Following the launch at the SIBF 2018, this interview appeared in one of the region’s leading English dailies, the Khaleej Times.
The fiction title is a fast-paced thriller deal with the issue of idol theft and is a heady mix of crime, mystery, romance and the paranormal.
For debutant Indian novelist Divya Kumar, the protagonist in her maiden book The Shrine of Death had to be a woman. “It was a no-brainer,” she explained to Khaleej Times, after launching her book at the Sharjah International Book Fair late last week.
The Dubai-based author and former journalist’s first book was published by Bloomsbury India in April 2018. The fiction title is a fast-paced thriller deal with the issue of idol theft and is a heady mix of crime, mystery, romance and the paranormal.
“The book is a fictionalised account of actual events that occurred in Tamil Nadu in 2009 when a set of ancient Chola idols disappeared from an abandoned temple and were later discovered to have been smuggled out of the country,” said Kumar.
“This was the watershed case that eventually leads to the high-profile arrest of Manhattan-based art dealer and smuggler Subhash Kapoor.”
The book’s central character – Prabha Sinhan – is an IT professional who gets pulled into the murky world of idol theft and goes in search of her missing friend Sneha Pillai.
“Mainstream Indian media often portrays a certain stereotype of women in mass media. Like a manic pixie dream girl, or a virtuous, pious woman, or an oversexed glam doll, or even a confused, flaky millennial,” she added.
Kumar’s character had to be a relatable, regular young woman who was not epitomised in any manner. “I also wanted my character to be strong, stubborn, and fiercely loyal,” she said.
A former journalist of The Hindu newspaper in India, Kumar moved to Dubai in 2016. “I finished a big chunk of the editing and re-writing process in the UAE,” she added.
Though the book had its first release in India, Kumar said she is extremely proud of being part of the Sharjah book fair.
“I wanted to write fiction for pretty much my whole life. From childhood, I’ve had a set of unfinished books and manuscripts. I worked at The Hindu from 2006 – 2011, but I stopped working full-time after my daughter was born,” she said.
She began seriously working on the novel, and it took shape after details of the Chola idols case unearthed.
“I was still with The Hindu when the bust of the idol smuggling ring was in the news. From a local case in Tamil Nadu, the case went international as it was linked to an international crime ring. It was covered extensively in the India media and I followed it with a lot of interest.”
For Kumar, the theme was a perfect fit for her book as she got increasingly fascinated with the subject. “The plot evolved out the details of the case,” she added.
As she began writing the book, Kumar imagined it to be part of a trilogy. “I am definitely working on a sequel,” she added.
The original article appeared here in the Khaleej Times.