By an Indian, from Oz, for the US


Story: Vinay Malhotra made a calculated decision. He decided to write a book and he decided to write about the US elections.

Although he himself is a naturalized Australian citizen who has lived here for over 20 years, according him, the US presidential elections are a “long, well followed, well debated, and glamorous spectacle” and hence his decision to base his novel there.

His book has been out for less than three months and already he is on the speech circuit.  There is also talk about the book being made into a movie.

Author Vinay Malhotra talks to Tanu.

How does it feel to be first time published?
It’s a wonderful, satisfying feeling. Strangely, it should make one a more pleasant person I think. Indians have a tendency to debate vociferously amongst themselves and I too, grew up in such an environment. But when you have put your views out there, there is no longer a need to raise your voice in every social group or to talk over others. (So with the publication of the book) The urge to be heard is quelled. So I hope I am a more easy-going and settled person now.

Why choose America as the setting?
Four reasons. Non-americans are more interested in America than non-Australians are in Australia or non-Indians are in India for that matter. Secondly, the US has an English speaking population of about 300 million so it is a large market for sales. Thirdly, the US preserves a strong freedom-of-expression culture relative to many other countries. Finally, the US has historically been a battleground for ideas and presented the more natural place for the specific setting of the plot.

Who is your inspiration?
There are many actually—from whom I received knowledge and inspiration. They are both fiction and non-fiction authors. Among them are Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand, John Grisham, Eric Berne, Thomas Harris, David E Kelley (the screenwriter) to name just a few.

How did you become an author?
A few years ago, I was becoming increasingly forlorn about being stuck in a rat-race. A situation that is familiar to many. At the time, I decided to try screenwriting and I did several courses and read books on the subject before embarking on a portfolio of feature, TV and short film projects. Two of the shorts actually got picked up by a producer and director team and got made.

Around that point, I decided to write a novel. I was getting fed up with the way politicians generally evaded questions and major issues and spoke in meaningless generalities. This, then, is the theme of the book — about what happens in a political campaign when one candidate would rather be forthright than be the President, and the world is falling apart. This is a universal truth, not specific to America.

Astonishingly, readers have been unanimous in their opinion that it would make a good movie.

How did you navigate the technicalities in the book?
To deliver authenticity to the setting, a lot of research was needed. I twice read through a 400-page account of the Obama-Clinton-McCain campaign and waded through numerous other articles, government websites, journals and campaign speeches. I also had an editor who happens to write speeches for sitting congressmen, and that helped as well.

Tell us about what your family and friends thought.
Family and friends have been very supportive. Plenty of friends expressed admiration and a few offered to read through parts of the manuscript. You discover just how many pent-up dreams there are out there among people wanting to break away from the rut they find themselves in.

Where do you live? What do you like about Australia?
In Sydney, in a suburb called Monterey. The best thing about Australia is the abundance of scenic beauty, fresh air and open spaces. In India, even the upmarket suburbs like Juhu and Khar lack this.

What is your marketing strategy?
You have to get used to the idea of creating awareness of your work. Make no mistake, a writer is a self-employed businessperson. My marketing plan includes getting as many reviews as possible, spreading awareness through blogs and the social media and writing to various media sites and book clubs that may have a potential interest. I am also exploring an Indian reprint edition concept via a publishing house.