When I first met Ravi at Preeti Shenoy’s Mumbai launch of her book The Secret Wish List, I realised that he wore his achievements very very lightly. To quote from Wikipedia, which is now THE authoritative source on everything and everyone, “A banker by profession, Subramanian has written four popular thrillers about banking and bankers, including the Economist Crossword Book Award winning The Incredible Banker. Subramanian says “I will be satisfied if people remember me as the [John] Grisham of banking,” referring to the American lawyer best known for his legal thrillers.
An alumnus of Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, batch of 1993, Subramanian has spent close to two decades in the financial services industry. After having worked with companies such as Citibank, HSBC and ANZ Grindlays, Subramanian is now the CEO of a listed NBFC. Subramanian continues to write popular columns for well-known magazines and has his own personal weekly column in the Career and Business life page of The Economic Times.”
What inspires me, is that Ravi juggles a pretty high pressured career in banking by day and an alternate career as a best selling author by writing at night. The discipline he must have to be able to do this makes me realise that all my doggerel about the stress of balancing motherhood and writing is just so many excuses to not put mine nose to grindstone.
With the release of his latest book, Bankerupt, Ravi seals his position as the John Grisham of banking. Here’s a quick Q&A with him:
The question you must have been asked a million times–how do you reconcile two very disparate aspects of your life, namely banking and fiction writing?
When you enjoy doing something, then you do it out of choice. And when you do anything out of choice, it becomes easy and simple. I am thankfully at that stage in my evolution as a writer and as a professional, wherein I am enjoying both my profession and my avocation. Both these disparate aspects of my life are joined at the hip. One would not exist without the other. In fact one feeds on the other, and that’s what makes the journey interesting for me.
You have a high pressured career, how do you carve out time for writing? What is your daily routine like?
The one demand writing places on you, is that it requires you to be disciplined in your approach. And that’s the way I approach it. When I am in the process of writing a book, I write everyday. I am an owl writer. Every night, from 9.30 to 1.30 is writing time for me. I am fortunate that I do not need complete solitude to write my story. I can sit in the midst of people, friends, in the front of TV and with family, and continue penning my story. This helps me make sure that family time is not compromised much.
It is also important to mention here that the fact that there is an incomplete book waiting for you at home, makes you more disciplined at work too. It makes me complete my work on schedule, avoid unnecessary wastage of time, gossiping etc, and head home on time after work. It also makes me focus at work better as the last thing one would want to do is to give an impression that work is getting neglected on account of writing.
Writing therefore acts as a stress buster, helps me focus on work, and deliver better at my workplace. It has benefitted me immensely in my career thus far.
3] If God Was A Banker was an unprecedented success. Did you anticipate it would be so well received?
Who doesn’t want to be successful? While I wanted it to do well, I would have been extremely happy had it sold out just the first print run. That it sold out the first print run in the first couple of weeks thrilled me to bits. I didn’t anticipate it to have the longevity that it has had. Even after six years it continues to be in the top 100 books in AC Nielsen. It was a good story, told in an extremely simplistic manner. That it was set in a canvas which no one had exploited before, enhanced its appeal. It became a kind of cult book in the financial services industry.
4] Bankerupt is your fourth book. How would you say your craft has evolved with each book?
As with any craft, writing too evolves. It has happened to me too. In my own assessment, I have got better with each book. Bankerupt, my last book, has seen me evolve in more ways than one. Plots have become tighter, writing crisper. I have also stepped out of my comfort zone of banking thrillers and experimented with a topic which needed a fair bit of research. All these are big defining milestones in my journey as an author.
5] Who are your literary inspirations? Authors, characters, books?
John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer are the two authors who inspire me. Jeffrey archer for his simple, crisp and very lucid “Once upon a time..” kind of storytelling is something to learn from and try to emulate. John Grisham has made a fortune writing in one genre and owning it as his personal fiefdom. His ability to churn out thriller after thriller, in the same space, without getting repetitive is really inspirational for someone like me.
You have written one non fiction book, and five fiction books? How different is writing non fiction from writing fiction? What challenges you more?
Writing “Interesting” non-fiction is a lot difficult than writing fiction. Fiction writers have a distinct advantage over non fiction writers, and that is called Creative license. Whenever a fiction writer finds that the plot is dragging, or getting monotonous, he can introduce a twist, build in some excitement and make it racy using his creativity. Non-fiction writers do not have that luxury. I tried my hand at non-fiction, when I wrote “I Bought the Monk’s Ferrari”, and it was well received too. However I quickly realized that fiction was my calling, and I don’t propose to deviate from that, at least for the time being.
And yes, of course, there is a giveaway. Ravi will select the three most interesting questions about Bankerupt in the comments section of this post and they win an author signed copy of Bankerupt each (India addresses only) and Ravi’s decision will be final. The contest will close on October 20th. So go ahead, ask away.