Kavita Daswani is the author of the new novel Kingpin. She also has written the novels Betrayed and Bombay Girl, among others. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times and Vogue. She lives in the Los Angeles area.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your novel Kingpin, and for your characters Anil and Ravina?
A: My book Bombay Girl had just come out, and a publisher in India who had really enjoyed it asked me if I could do another contemporary drama for her imprint.
I decided to do something a little different; where all my previous books have had a female protagonist, in this case I decided to tell the story from the point of view of a man.
I created Anil Raichand as something of an amalgamation of various men like that I have known in my life. Ravina just seemed a refreshing counterpoint to him.
Q: The story takes place in many different countries. How important is setting to you in your writing, and how did you decide on the settings for Kingpin?
A: I like to set my books in cities/countries that have left some sort of impact on me, or meant something to me in some way. Kingpin is set largely in Hong Kong--which is where I grew up--and also in India, where I spent my childhood summers.
I chose Singapore as where Anil and his family live, and that was easy enough; I've spent a great deal of time there, have good friends there, and Singapore has a similar sensibility to Hong Kong, at least as where this particular Indian community is concerned.
I rounded it off with an extended time in Dubai, which made sense to the narrative; it's where so very many people from around the world have gone to get into business and make money. To create those scenes, I spent about a week there a couple of years ago.
Q: How did you choose the book’s title, and what does it signify for you?
A: To me, the word "Kingpin" is someone who values monetary success above almost all else. It has a vaguely sinister undercurrent sometimes, but I don't think that's the case here. Anil establishes very early on that he wants "to dominate." He wants to do better than his father. He wants to do better than everyone.
Q: Which authors have influenced you?
A: I've really enjoyed reading Elizabeth Gilbert; her The Signature of All Things was one of the best things I've ever read. And I've bought every single thing that David Nicholls has ever written. I love the way he draws relationships. He's such a warm writer.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm plowing through a totally mainstream YA book - completely different from anything I've ever done, sort of a supernatural story set entirely in the U.S. (and worlds unknown.) Although I've had writer's block for longer than I care to admit.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I like to work backwards. Get the deal, then write the book. Sadly, I'm finding that life doesn't work that way.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Kavita Daswani, please click here.