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 JDR TALKS TO GREGORY DAVID ROBERTS, I spoke with Shantaram's author
Karen
Posted: Feb 27 2007, 06:51 AM


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Below is my conversation with Greg Roberts. And oh what a conversation it was! I was fortunate to be able to spend just under two hours on the phone with Greg Roberts last week. He graciously set the time after he'd figured out our time zone issues. He's in Bombay. I'm not. LOL We started our conversation at midnight his time. What a guy! We could have spoken for another hour at least as I didn't get half of my questions out. He was very generous with his answers as well as his time. I was the one with a time commitment issue as it was a work day for me and I had no idea we'd get on so well, for so long. We had been in communication with each other for almost two years trying to make this conversation happen and it turns out he was as happy to finally speak with us as I was to speak with him.

I've done my best to remove much of my comments and dialogue with him in this discussion as I only included what I thought I needed to keep continuity in tact for your reading clarity. Many things were discussed that I never thought would be simply because Greg was willing to share. Some things didn't get asked because I literally ran out of time. His voice is familiar if you've heard any of his interviews and he possesses humor and becomes amused at simple things yet when he wants to be understood he has a take command sense about his voice that you don't question, and his manner is always lined with a quiet tenderness and yet strength. A firmness and a softness at the same time. This man opened his thoughts, experiences and his ideas with us and spoke so freely, in exchange I listened and absorbed with respect and a feeling of his shared, quiet dignity.

Many heartfelt thanks to Greg for being so open and sharing with us and especially for giving so much of himself and his time.

So here is our discussion with "SHANTARAM" author Gregory David Roberts. Storyline spoiler warning.


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Thanks to Greg Roberts and Shantaram.com

Feb. 22, 2007

Telephone interview with SHANTARAM author Gregory David Roberts



JDR: Let me please tell you how thrilled we are to have you take some time to talk with us! We’ve been talking about this for a long time now and we are so honored and excited that this is happening!

Can you please tell us...let’s start at the beginning, you’ve been writing for quite a while, since you were in your twenties?

GDR:I wrote my first play when I was five years old, my first little collection of poems when I was seven, I’ve been writing all my life, it was my first instinct, it’s what I do. It’s always a thing that I’ve been driven to do, since I was a very young kid. I was published in an anthology when I was sixteen. I’ve been writing all my life. Of course for twenty years I couldn’t get published, except haphazardly here and there, because I was either in prison or on the run.

JDR: I read in another interview that you wrote some stories using the Nick Caraway name (a character from THE GREAT GATSBY) and you became too popular?

GDR: I started getting a following and became popular in Bombay and had to stop. I told a friend that I can’t do this any more, it’s compromising my status as a fugitive!

JDR: Life has really turned around for you, you have turned your life around…

GDR: I did, well the first thing I did was to stop taking drugs, to assume responsibility for my mistakes and my errors, to change my life. That was sixteen years ago. So in sixteen years I haven’t taken a drug, had a cigarette, a drink or committed a crime. It’s worked in my favor to do this. And the second thing was to assume responsibility for my family, to become the breadwinner, to send money to my family, which I’ve done. I support my family, it’s fourteen people and some Indian families as well. I got my writing career reestablished, it took me five years to write SHANTARAM as I had to work full time while I was doing it, it was an extremely complex book to write, to make sure my family’s secure and to return to Bombay to establish a charity, that I support. I basically pay for the treatment of people with Tuberculosis.

JDR: SHANTARAM is dedicated to your mother. May I ask if you still have your mother with you?

GDR: Yes I do. My mum and I and my step dad are all very close. I see them all of the time at their home and I bring them to Bombay as well. We are very close, they are loving, intelligent people. My mother is my hero. My mother is the most intelligent, creative, generous person I’ve ever met.

JDR: You mentioned earlier your treatment and concern about TB, can you tell us about it and what you are doing?

GDR: TB is a significant problem in Bombay and throughout India, it is everywhere. It’s a very significant problem in New York, the American prison system is so over crowded, they are creating new strains of TB every year and that in turn spreads to the population. It’s a big problem everywhere. Because I had a personal connection a few years ago, people I knew who were friends of mine had died. When I came back and looked for a focus, I decided that was it. That I was going to spend money to try and eliminate TB in Bombay, where I live. That’s something that I work on here, part of it is the motorcycles and I wanted to set up a business where if anything happened to me…I pay for this all myself…I set up a little business where we buy old motorcycles and modify, rejuvenate them as classic machines and then sell them to foreigners, tourists who come to Bombay…you can’t buy these sort of bikes in the states or in England or Europe. They buy them and from the profit of this all the workers and the people involved get a good wage and from the profit of these I pay for the treatment of people with TB.

