I am delighted to be kicking off CWA Anthology of Short Stories Blog Tour with a Q&A interview with Vaseem Khan author of The Unexpected
Inheritance of Inspector Chopra
Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick
Good morning, welcome to Chelle’s Book Reviews. Can you tell us a little about yourself and background?
Firstly, thank you Chelle for the Q&A. Book bloggers are so vital to authors, readers and publishers but are not acknowledged enough for the hard work they put in!
you’re very welcome Vaseem
I was born and grew up in Newham, London. I studied finance at the London School of Economics, then went to India for a decade to work as a management consultant. On my first day in India I saw an elephant lumbering down the road … this surreal sight later inspired my Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series.
When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? and how did you go about it?
I wrote my first novel aged 17. Naturally, I thought it would be a runaway bestseller. Instead I got my first rejection letter. I wrote six more rejected novels over the next 23 years before an agent accepted me. I had a great career in the real world in the meantime, which made it difficult to find time to write but I kept at it. I ended up with a 4-book deal with Hodder – one of the world’s largest publishers – and launched the first in the series The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra on the BBC Breakfast show in 2015. It went on to become a Times bestseller and a Waterstones paperback of the year … Better late than never, I guess!
Can you tell us what genre your books are and the audience you write for?
I set out to create a sort of ‘gritty cosy crime’. Inspector Chopra is a serious man, and the crimes he tackles are serious crimes: murder, kidnapping, robbery. But his elephant sidekick allows me to bring charm and humor to the books. In these books I try to take readers on a journey to modern India, the most exhilarating place I have ever lived. My books are regularly compared with the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, and will appeal to that audience – though, as I’ve said, they are a little darker. The Sunday Express recently said this: ‘There have been many insipid imitators of the Alexander McCall Smith formula … but Khan has the quirkiness and hint of grit to make his portrayal of modern Mumbai memorable.’
What is your writing process? and how long does it take?
I start with the crime, and work backwards. Once I have a detailed plot summary, it takes me about six months to write the book. I write early in the morning. I do a lot of editing on the Tube – or, during the summer, on a cricket pitch!
Are your characters based on anyone you know or are they just fictional?
Many of my old friends from India pop up in various guises. The name Ashwin Chopra is borrowed from my brother-in-law. Chopra himself has some of my traits – his dislike of ginger, his love of cricket, and his desire to see justice in what is, sadly, often an unequal society.
Have you written about a personal experience in your novels?
I always intended for these books to reflect my own experiences, showcasing both the light and dark of modern India. When I first went to Mumbai, every aspect of the city was exotic. However, my first trip to the Daravi slum (which features in book 1 of my series) left me open-mouthed. Poverty is endemic, but what is more endemic is the acceptance of poverty, of poor sanitation, of very limited medical facilities, of terrible transport infrastructure, all the things we take for granted in the West. There is a massive gap between rich and poor, and although social change is taking place there are still ancient prejudices ingrained in people’s thinking. Chopra and I both worry about such things!
What research do you do?
I recently asked a colleague how to burn someone alive … not a usual way to start a conversation! I am lucky to now work at University College London’s Department of Security and Crime Science. This means I am surrounded by world leading scientists working on ways of preventing crime and detecting criminals. For instance, the above question was directed to a forensic anthropologist colleague – I was researching a short story in the series. Most of my research is about India and comes from the decade I spent there – there was even an elephant living close by to my home in Mumbai!
Who would you like to co-write with and why?
Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame. She has a biting, macabre style which chimes with the sort of dark crime fiction I personally love to read.
What’s your favorite book?
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie –this book showed me that through words you could make readers nostalgic for a time and place they had never been. It tells the story of modern India, using magical realism, through the eyes of Saleem Sinai who was born “at the precise instant of India’s arrival at independence.” Voted the best Booker prize winner in 40 years.
What’s your favorite food?
Gimme a nice slice of lemon drizzle cake and I’ll die a happy man.
What’s your favorite film?
Jurassic Park – a movie I can watch time and again. Spielberg, dinosaurs, and a weirdly cool mathematician. I loved the book and the movie was out of this world.
What’s your favorite song?
Bob Dylan’s To Fall in Love with You
How can readers find out more information about yourself and your books?
Thank you Vaseem for joining me today you have brilliant taste in films