Q&A: Ashwin Sanghi ranks among India’s highest selling English fiction authors. He has written several best sellers – The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant, The Krishna Key, and a New York Times best selling crime thriller with James Patterson, Private India. Included by Forbes India in their Celebrity 100 and winner of the Crossword Popular Choice, Ashwin has recently also penned a non-fiction title 13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck. He will be speaking at the Mountain Echoes literary festival which begins today.
You are described as a best-selling conspiracy fiction writer, basing your stories on history and myth. Why do you think this conspiracy genre sells so well today, not only in this region but globally?
There is something in every believer that is yearning to question while there is something in every atheist that is longing to believe. Conspiracy fiction caters to both groups. That’s precisely the reason why it is so popular. The tantalising possibility of an overlap between history and mythology makes for compelling reading.
You were a business man before you turned author. What made you take this jump across two very different fields?
My granduncle was a voracious reader and would send me a book each week to read. This tradition started when I was just thirteen. At the end of the week, I had to send him a letter outlining what I liked or disliked about it with reasons. By the time I was in my twenties, reading was an integral part of my life. I didn’t know it then but probably that process was building a foundation for my future writing. Almost ten years after joining business, I visited the Rozabal shrine in Srinagar. The story around the tomb fascinated me no end and I ended up writing a story on it.
You’ve been referred to as the Dan Brown of India. What do you think of this comparison? Which writers influenced or influence you?
I am flattered by it. After all, his books have sold over 200 million copies! As regards influences, it’s difficult to say because I grew up reading both classics as well as potboilers. My spiritual sense is influenced by Paramahansa Yogananda, my love for fast pace and racy plots is influenced by Dan Brown and Frederick Forsythe, my fascination with historical retelling is inspired by Dominique Lapierre, my passion for research is fueled by Arthur Hailey and my Indianness of voice is influenced by Salman Rushdie.
Bhutan is a land steeped in myth and mythologies. What advice would you have for a Bhutanese writer attempting to follow in your footsteps?
Oh, Bhutan is the land of myths. One enters Bhutan on Druk Air, named after the Druk—the dragon that brings good luck to this incredible land. Then there is Padmasambhava—the one who brought Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan. Writers in Bhutan have no shortage of inspiration or raw material. They should leverage it.
What are you looking forward to experiencing in Bhutan?
I am hoping to meet many interesting people, soak in the beauty of Bhutan, meditate and write. Bhutan is a blessed land and I consider myself blessed to be coming here to participate at Mountain Echoes 2015.