JDR: You’ve just reminded me about an article that I read, I think it said that you were going to send Johnny Depp a motorcycle?

GDR: Yeah we will, I’ve got it, it’s sitting here, many people have seen that bike, it’s here in Bombay (he laughs) with the rest of my bikes. I’ve sent a message to Johnny, it’s one we did ourselves, it’s unique, there’s no other bike like it in India, probably no where else in the world. It’s an old bike, not like a Harley-Davidson but it’s a very, nice motorcycle. We’ve reconditioned it, modified it and I think we’ve made this into a thing of beauty. I’ve sent a picture to Johnny and the message came to ‘put it in a box and send it… I’ll pay for it.’ I told him no first you have to come to Bombay and ride it once here on the streets. Then we’ll put it in a box and send it where ever you want it, France, the US… wherever. So it’s sitting here waiting for Johnny to ride it.

JDR: So he’ll be there this coming fall to ride it when he comes to shoot the film?

GDR: Yes, well I’m not sure what “fall” means because I work in so many time zones, but October, November.

JDR: This must really be exciting for you to finally see this film happening.

GDR: Yeah, it’ll be a lot of fun I think. It will be something that will be a joy in itself I think, in its own way, but it will also be something I think and hope that leads to more work. I should be able to expand my treatment for TB sufferers here and initiate some other things on the basis of riding on the back of the movie. Because the movie gives you a platform to do other things …and if you’re focused and there are things you want to do then the movie allows you to do that so I’m looking forward to doing that as well.

JDR: I would think this film would be a wonderful entrée to a global platform for your organization. Does your foundation have a name?

GDR: Yes, Shantaram Charitable Trust.

JDR: Can people make donations to help?

GDR: Well I don’t take donations, I pay for everything myself. I am on the board of another charity called “Hope For India” and that DOES accept donations so that’s a fabulous charity… they got me to be involved after I got to know them and the work they do and that’s sort of a sister charity to mine. Mine is just individuals and me and the work I do. Theirs is quite big, they’ve built an orphanage in south India for abandoned girls.

JDR: Oh that’s fantastic!

GDR: It’s fantastic, state of the art facilities, with beautiful facilities… lovely clean beds and mattresses and sheets and computers for the girls and the equipment is excellent.

JDR: You certainly are making a difference.

GDR: Thank you.

GDR continues: In my case, giving, it’s always been my instinct,I’ve finally I’ve reached a point in my life where I can be the kind of person, in a way the Shantaram, the man of peace, that I always wanted to be and should have been before my life took it’s terrible detour in the wrong direction.

JDR: One of the things that stuck us about the character Lin, and I suppose if Lin is based on you and your life, then you basically went to sleep one night in the slums and woke up and you were a doctor! What was it like for you to have that sort of weight on your shoulders, their dependence on you to help them?

GDR: Well that’s a good question and it gets to the heart of who I am and what I am. I was making my living at the time I went to live in the slum, and I made my living from one day to the next, by working on the black market trade with foreigners who wanted to buy hash or wanted to sell their passport ...what ever it was they wanted to do...they wanted to change the money on the black market for profit. So I was doing that and committing crimes and doing crimes. So I’d go back to the slum and every afternoon set up my little slum clinic and when I was confronted with this on the first morning when I woke up after the fire I fell asleep and woke up and the guys are sitting there looking at me and I said “What’s going on guys?” and they said (at this point GDR does a spot on Indian accent) “Oh sir, your patients are waiting to see you.” And here they were. I went outside and there were all these people lined up saying “Good morning Doctor, Good morning Doctor.” “You see I’m having broken arm Doctor, you can be fixing for me” and so you look at that, I think for most people the instinct would be...woah this is too hard or you can look at it as I do and say I cannot walk away from this. These people need...there is a need here. And that need has arrived to confront me and so I am going to do it. It’s for me the same thing if you like when I was a junkie. When you’re a junkie people overdose all the time and the standard reaction when people overdose is to quickly scramble, get your stuff and leave as fast as you can because the cops are going to come, the ambulance guys are going to come, you’re going to get into trouble. My instinct was to give the people CPR. I’ve been an ambulance driver, I’ve learned how to do this. I’ve done first aid courses and I just couldn’t walk out and leave them alone even though I knew there was a chance that the police might come and then there would be a hassle for me because I’m taking drugs and whatever else. I just couldn’t leave those people and I never lost one. Every person that OD-ed that I worked on, I brought back. So on the one hand I have it in my nature that I’m a fighter and I’m ready to fight and I will fight if I have to. In prison when men attacked me with knives, I fought back and I stabbed them, cut them until the were on the ground screaming “all right I give up, I give up, stop, stop, stop”
And then I stopped. It’s not my nature to go on and inflict injuries but if I’m attacked? I’ll defend. I am a fighter, it’s my nature. BUT my nature is also to heal and to help as much as I can and I can tell you faced with that life in the slums, treating those people and living there, there’s not many who would have done it, especially not if they were on the run with a price on their head.

