• Saturday, May 21, 2022

Arts and Culture

Rahul Raina: I wanted to write something funny, fast and with a bite to it


By: Manju Chandran



THERE are already plenty of signs that Rahul Raina is an exciting new literary voice to look out for.

His newly released debut novel How To Kidnap The Rich has received rave reviews and already been optioned by US film and TV network HBO. It is all well-deserved because his accomplished book has an original storyline high on entertainment value and a free-flowing writing style that will connect with a wide cross-section of readers.

Powered by plenty of twists, the India-set story revolves around an intelligent young man who devises a get-rich-quick scheme involving the education system and gets caught up in complicated web.

Eastern Eye caught up with Rahul Raina to talk about his dynamic debut novel, literary heroes, inspirations, top writing tips and future plans.

What made you decide to write a novel?
I wanted to write something funny, fast and with a bite to it, something that reflected the India and Delhi I grew up in and live in for part of the year. It’s a country where rich and poor, hatred and love, comedy and tragedy live side by side, where fortunes are made and lost every day. So, I wanted to write something that moved in all those worlds at the same time.

What inspired the story?
Talking to friends about their experiences with corruption in the Indian education system, as well as the US college admissions scandal that happened around two years ago. There were so many similarities between the two, so I knew it was something that really reflected the two places – the West and India – where I spend so much of my time.

What was the biggest challenge of writing the book?
Not double-guessing myself. Writing is about momentum – you need to just keep going and fix everything later. If you stop all the time to check facts and figures, then you will never get anything done.

The book is multi-layered and really skilfully done. Did you have a set process when you were creating the story and the characters?
I always come up with the characters first, and then the plot coalesces and is informed around them. I wanted the book to be fast and furious, so the characters had to be the same, and then the plot filled itself in. I didn’t consciously try to layer it.

The story does have a film feel to it. Did you consciously create something that can be turned into live action?
I definitely wanted to write something quite visual, with a filmy dialogue voice to it, something that really reflected the Bollywood movies I grew up watching. At the time I was writing the book, I didn’t have a very good WiFi connection, so I think I was definitely missing those movies.

Do you have a favourite part of the book?
I like the end. I like the mix of comedy and tragedy. That characters move on and grow, and get some of the things they want, but not all.

Did you learn anything new while writing it?
I learned a lot about the Indian television industry – how difficult it is to get into it, how tough it can be and how much money can be made. And how people use extortion, blackmail and threats to survive inside it.

How much have all the positive reviews meant to you?
I feel relieved. Nobody had ever read a word I wrote before I sent this book off to the outside world, so it has been a very gratifying experience. More than that though, I know how under-represented we are as a community in British books, and I would have been mortified if I had had an adverse impact on future Asian writers by getting bad reviews.

What advice would you give those wanting to write their first novel?
Just write the first draft, get it out and don’t think about anything but getting it out. Don’t tinker with it and don’t try and fix it. Then go back and edit it all to make sense. My first draft made no sense whatsoever, but thankfully my next ones did.

What can we expect next from you?
A mix of different things, some set in the West, some set in India, some funny, some not, some more consciously literary and some not.

What kind of books do you enjoying reading and do you have a favourite?
I like non-fiction and politics. I like history and war books, but for fiction, I enjoy [Russian author Anton] Chekhov.

Who is your literary hero? 
Kiran Desai. She writes what she wants to, at her own speed, by her own rules. I really like people who do their own thing,

What inspires you as a writer?
Creating something out of nothing, making people feel, laugh, cry from what are basically marks on a page. But also, making characters who then spin out of your control and do what they want. Fiction is really weird when you think about it.

Finally, why should we all pick up your new novel?
Because I think it has everything you want in one 300-page package. Thrills and spills. Love and loss. Laughter and tears. Hopefully.

How To Kidnap the Rich is published by Little, Brown and is available now.

Eastern Eye

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