Tell me something interesting about yourself – I’ve heard you’re skilled at horse riding. What got you into writing?
A well-trained horse is a beautiful animal and a pleasure to ride, although my skills are a little rusty lately. I have varied interests, but I don’t wish this to read like a dating profile.
As regards writing, there are many reasons. An early interest in literature and storytelling. I wasn’t however one of those people who wanted to write from a young age, that came later. I also felt that I wanted more of a challenge from this life, something more creative and satisfying. Writing is all this and more. You learn new things about the craft and yourself, daily. To create a piece of artistic work is very rewarding on so many different levels.
Your debut crime novel, The Missing Husband is out this month. What were your inspirations for telling this particular story?
I had an idea about creating an Indian private detective, who would solve difficult cases, set in India. This is Abhay Chauhan’s first case, and hopefully more novels will follow. Chauhan is thirty-four, single and nowhere near rich. He drives a Hindustan Contessa and carries a Glock semi-automatic pistol. He works the mean streets of Mumbai, trying his best to help people in trouble.
I liked this starting point for the novel. He is tough but fair and everything is underlined with humour. I don’t wish to write grim novels; the world is already grim enough. My regular visits to India also inspire me to write about the country and its people. I found this the perfect setting for the novel.
Your novel revives the typical detective novel by placing all the action in Mumbai. What do you hope this communicates to readers? What changes do you think the publishing industry needs to undergo to dismantle limited representations of people of colour in crime fiction?
There are only a handful of Asian crime writers across the globe. I’m hoping the readers will want to read something different. I wanted to write about an Indian detective, in Mumbai set against the background of a new world, culture and customs.
As regards the publishing industry, I’d like them to take greater risks. Not to be so concerned about sales and accounts people. They need to invest in POC writers, because there are some brilliant writers out there. Unfortunately, they can’t seem to get past the gatekeepers.
It would be great if more POC became literary agents. The publishing industry needs to recruit POC at all levels but definitely at the submission editor levels to begin with. They could also recruit people early by going to schools and universities. For most BAME people the concept for working in the publishing industry appears like working on the moon.
It would also be great if the industry supported literary prizes aimed at BAME writers and give greater exposure. The Jhalak Prize has done a good job to bring some awareness.
It’s still mostly the small independents however who are willing to take risks in investing in BAME writers. From the outside, this is how it feels to me.
Having said that, I feel a large responsibility still falls on the writer. If you work hard, listen to critical feedback and write a very good story, then your chances of publication will improve.
Your novel explores several themes including family, hope and betrayal. What approach did you take to making these themes feel original and enticing?
Someone has said that there are only thirty or so plot lines for stories, and they’ve all been done repeatedly over the centuries. Yet every individual has a different outlook, voice, attitude to a particular story. I’m bringing my individual voice, humour, and outlook to this novel. I’ve also started the novel with a multi-millionaire Fernandez family, who have their own set of terrifying problems. The private detective Abhay Chauhan will help to solve them.
You have been a writer at Commonword for many years and attended our Advanced Novelists group. What is your best memory from this time and what did you learn about yourself as a writer during those years?
A little nostalgia creeps in at the question. We were lucky at that time, and it wasn’t so long ago either. I was part of a good and talented set of writers. We bounced ideas of one another, down in that basement in the Quakers building. And we all more or less went on to succeed in our respective writing fields. We were dedicated, wrote regularly and were brave enough to submit our unfinished works for scrutiny. All the writers helped with their warm and critical feedback. They helped me to some extent with my first novel THE HOUSE OF SUBADAR.
It was published around that time by Arcadia Books, and was short-listed for The Glen Dimplex Literary Prize, Dublin.
Writing is a solitary business and it was great to have that camaraderie. Constructive feedback is important for your writing. It helps you to improve quicker. On your own, you may waste years thinking you’re on the right track when you’re not. I’m glad the Wednesday night Identity group still flourishes at Commonword.
What advice would you give to aspiring novelists when it comes to approaching publishers?
There is a treasure trove of golden advice on writing from all the past and present great writers. If you’re serious about writing, you will find it and read it.
There are no set rules as such, we’re not manufacturing cars but works of art! The basic rules however always apply. Work hard, write regularly, read widely, and gain constructive feedback. I’ll add that when you finish your draft, it’s worth investing in a good editor before sending out your work. Don’t take Rejection of your work personally, all it means is that you need to work harder. Perseverance will take you a long way.
What does the future hold for you in your writing career?
It’s an Exciting time ahead. I’m working on the next Abhay Chauhan novel, and I’m also tempted to write a good stand alone crime novel. This year I’m hoping to promote my work at more literary festivals in the U.K. and abroad.
A publisher in India is also interested in placing The Missing Husband to the large Indian market.
I was lucky to be invited to a university in Poland a few weeks ago, to sign advance copies of my new novel. I’ve written about the visit on my blog, vmedtia.blogspot.co.uk.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
On my website: vijaymedtia.com
The novel is available for pre-order at amazon.co.uk, Waterstones, WH Smith, and Foyles book store.
Sum up your experience thus far in one word