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Celebrity Indian blogger publishes first novel

Celebrity Indian blogger publishes first novel

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2009 - 17:59

Mumbai, June 03: Amit Varma, one of India`s most popular bloggers, once wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal, worked on a cricket website and also dabbled in advertising. Now, he`s turning his writing skills to books.

Varma`s debut novel, `My Friend Sancho`, which was published in India this month, tells of the unlikely friendship between a wisecracking young crime reporter and the daughter of a man who has been mistakenly killed by police. The novel was long-listed for the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize.

Varma, who won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007, is working on his second novel. He spoke about books and blogging (

Q: You call yourself a writer who blogged along the way. Did the blogging help with the writing?

A: "Blogging and writing a novel are two entirely different disciplines. However, when you write every day, it does make you a better writer. In the 19th century, novelists would sometimes keep a daily diary to sharpen their writing skills. I blogged every day, and for the first couple of years of my blogging, I wrote about five posts a day on average.

"All that writing made me a crisper writer. Online readers are impatient, and have many options for their time. If you`re self-indulgent or use 10 words where five will do, you`ll find it hard to build a readership. Blogging -- the sheer practice of writing -- certainly made me a better writer in terms of craft and discipline."

Q: How do you approach your writing?

A: "Writing a novel requires discipline. I`m not a morning person, so I chose to work all night and sleep during the day. There were less distractions that way, and I got more work done that way."

Q: You have said writing is a lonely, insecure process. How do you cope?

A: "Well, I enjoy the actual process of writing immensely, so that is its own gratification. And yes, it can get lonely, but that`s one of the trade-offs one accepts as part of being a writer. I am my own master, I don`t have to go by deadlines set by other people, I sleep and eat when I want, I don`t have to commute, and, most importantly, I`m doing what I love. Whenever I feel down, I remind myself of all these marvelous privileges."

Q: As one of India`s most well-known bloggers, do you think it will take time for you to be perceived as a writer who also blogs?

A: "Hopefully, with time, my books will speak for themselves. I`m convinced that 10 years from now, with at least 10 more books out there, I`ll be regarded as a novelist who also happened to once have a blog. I love India Uncut, but I hope it ends up as just a footnote in my career."

Q: In "My Friend Sancho," you`ve written about a lot of things that you must be familiar with: Mumbai, journalism, even your blog. Is there comfort in familiarity?

A: "Writers are often advised, `Write about what you know.` I`ve lived in Mumbai for 14 years, and love this city and know it pretty well. It made sense to base the novel here. That said, while the settings in `My Friend Sancho` are familiar ones, the book itself isn`t remotely autobiographical, and my main character, Abir Ganguly, isn`t like me at all. As this is a first novel in the first person, some readers assume otherwise."

Q: You had said this book could be the first of a series. How do you see yourself taking this story forward?

A: "My second book is not an Abir Ganguly book, but I have a vague plan for a series of Abir Ganguly novels. India is going through a fascinating period of change, and there are lots of stories out there for a novelist to explore. Doing it through the eyes of a journalist whose job it actually is to report on these stories is a device that attracts me. The second Abir book, whenever I get down to writing it, will be a murder mystery."

Q: What`s next?

A: "I`m working on my second novel now, about an Indian civil services officer in his late 40s in a city in central India. In one sentence, it`s a novel about how a 1980s man comes to terms with 21st century India."

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2009 - 17:59
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