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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Crime thrillers are among my favourite books, says author Seema Goswami

Author Seema Goswami talks about her book, Race Course Road, and how she went about writing it

books Updated: Jun 29, 2018 17:35 IST
Ram Iyer
Ram Iyer
Author Seema Goswami has employed her extensive political journalism experience to explain in depth the machinations of politics in Delhi in her book, Race Course Road.
Author Seema Goswami has employed her extensive political journalism experience to explain in depth the machinations of politics in Delhi in her book, Race Course Road.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

As a former political journalist in New Delhi, Seema Goswami has for many years had ample exposure to India’s centre of power and the people that control it. Now, she has employed all her extensive experience to give us a glimpse of exactly how politics and power works with her political crime novel, Race Course Road. The book starts off with a bang: the Prime Minister of the country, Bharat Pratap Singh, is assassinated, and his children — Karan and Arjun Pratap Singh, and their step-sister Asha Devi — are thrust into the big, dirty world of politics. In an interview with HT Cafe, the author talks about her book, the extensive research that had to be done, her approach to writing, and more. Excerpts:

What inspired the plot of Race Course Road?

Over the years, during the course of my political reporting, I had filed away many stories that could not be told at the time. I had always thought that I would use them in a book one day. So when I finally sat down to write Race Course Road, I thought the best way to talk about how politics and power works would be to set the story around a political assassination. And because I wanted a human drama as well, I made it about family ties as well. That was the genesis of the story.

This is the first time you’ve written a work of fiction. Why a crime thriller?

Well, the saying goes: write what you know. And while I can assure you I am no career criminal, I have spent my entire adulthood reading crime thrillers as if my life depended on finding out that the killer wasn’t me! More seriously, this genre is one of my favourites. And when I sat down to think about my book, a crime thriller seemed a perfect fit. Though, to be honest, I see Race Course Road more as a political thriller than a standard crime novel.

Goswami says she sets herself deadlines for writing and makes sure to put down about 750 words a day.
Goswami says she sets herself deadlines for writing and makes sure to put down about 750 words a day. ( Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo )

The book goes into a lot of detail about Race Course Road, the bureaucracy, elections, the campaigning and the political maneuvering. How did you go about researching it?

Well, some of the details were already familiar to me because of the many years I spent as a political journalist. In the course of my career, I covered several General Elections, interviewed three Prime Ministers and got up close with countless politicians and bureaucrats. Over the years, I also visited the Race Course Road complex several times in both a professional and personal capacity. So, some of the knowledge was already rattling around in my head even before I wrote the book. But yes, I did spend time talking to people who worked and lived at Race Course Road so that I could give readers an intimate and informed look into how the complex works.

Do you see the book being adapted for the big screen?

Oh yes, indeed I do. But, in my view, it makes better sense as a mini-series on a digital platform than the big screen. I have had some people reach out to me to turn it into a TV series. So, let’s see how things go.

The character of Asha Devi is quite a complex one. Her journey sees her developing admirable strength and resolve to face all that stands against her. How did you go about writing her?

Asha Devi actually came alive for me in the course of writing this book. When I began thinking about her character she was a standard issue Delhi socialite, a spoilt entitled rich brat who took pride in running wild. But as I began fleshing out her character, Asha took on a life of her own. She evolved and changed in ways that I could not have imagined when I first started writing her. And by the end of the book, she surprised even me by revealing how much of a shape-shifter she was. That is why she is my favourite character in the book: because, in a sense, she got away from me and pretty much did her own thing. I can’t help but admire that.


What kind of a writer are you? Do you take a disciplined approach and make yourself write for a certain amount of time, or is writing more spontaneous for you?

I wouldn’t call myself particularly disciplined, but yes, I do set myself deadlines. My aim is to set down 750 words every day. So I sit myself down at my desk (dining table, actually) to do that. Some days the words come easily. Some days they don’t. But I still put them down and come back and work on them some more the next day. Unlike most authors, I don’t really have any writing rituals. At the end of the day, I am a journalist. And I bring that same ‘this needs to get done before the paper goes to press’ attitude to my fiction writing as well.

Is there a sequel in the works?

Yes, there will be a sequel. In fact, I am already putting my thoughts together before I sit down and write it. I can’t wait to see what tricks Asha pulls on me in this one. Frankly, I wouldn’t put anything past that woman!

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 17:28 IST