JDR: Words are failing me now, I am so awestruck by your ability and want to put others first, before yourself, to help and care for so many people. And you were not a trained doctor! Our members have said how moved they were by your book! For many of them this was the first book they’d read in a long time for fun, and it’s started many, many people on the reading path. You should know that you’ve changed the lives of so many people, all over the world with this one book.

May I ask you about Bombay now?

GDR: Sure

JDR: Your story opened talking about the senses of the city, the smells the, the different looks of the people and the intense heat. These were things that you wrote about noticing in the city. When you have traveled away and returned, are those things still what you notice most about the city?

GDR: Oh sure, every time. I have a driver that meets me at the airport and so instead of getting on a bus or in a taxi, which I did for the first few when I first came back, I’ve been back two and a half years now, when I come back now because I travel so much… I do public speaking. I did fourteen trips out of the country last year to do speeches and so on. I come back and I have my guy waiting for me, I have a driver with a car and the first thing is get the windows down so I can smell the air on my way back into the city so it’s still the same indeed, and when you come to Bombay the first time there’s a smell that you’ll get it’s the smell of the air, it’s so different to any where else, you’ll say OK I get it, now I know.. every time you come back to Bombay that smell will be there and you think ‘allllll riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!’

JDR: How wonderful for us that you were able to share that with your writing. The little details you bring into your story of Lin, of yourself in some ways, you are transported to where the story takes place. You take us to the story! Do you think this same feeling will be able to happen with the movie? Do you think the director will be able to tell your story the way you want it told?

GDR: That I don’t know, but certainly she’ll get Bombay because she made a movie called “Salaam Bombay” which is a beautiful film and she knows the city, she did documentaries on the life of the prostitutes and the lives of others here in the city and lived with people in these areas for months at a time to do this documentary. She also has made a film called “Monsoon Wedding” and she can get the feeling of cities like Bombay and Delhi because she’s lived in them and knows them so well, so that’s a real plus for her! She’ll “get” the city. As to how they do the film? I don’t know… they’re rewriting the screenplay now. I gave them my input, I did my second draft, I gave it to them. Eric Roth is doing a second draft at the moment so everybody’s waiting to see what they come up with by combining his work, mine, hers and see what they come up with. I don’t know how they are going to do this story. I think there are probably going to be a lot of people who love books who’ll be disapointed, it seems to be the general trend. Have you seen a film called “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

JDR: Oh it’s one of my favorites!

GDR: Me too. Did you read Harper Lee’s book?

JRD: Yes, I read it years ago in highschool, I need to reread it as an adult.

GDR: I read it and loved the book, and then I saw the movie and I loved the fact that they made such a beautiful film, they didn’t lose anything from the quality of the book, they captured it. They did a beautiful, faithful but elegantly made film and with its integrity intact and so on, now that’s rare. Most of the time, I think we love a book we go and see the movie and say “man that’s no where near as good.” Even a film that I think IS good, like “The English Patient” and I know Anthony Minghella who made it. And I like the film, I think he made a wonderful film, I know a lot of people who even thought they enjoyed the film say ‘oh but the book was so much better, I enjoyed the book’ and so on. You know I think that’s probably going to be a reaction because it’s such a big book and it’s hard to make it into a movie so I think there’ll be readers who’ll say “Oh no, no I liked the book much better.” I don’t know, but on the other hand I don’t...I don’t want to intrude. I think as a writer, especially if a book is in part about yourself and your life, you have to stand back, you can’t be looking over the shoulder of the director and the crew, it’s their art. This is their vision of this book it’s not mine, I’m not directing it, they are. So I have to let them feel free and not constrained or in some other way limited by the inspection of a writer. So I have some involvement now, I’ll come on as a consultant when they start shooting, there’s a few other things I’ll do but generally speaking, I’ll leave them in peace.

