Sidin Vadukut, that Twitter fiend responsible for many sudden giggles in office cubicles across India, has followed up his first tale of Robin 'Einstein' Varghese's misadventures with God Save the Dork with another one. As he tells us over the phone from London, Robin has achieved greater levels of crisis management this time round. Read excerpts of the interview
You found fame online as a humourist before your book and columns happened. How does self-promotion work in the age of social media?
I got my book deal in January 2009, when I was a fairly well-known blogger. Today, my day is structured around Twitter time. What tipped me over the edge, and got me wasting a lot of time on Twitter, was the CWG corruption scandal.
Yes, there is an element of self promotion, but it works both ways. The first adopters of my book came from active readers of my blog and the social media community. I'm very aware of this and indebted to them. I'd feel particularly upset if someone from this community responded badly to my books, because it sees me as a friend and not an amorphous journalist. It's like a family that you can confide in without having to be physically present.
Social media finds its way into your writing.
Yes, because I want to write about a world that is relevant today, unlike the books about snowy days in winter that we grew up reading about but did not understand. Robin talks about things that we engage with in the historical period the book is set in. So in 2006-2007, which is when GSTD is set, it would be impossible not to mention the emergence of Twitter. I've also been extra careful about facts after a reader sent me a long mail with a list of small factual errors in the first book.
Every time Robin has a moment of crisis, the room spins!
Physiologically, that could be because of a low BP problem. (Laughs) But did you notice that it happens less than in Book 1? That's because he now deals with unpleasant surprises more smoothly. Robin's mental transition from reacting to a crisis to figuring out a solution is much shorter, which comes from working in the corporate world now for a few years.
I like to think of myself as a keen observer of people, especially those in work environments. You will not see an excitable 45 year-old man in any office anywhere in the world. That's because workplace experience teaches you that you'll get by, no matter how bad it seems. Robin will be even calmer in Book 3.
How is the book's humour different from your blog and tweets?
The book is profoundly sad at some levels, because it's a compendium of human errors. My blog and tweets are more observational, and focus on the stupidities of life around us while the book is an exercise in detailing the stupidity of everything that's inside us. I try and describe, through Robin's tedious diary entries, the oddities of his personality. I make fun of the way he thinks everything that's happening to him is groundbreaking.
Tell us about the trilogy.
Robin will become a CEO, in a very odd manner, of course. I'm highly inclined to make fun of IT in Book 3 and also really excited to show him as boss. The kind of guy that he is, he will relish it more than anyone. He will also do things rather than simply letting things happen to him.
By the end of next year, I also want to challenge myself, give up the diary style of writing and attempt a crime novel.
How do you feel about comparisons with Chetan Bhagat?
He sort of set the standards for young mass market fiction, so comparisons are inevitable. There's nothing I can do about it, but I think the more people read our work, the more they'll realise that we actually write about very different subjects. It's great that people read his books than not read at all. My own mother-in-law has read his book, but not mine!