Ashutosh Dixit is a 22-year old engineering student hailing from Pune, the City of the Peshwas. Having travelled extensively within India and abroad since the age of four, he developed a passion for reading and writing fiction and poetry since early childhood. A state-level silver medalist in Taekwondo and skating, Ashutosh is also a fervent foodie, sketch artist, history enthusiast, rock music aficionado, and a devoted Manchester United follower. Here is an excerpt of my exclusive conversation with him-
- Tell us something about your recently published book The Man in the Trench Coat.
The Man in the Trench Coat is a work of fiction, belonging to the suspense/thriller genre. In 2014, just before India’s massive general elections, a Member of Parliament accused of being involved in multiple scams is shot right outside his residence. ACP Rajeev Shekhar, an honest, upright cop with a tragic past, and ACP Digvijay Raut, a veteran legend of the Delhi Police, are tasked with investigating the murder. However, more such corrupt officials begin to die throughout the country; expertly assassinated by a mysterious vigilante they call ‘The Man in the Trench Coat’. As the political pressure mounts, the CBI steps in to work with the Delhi cops. The vigilante, aided by the shadowy man known only as Control, steps up his game.
As the situation escalates, the investigating lawmen find themselves embroiled in a web of scheming and deceit. Nothing- and no one- is what they seem to be.
- That sounds very interesting! When did you start writing?
I researched the book for 7 months, started writing in October 2014, and completed it in June 2015.
- What is the purpose of your writing?
The purpose of my writing is twofold: firstly, to entertain the reader with a great story, and secondly, to make the reader think about the underlying themes present in my writing.
- What inspired you to bring forth this idea of The Man in the Trench Coat as a book?
As I watched the coverage of the 2014 elections, and the constant stream of scandals emerging from the political closet, I began thinking along the lines of the common people breaking the shackles of a corrupt system and taking the law into their own hands. Born out of that idea was the symbol of revolution, the liberator — The Man in the Trench Coat.
- Is any part of The Man in the Trench Coat inspired from real life?
The story is purely fictional; however some of the events in the past of the lead characters, Rajeev Shekhar and the Man in the Trench Coat, take place during some historic events such as the Kargil War.
- Do you see a movie based on The Man in the Trench Coat being made?
Certainly. The book has all the makings of a good thriller movie: an honorable hero, a damaged, violent anti-hero, and villainous corrupt organizations. It would definitely make for a good movie, as it also deals with important topics such as corruption, terrorism, and the problems faced by the policemen and the soldiers of our country.
- Unlike other novels, yours’ is a unique concept book.
Yes. We have lots of romantic novels as well as conspiracy-based or mythology-based thrillers in the market today. However, ‘The Man in the Trench Coat’ is a vigilante crime thriller, which is not something seen often in the Indian market. Abroad, we have such famous vigilante characters such as Batman, Green Arrow, and Daredevil, who have found great success with modern audiences. It is my hope that the Man in the Trench Coat will receive a similar welcome from the people of our country.
- Which of your works have been published so far?
Two of my poems, Walking in the Storm and Searching, were selected for publication in my college magazine. Also, What Men Do, a short story, was selected for publication in an anthology. However, ‘The Man in the Trench Coat’ is my first full length novel being published.
- So how was this journey of becoming a published author?
It was a difficult and at times frustrating journey, Madhuri. I had to face rejection from 4-5 publishing houses, before I got the contract from Leadstart Publishing. Even after that, there were problems with the cover and other unnecessary delays due to which it took almost a year to finally get my books printed and into stores.
- Have you self-published your book or followed the traditional approach?
I have followed a partnership approach in which costs of publication are shared by me and Leadstart.
- Which approach is better according to you and why?
I have nothing against self-publishing, but I believe the traditional approach is better because there is more competition, and as a result, better quality control over the content being published.
- What should the beginners do today?
Beginners need to first answer two questions: “Do I have anything to say?” If yes, then “How do I best say it?” Then slowly the process of story formation will follow.
- What is your take on book publishing as you see the current scenario?
As I see it, today there are too many writers and not enough readers. Writers sometimes become so desperate to get their works published that they can then be taken advantage of by unscrupulous ‘publishers’. We need more publishers who care about the content they put out rather than the money they can make.
- How true! What are your forthcoming writings?
Presently, I am working on a new crime thriller set in Mahabaleshwar, as well as an epic fantasy series called The Legend of Ashton. Also, I have plans to introduce some characters in a quasi-sequel to ‘The Man in the Trench Coat’.
- I am sure it must be as interesting as The Man in the Trench Coat. What are the four top most things you take care of while writing a book?
- Character consistency: You must get into the mind of your character, inhabit it. A character must never act against his or her nature or way of thinking. The characters must drive the story, not the other way around.
- Plot consistency: The plot of the book must be as tight as possible; no loose ends or questions must be left by the end (unless intentionally done).
- Message: What message you send to your readers based on your characters and their thoughts, is extremely important.
- Entertainment: Above all, the readers should be thoroughly entertained and engrossed in your story. If you can do that, you are a writer.
- Having said that, what genre do you enjoy most and why?
My favorite genre is Fantasy Fiction; I love the imagination, the intricate world-building, the layered characters and the epic struggles between good and evil that are represented so well in the best fantasy works.
- What / Who is your biggest source of inspiration in life?
There are several people. Firstly, my grandfather Shahir Maharshi Raghunath Dixit, who was a renowned folk singer from Maharashtra. Secondly, J.R.R. Tolkien, whose ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy inspired me to become an author. And last but not least, my parents, who have made me the man I am today.
- What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced and how did you overcome it?
I was struggling to pass my engineering, with lots of backlogs. Then, I decided that my life was in my own hands, and only I could overcome my problems. So I struggled and struggled and worked harder than I had ever done, and finally became an engineer, at the same time having completed my first novel. Hard work, perseverance, and a never-give-up attitude are the essential weapons to win any battle.
- Well said! If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
Leonardo Da Vinci, the great inventor, painter, and genius. I would love to spend a day as one of the most brilliant minds of all times.
- And finally, any message for the readers?
Read The Man in the Trench Coat, and think about how we can make our country a better place to live. Read as many books as you can, because it is the wisdom you will gain from them that will change you, and change the world. So Read. Dream. Imagine. Create.
That was Ashutosh for you, author of “The Man in the Trench Coat“.
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