Published: 29th January 2021
This young author's political potboiler will give you a taste of India's last quarter decade. Intrigued yet?
Author Fawaz Jaleel tells us about his debut novel and why he chose this particular genre
A teacher-turned-politician, Ashraf Zain forms his own party - The Naya Bharat Manch. In an unfortunate turn of events, however, he gets killed in a road accident in Bihar. The Bihar Police register this as an accident. But after a series of protests, media trials and civil society pressure, the CBI is entrusted with the task of investigating Ashraf's Zain's death. Enter Yohan Tytler, the recently promoted senior CBI officer and his colleagues, the analytical Sukumar Azhagu and the textbook investigator, Ila Qureshi.
Wondering what happens next? Read Fawaz Jaleel's debut novel No One Likes An Outsider. Published by Kalamos Literary Services, the book is a political thriller, set around real contemporary historical events that have happened in India and Bihar between the 1970s and 2020.
Fawaz did his Bachelor's in Journalism from Madras Christian College and Masters in Development from Azim Premji University. Apart from writing, Fawaz works as a Senior Brand Manager with a private firm. He has also worked with the government and a public health organisation in the past. He says, "My work and my writing are like a team. They fuel each other and it's probably the rush that I get from work at day that drives the writing at night. I absolutely love both - the first is about amazing real people and the second about wonderful imaginative characters."
Fawaz tells us that his characters will come back in the sequels to solve more cases. In fact, the first book gives a sneak peak into the second case that this team will be investigating. Speaking about his choice of genre, Fawaz says, "Politics as a subject and discourse fascinates me. I find the general aura surrounding elections and other such events thrilling. When I wanted to write, I was sure it should be a nail-biting thriller with a mystery and suspense that unfolds connecting all threads."
He adds, "The book draws a lot from contemporary historical events and the research part was like a lesson in history and politics - two of my favourite subjects. Now, I had to combine that with current affairs while having a completely fictional narrative. It took me three months to just research and make notes on the timeline of my story and another three to weave these real events into my fictional narrative. An out and out fiction is fabulous, but if you can get the reader to relate to the events and happenings that happened in their lifetime or before, it automatically creates a backdrop in their mind. Today’s readers love non-fiction as much as fiction and so why not treat them with a nice mix of both. So In India and the world, we have political thrillers and investigative thriller mysteries. Both are fascinating genres. I have tried to bend the boundaries and create an investigative political thriller."
When in school, Fawaz only read a few books here and there. It was in college that he really started exploring books. "When you read a lot, everything around you suddenly starts looking like a story. If I go into the streets of India, in any city, I see many stories. I started writing stories about real people. That's how writing began for me," says Fawaz, explaining his foray into writing.
Fawaz wrote his first short story while pursuing his master's degree, which was incidentally another political crime thriller/mystery. A publisher picked it for an anthology of short stories and that's how it began. "I believe one of the most important things that a writer needs to ensure is the flow of the narrative. For me having written three short stories before this, it was slightly easier to create a flow for my narrative. It helps you trim down the excess and draggy parts since you are used to editing short stories. On the flip side, a novel cannot be just that one story and you need ample sub-plots and in a mystery thriller, all of these must add up in the end. Trust me, that kept me awake for many nights. That said, I am a fan of short reads and have a couple of them lined up in 2021," he says.
The second one, a romance set with the Kedarnath floods as a backdrop and with characters who were IAS officers undergoing their training in Mussourie, was published in 2015. In his third short story, he ventured into the magic realism genre and reintroduced the legendary Raja Birbal. The book did very well and was among the Top 100, 50 and 10 on Amazon at several instances.