JDR: Being a fan of books and film, I try not to compare the two works, they are two different entities that stand alone. You can’t compare the works. One of the things about your story is that it’s such a complex story, I can’t help but think they will have to leave some thing out. Some storyline threads may not be brought to the forefront. Will you have any say over what happens?

GDR: Well to a certain extent at the beginning here I have a certain amount of input and I’m happy to have these meetings that I’ve had with Mira Nair and I like her personally by the way. I think that she’s very intelligent, creative and she’s very inclusive so I’ve certainly enjoyed her involvement at this stage because at each of the meetings that we’ve had she says each time “Hi, tell me what you think. And I want your feedback” and this is great. At a certain point I’ll cut off my input and just let them do what they want to do, you know.

JDR: Any chance you’d do a cameo?

GDR: Yeah I was asked if I was interested in doing that, but you know, I’m not. I think it would under mind the integrity of the film. So I won’t. BUT I will do a cameo in a film I’m producing this year and I’ll do a little cameo in that probably. Not even a cameo, just a tiny thing where I’m just sitting in the background with sunglasses on, or something, it’s only for those who know. It’s a film about the slave trade in women and we’ll shoot it in Mexico.

JDR: I have to ask you this, so many of us fell in love with the character Prabu (Prabaker)

GDR: I’m really glad they did. Thank you, it’s lovely, it’s endearing for me to hear this, it’s a wonderful thing when you create a character from nothing, and there’s no gesture, no expression, no word of dialogue, no physical appearance. Nothing is matched by in the real world by a real person and you get access to this created character… through… I don’t know, channeling in a way, and you create your character carefully, I wanted to make a character who was a gateway to India for all those people who had never been there. I wanted to create a character people could like first, be amused by, but then respect, then love and then grieve for when he passes so that this emotional experience, with the spectrum of emotions, would lead them to engage with India. Now it has, I get about 800 emails a week and of those… some 400 or so are about the book specifically so in many, many cases now people are saying, as you said, this book has changed my life for one reason or another, which is lovely to hear, and then you also get, “I’m going to India because of this” and now the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation here and the MTDC, they had a meeting with them here the other day and they said you know we’ve got about two hundred people a month coming to Bombay because of the book “Shantaram” ..they are coming on the “Shantaram tour”, they’re telling travel agents “I want to go to Bombay because I read this book called “Shantaram.”

JDR: This is something that I wanted to ask you about, the “Shantaram effect”... your books has to have affected the way people view the city. How does that make you feel, to know that you’ve opened up the world for people?

GDR: I love it because I love the city and I’m not blind to her faults. The city has a great many faults, the country of India has a great many faults, we can love a person and still be fully aware of that person’s faults so I am aware of the problems here but I love the city and so I’m thrilled that hundreds of people, it’s not something I expected… I didn’t think that people were going to come and do a “Shantaram” tour in large numbers, more something like the odd person who might make a kind of a little pilgrimage to say “I really like this book so I’m going to go there.” But it’s hundreds and hundreds of people, it’s like a couple of hundred people a month. So Leopold’s, for example, has been completely transformed. Leopold’s was almost dead and now it’s absolutely packed, it’s thriving, books get sold everywhere. It’s good! There’s…there’s a lot.

JDR: So let me ask you a question to clarify something for me, Prabaker (Prabu) is not based on any actual person?

GDR: No, of course none of them are, they are all created characters.

JDR: There was an article on the internet last year, I think, that said that the “real” Prabu was alive and well.

