Book review: The Bestseller She Wrote

What happens when Ravi Subramanian, India’s bestselling author of banking thrillers, decides to write a romance novel set in the “glitzy world of bestsellers”? What insights would he give about becoming a bestselling author? Would switching genres work? Who’s the real Aditya Kapoor?

Find out all this and more in this review of The Bestseller She Wrote by Ravi Subramanian.

Who’s the real Aditya Kapoor?

The main character of The Bestseller She Wrote is Aditya Kapoor, India’s bestselling novelist. When Subramanian released this excerpt about Aditya appearing on a dance show as a judge, some people thought Aditya must be a fictionalized version of Chetan Bhagat.

 

Image source: Westland

 

Even Ashwin Sanghi wanted to know who Aditya Kapoor was:

And Durjoy Datta went so far as to deny he was Aditya Kapoor:

Or could it be Ravi Subramanian himself?

So, who is Aditya Kapoor? Who indeed. But does it really matter?

During one of the pre-release Twitter chats, I asked Subramanian if he thought the readers would have difficulty accepting Aditya as fiction. Here’s his response.

Most authors pull from their experiences when they write. Why should this book be any different? Well, because a celebrity author is pulling back the curtain on the world of celebrity authors. And, that’s sexy, scintillating stuff. Half the fun is trying to spot who’s who, right?

Wrong.

When it comes down to it, Aditya Kapoor isn’t Chetan Bhagat, Ashwin Sanghi, or Amish Tripathi (all of whom are mentioned in the novel). He’s Aditya, or Adi, as his wife Maya likes to call him. Aditya’s story and characteristics are such a hodgepodge of these authors that he becomes more of a super-celebrity author. All he really needs is a cape. Oh wait. I think he wears one in the book trailer. You can watch that here.

Oops. My bad. No cape. But, you watched the trailer, didn’t you?

At the same time, Aditya is quite human and flawed. Those flaws make him relatable; those flaws keep you turning pages. But, it’s the connection made to these celebrity authors that arouses your interest in the book and leads to sales. That’s Subramanian’s hook to reel you in as a reader, and it works. Once you’ve entered the book’s world, all the sensationalism falls away. This story is a fiction just like any other. Fiction. Not fact.

Would switching genres work?

Subramanian has made his views about genres quite clear.

 

I quite agree. Writers must write. Genre is irrelevant. A good writer can write across genres. The skills are the same. It’s the approaches that differ.

Truthfully, this genre switch isn’t as dramatic as you might think. This book is set in the banking world and has its fair share of thrills and intrigue. That’s why Subramanian’s own description of the book has been “romantic intrigue” rather than strictly “romance.”

So stop asking the genre question already! OK? Otherwise, I might carpet bomb your social media footprint with this flowchart:

 

Image source: Popchartlab.com

 

What insights does Subramanian give into becoming a bestseller?

As part of the prelaunch activity, Subramanian wrote a sarcastic top 10 list for Youth Connect in Shreya Kaushik’s voice.

How to be a bestseller by Shreya Kaushik

Aside from being a creative marketing idea, the list makes interesting points about what makes a book sell. I suppose many of these tips will help you become a bestseller, but Shreya misses the bigger picture, especially number 10. Scandal, while good for TRPs and sales figures, can have a devastating effect on your personal life.

Subramanian provides fascinating insight into the lives of writers. The book might be fiction, but truth abounds on every page.

  1. Writers’ spouses are long-suffering saints. True. We neglect chores and our families to create worlds for others to inhabit. It’s not easy being married to someone who spends large chunks of time alone and likes it. Our profession is lonely, and that loneliness can spread like a virus in our lives.
  2. Most writers will never sell enough books to quit their day jobs. True. Let’s face it. Royalties are nice, but to sustain yourself, you have to sell truckloads of books. Most writers won’t. We’ll be lucky to sell our book to our families.
  3. Editors are frustrated writers who can’t even “write a line for nuts.” False. Well, that’s just nuts, Shreya! When she makes the observation, Aditya is quick to correct her and explain that editors reject manuscripts for reasons that have nothing to do with quality.

The good

Those familiar with Subramanian’s books expect twists. He does not disappoint. The twists tie the readers into knots until we resemble hot jalebis. Eventually, all the pieces are laid out and untwisted nicely. I could see some twists coming, but that did not diminish the enjoyment of watching them unfold. When reading a Ravi Subramanian novel, I expect to be taken for a ride. I just buckle up and go with it. At one point, I felt the ride was a bit bumpy and tested the limits of plausibility. But, hey, this is a work of fiction, right? That’s half the fun of writing fiction: imagining scenarios and how they affect people. For me, fiction has always been an escape. I don’t set high expectations around realism.

For those who worry this romance novel deviates from Subramanian’s expertise in banking, fear not. The banking world plays a critical role. But, rather than the plot revolving around numbers and complex banking transactions, this story offers more insight than any of his other books into the personal side of corporate banking politics. I enjoyed this balance. This experiment with a new genre paid off.

The bad

I wanted to read this book to meet Shreya Kaushik, Aditya Kapoor’s protege cum lover. Unfortunately, I found her characterization lacking depth and complexity in places. For example, we don’t learn about Shreya’s relationship with her parents from Shreya herself. Instead, Shreya’s best friend Suniana communicates these critical character details to us. I was reminded of the Ryan Speaks chapter of Five Point Someone where we find out about Hari’s parents from Ryan. I want to hear Shreya—not her friend—speak about her past.

At one point, I was frustrated with Shreya’s role as the corrupt woman out to manipulate Aditya through sex. Eventually, we learn the truth about Shreya. Although it doesn’t absolve her of her guilt, it does paint a more nuanced picture of her motivation. I just wish that nuance had presented itself earlier. In particular, there’s the subplot that hints at Shreya’s fictional tale of rape being her own story. I would have liked to have seen more development of this aspect of Shreya’s character.

The verdict

#thebestsellershewrote is a successful foray into a new genre for @subramanianravi and is sure to be a bestseller.

5 thoughts on “Book review: The Bestseller She Wrote

  1. Pingback: How to Write a Review that Engages Readers | Neil D'Silva

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