Economist Meghnad Desai on the fun he had—despite the many challenges—while writing his first work of fiction, a political thriller titled Dead on Time
Q Why the shift from non-fiction to fiction?
A Fun. Simple. I had great fun writing fiction. And just because I’ve turned my hand to fiction doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing non-fiction. In fact, I have another book on India due for release in September.
Q What were the challenges behind writing your first novel?
A With non-fiction, the author’s sense of the audience is clear. With fiction, that goes out of the window. I’m writing for just about anybody who may be interested in a human story. It will be interesting to someone who is not British too.
Q How long did you take to write it?
A I had written the first draft between 1995 and 1997, but it got lost. Those days, I used to write longhand and my secretary would type it out. In 2005, I resumed the novel on my laptop and finished it by 2007.
Q Do you prefer teaching or writing?
A Now, after a career in academics and teaching, I’m just bored of it. Writing gives me the greatest pleasure.
Q Who are your favourite writers? Do we see a Jeffrey Archer in the making?
A Ha ha. I don’t read novels too much. I find that after 50 pages or so, I just put them down. But in the past, I read most of the great works of Western literature—Tolstoy, Joyce, Dickens and Hardy. From the current era, I have great admiration for PD James. You will find my novel is very strongly plotted with gripping human drama.
Q Why a novel on UK politics and not India?
A Because I’ve lived in Britain, and also because of my political work. When I started this novel, I knew what I was talking about. I know how a British MP spends his day. I don’t know how an Indian MP does the same. I know the ins and outs of UK politics. I don’t know the ins and outs of Indian politics. I know the specifics and texture of social life in Britain. So I chose to write about that.