GDR: That’s so funny, you know what it was? There was a guy who was my guide who lead me into the city of Bombay and to his village. And I spent six months in his village with him and his family and I came back from there and went to live in the slum where he lived. So, in fact all of the experiences in the book are real experiences and that much happened but the character, the guide himself was the diametrical opposite of what I needed to create as an artist to create a gateway to India because he was such a negative character and a negative person. He did die, God rest his soul. Not speaking ill of the dead because he knows that I think I was probably the only person including everyone in his own family who actually loved him. He was a thief. You couldn’t put anything down, he was a drunkard, he was serial womanizer, he had four wives, one in each town along the highway and children to two of them…not counting the one in the village who was his first wife, and he had children to her as well. In the village the parents used to say ‘please don’t let him come back to the village, YOU come whenever you want. But don’t let him come back because he always gets drunk.’ Within his nature he was a liar and a cheat, he was all sorts of negative things. I like him. We got on well, he was my friend and we went through a lot together and I like him. I’d come from a prison full of men who were of an order of magnitude… to the power of 10 to the power of 3 who were worse than he was. So I measured him against the men I’d known in prison, for god’s sake. The people who knew him were measuring him against decent happy citizens in the community and found him to be an extremely negative person. Which he was and If I’d used him in the book, he was a racist and a sexist and oh, so many things. I couldn’t use such a character. I had to create a character. So now his brother, he did die, but his brother tried to kinda cash in on the story. When I came back his brother said “you know oh it’s so good to have you back, my mum and dad are still living in that village and they are very poor and they want to see you” And I said ‘sure no problem’ and so they came to see me they said we’re still living in the same house made of mud and blah blah so I spent a lot of money. I went there and built a huge house for them, it’s got two bathrooms, marble floors, it’s the biggest house in the area, they’re elderly, very elderly people and in India it’s not a lot of money, it cost me $50,000 to build it. So it’s not a huge amount but it’s a mansion in Indian terms. We built that for them. They had mortgaged their land, so I paid off their mortgage and so they owned their land again and this guy just decided he was going to cash in and wrote a story…(and he was interviewed by a journalist) and the story came out and they had to print a retraction after this saying, because it just obviously isn’t true. Everyone who knew the guide said, excuse me but the actual guide actually IS dead. That is just a crazy little mixed up story that went on and the guy came crying and said “I’m so sorry, I got greedy” and this and that . And I’m like it’s alright, don’t worry about it.

JDR: You write such vivid characters that obviously people have fallen in love with and taken to heart. I had one woman tell me that she just cried and cried when he (Prabaker) died, so you are indeed moving people’s hearts and they were absolutely certain that all of these characters were based on absolutely some individual person and that you had just given them a new name and they are not giving you enough credit for your creative ability as a writer and I’m going to try and make sure they all understand that YOU’VE created these characters, that they are all YOUR creation.

GDR: And all of the dialogue, yes…

JDR: Are you going to pick up where we left off?

GDR: The sequel? Yes, I’ve been working on it for four years.

(I must interject that at this point we got into the architecture of the book’s structure. And we then discussed at great length the allegories, mirror images, etc. contained in the book. Since we will be revisiting the book this summer, for now, I’ve opted to hold this part of the discussion for later use by us.)

JDR: I want to thank you for giving us so much of your time, but I have to ask, you mentioned in an previous interview that you are a musician, and you gave Lin a guitar that was slung on his back when he first gets to the city. Do you still play your guitar?

GDR: I do, I am still a really bad guitar player. The children in the slum had a name for the way I played the guitar, they used to call it ‘killing the chicken’ …I’m a terrible guitar player but I love it, I’m sitting here in my apartment here in Bombay talking to you and I’ve got three guitars beside me, they are very cheap here, Indian guitars, and I love these cheap, beat up Indian guitars. They’re knock offs of the genuine brand and so a Gibson here is called a Gipson with a “p” instead of a “b” and I love that, and the Hofner guitar is Hobner and so on…so they are copies of the originals but they are cheap Indian copies and I LOVE them, they’ve got a sound is not like any other instrument, they are really peculiar to India, I’ve got a couple of those and I play- I’ve got my guitars here, I like to play at least half an hour every day. It’s one of my mediation things you know, I sit down and play guitar now, late at night usually just before I do to sleep, my wind down before sleep is thirty minutes on the guitar. I have my routine, I get up in the morning and I take a quick wash and I make a coffee and I clean my teeth, make a coffee and drink half a cup of coffee and do three hundred sit ups..I do forty minutes..

JDR: whoosh!

GDR: (laughs) Yeah I can’t miss that, I gotta do that every day, you miss your sit ups…forget it… it’s all over. (he laughs) For a woman? No. But a guy? He’s got to do that. You’ve just gotta do it. You get in here and you’re in your fifties …and I’m never gonna give up and I’ll never stop. You know I do my three hundred sit ups and I do my training, forty minutes of training and I then do five rounds on the bag, five two minutes rounds on the punching bag, I’ve got a big heavy body bag here and then I take a shower and have breakfast and write for three hours then get out and do whatever I have to do, so I have a lunch, usually I have to meet people for lunch because.. if I have my lunch at home, which I like to do, then I have to meet people for a longer period… that way I can meet people and eat at the same time and then come back and write for three hours and then go out and do a couple more things maybe have some dinner with some people then come back and write again and do email for an hour, hour and a half and write a bit more then get a half an hour on the guitar and then bed. In between I read, I like to try to read, if I can forty to fifty pages a day from the various books.I usually read five or six books at the same time.

