Ashok Banker is an internationally renowned author with around 80 bestsellers – spanning genres ranging from children’s fiction to mythological epics – under the belt. Originally from Mumbai, Banker is now based in Los Angeles.
Here, the author shares details about his debut thriller ‘A Kiss After Dying’ released in the UK recently, his journey from a children’s author to thriller writer and what gives his books a universal appeal.
Please give the readers a flavour of what to expect from 'A Kiss After Dying'.
‘A Kiss After Dying’ is about a young woman who seeks revenge on the billionaire who killed her father and brother and drove her mother to suicide when she was a young girl.
Now in her 20s, Hannah has dedicated her life to destroying Roger Cordry, first by seducing and then killing each of his sons, then by going after Roger himself. How she sets out to achieve her plan, the complications that rise along the way, the forces that threaten her vendetta and her life, is the rollercoaster thrill ride the book takes you on.
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What kind of research was involved in the characterisation and plot?
The book is set partly in Zurich, Switzerland, then in Berkeley and San Francisco, California, and finally in Goa, India, with some chapters on a remote private island in an unspecified part of the world.
I had to research medical training and campus life in Switzerland, ski resorts, Zurich city itself, some Swiss politics, law enforcement, civics and law and order. Then for Berkeley, I had to dive deep into tech research and development, military as well as civilian applications, campus life, the Bay Area, local student politics in San Francisco, and since the main character there is a quadriplegic, I had to learn about his special condition and the hi-tech devices he uses to achieve his everyday activities.
Finally, there was Goa, India, which involved the least research since I'm of Goan parentage on my mother's father's side (D'Souza) and have been to all the places I've described in the book. There was lots more that I had to study about weapons, ordnance, combat, human anatomy, languages – there's a little German used in the book--and a bunch of assorted odds and ends.
I love ferreting out interesting titbits of information that I can use to build character or setting. The best discoveries often come during the writing process itself!
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What has been the most fulfilling aspect of the comments about the book so far?
Of the 40 plus reviews, I've read so far by readers, crime fiction, bloggers and fellow authors, they all seem to love the twist that comes midway through the book as well as the others toward the end, the manipulation of the point of view and the overall characterisation and plot.
My aim in any crime thriller is to provide the reader with at least three mysteries -one, the central mystery of the book itself, in the case of ‘A Kiss After Dying’ it's Hannah's quest for revenge, two, the twists that derail her plan and who or what is behind them, and the third and most important mystery is who is Hannah really, is she the person she says she is, or is she lying to reader as well? I hope readers have as much fun figuring out the three mysteries while enjoying a dark, twisty ride!
What in your view makes this a truly global read?
It spans three continents – Europe, North America, Asia. Multiple cities – Zurich, Berkeley, San Francisco, Panjim, and multiple other locations. The characters range from Indian American, Italian American, Swiss, Middle Eastern, Israeli, Indian.
There are events taking place simultaneously in all these places involving all these characters. All linked by the protagonist Hannah and her quest for revenge and how she accomplishes it, or fails trying.
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How would you trace your journey as an author?
I began my career wanting to write crime and literary fiction, with the occasional children's book. My first books spanned these three categories: ‘Amazing Adventure at Chhota Sheher’ and ‘The Missing Parents Mystery’ were my first children's books, ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Byculla Boy’ were literary novels, and ‘Ten Dead Admen’, ‘The Iron Bra’, and ‘Murder & Champagne’ were termed "India's first crime novels in English" by the media.
Those were early days for Indian English publishing and the market was small, too small to sustain making a living as an author. Today, after spending almost 30 years writing a variety of other genres and books, I've finally returned to my first loves.
‘A Kiss After Dying’ marks my international thriller debut, my debut picture book ‘I am Brown’ was a Book Trust Great Books selection and won several other awards, apart from selling out four editions, and being translated into multiple language editions, and next up is a literary novel.