisher come up with these ideas and how much do they help in selling the book or spreading word about it.
Both marketing ideas were those of the Managing Director of Hachette India, Mr Thomas Abraham. He’s the marketing genius, as is well known, so I can’t take any credit for the ideas, even if I’d like to! Both marketing programs have been extraordinarily successful in creating buzz about the book and gaining eyeballs. Also, I’m a recent convert to Twitter and I’ve found it an extremely useful tool as well, especially in combination with my Raisina Series blog where I comment on all things political.
What kind of books do you like to read? Tell us your favorite books and authors.
I like to read anything and everything. but in political fiction, my area of expertise, I have particulary enjoyed the novels of Michael Dobbs, Robert Harris, Gore Vidal, Benjamin Disraeli, Anthony Trollope, and of course early-Jeffrey Archer. Dobbs’ House of Cards trilogy is thrilling, Harris’s Cicero trilogy is expert, Gore Vidals’ Narrative of Empire series is unmatchable, and lastly Jeffrey Archer’s First Among Equals showed me that politics and fiction were a match made in heaven. Disraeli and Trollope are masters from Victorian England, the former better known as a great Prime Minister but who made his name initially as a great novelist. Disraeli’s Sybil or The Two Nations is a novel I have re-read umpteen times.
What do you think about the sudden surge in book publishing in India? Do you think somewhere the quality is suffering for quantity or do you think the law of natural selection will sort of things eventually?
As for the surge in the India publishing industry, I’m all for it. The democratisation of the industry was a well needed corrective to the snooty club it had begun. The more the merrier, I say. And you’re right, natural selection always sorts things out. Quality control will also improve as time goes on.
A tweeting birdie tells us that you are working on short stories for your next book. Does the political fiction genre continues or is it something new that we should expect?
Yes, the tweeting birdie is correct, next up is a collection of short stories. Political fiction it will be, but not all political fiction need be about politicians. And I will go back into history with a couple of stories about India’s early years as a fledgling democracy.
KP, It is always a pleasure to interact with you…hope to see you here more often.