JDR: What are you reading now?

GDR: OK, I’ve got a lot...a lot of stuff at the moment I’m revisiting Nikos Kazantzakes and I’m reading a book of his called “Freedom and Death” which is dense and very difficult but it’s entertaining. A book by John Banville called “Athena” which is beautifully written – he’s a damn fine writer then, that’s John Banville. Then there’s another book on the largest covert operation in history, one of the biggest efforts ever made for smuggling weapons through the CIA and so forth called “Charlie Wilson’s War” ( JDR note by George Crile)

JDR: Yes!

GDR: You’ve heard of that book?

JDR: Yes I have but I haven’t read it yet.

GDR: That was given to me and I’m reading an interesting book by Richard Dawkins called “The God Delusion” because I’m convening a group of philosophers and scientists who are coming to London on March 21st at this major conference. We’ve got eighteen of the world’s leading physicists and philosophers who are coming together for a conference to try to hammer out some clear definitions of some of the biggest terms we use like “moral authority” “right and wrong” “good and evil” “justice” “freedom” “liberty” “democracy” what do we mean by these things in the 21st century? What should they mean for us today? And so we’re doing this as part of an initiative that’s been started by Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. So they asked me to convene this group of philosophers and so I’ve done this and they’re coming together in London and so I’m reading a book by Phillip Ball called “Critical Mass” it’s a fantastic book, terrific book, fabulous book on what’s called phase transitions or “Critical Mass phenomenon” how one thing tips over into a different state and becomes something else. Another thinker is Matt Ridley, and so I’ll be working with some of Matt Ridley’s stuff. I’m going back through “The Red Queen” and a couple of other of Matt’s books and so doing that’s what I have on at the moment that I’m reading.

I’m getting a lot of offers coming from the British film industry, British television, from the United States to write movies, write TV series and I’ve taken some of those offers. I wrote two movies last year, I’ll be working on the sequel to “Shantaram” for four years. In between I’ve written three films… three film screenplays- one of them was the first draft of “Shantaram” and I wrote two movies. One is a romantic comedy, this is last year, and the other is this one about the slave trade in women. So that was the first one we got up – we got the budget for, got my production team, the producers who are working with me, so we settled on a director whom we love who’s just brilliant. (I was asked to edit out the details as contracts are not signed as of the date of this interview)

GDR continues: It looks as though a lot of the writing I will be doing in the next three to four years will be a mix between my own writing projects, I’ve got two novels that I have to finish next year which are not related to the “Shantaram” series. So two new books next year.

I’m introducing a character in the next book (the Shantaram sequel) who will have a spin off, who’s a detective, a reluctant detective, and that he will have a spin off of three novels of his own which are already plotted. I think there’s a high order of probability that they will get made into movies. I would think that’s very likely.


GDR continues: In a novel which is striving for…using a term one of my favorite writers “the first duty of the artist is to create a masterpiece” and I agree and I think that we should try to do that. And I always will try to do that, I may never succeed in my lifetime but I may look back and say I tried and I strove for it and I never did less than try. SO when you are trying to write a masterpiece, when you are trying to write literature of fine art you can’t be too specific about the time and times of events and places because you lock your book down. What you are striving for is universalism. You want the book to be relevant to people fifty years after you’re dead. But with an entertainment [book] you can afford to be much more locked into time and space and a lot more critical, with a book that’s a light entertainment so I can write things that are much easier… that I hope allow me to be critical of the society of India, in a way I can talk about things... grittier side of life in Bombay in a more critical way than I could do when I am trying to write serious literature, if you know what I mean.

JDR: In the scheme of a time frame, when do you think we can look forward to the “Shantaram” sequel? Within the next couple of years?

GDR: Yes, I will have the first of these book ready by the end of 2009, so that’s my timeline for that. And another novel which I’m bringing out, it’s a fantasy novel, that’s next year, I’ve been planning that for two years. So I want to bring that book out and prepare it.



More to come about Greg’s love of American culture.

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