The Sunflower Seeds

Tarun Mehrishi – I believe my strength lies in writing fiction, especially crime/spy fiction

From working as a corporate lawyer, to heading marketing for sports brands and now being the co-founder of an EV company, author Tarun Mehrishi has worn many hats in his long successful career.

‘The Portrait of a Secret’ is his debut novel and it already has a movie in the making. The book is a fast-paced action thriller that follows two paintings across the past century to unfold a threat to the nation in the present. Though it is inspired by true events, and we see a lot of iconic historical moments in the story, the book itself is all fiction.

In this exclusive interview, the author answers some questions about the book and his writing process:

This book is inspired by true events, how much of it is true? and how much research did this book take?
The book is a work of fiction, built around several real events that were front and center on the global stage at their time – be it the actual theft of two paintings from India, the accession of Kashmir, the Partition, the birth of Bangladesh or even the life of Dawood Ibrahim, to name a few, all of these events are real. It did take a fair bit of research to understand the facts and circumstances around each of the events that form the pillars around which the plots and sub-plots have been built, but I am certainly no expert in history.

With all you have going on, how did you find time to research and finish a novel as detailed as this one?
Ironically, it was the difficulties of COVID, that opened the window to be able to write the book. At that time, I worked in sports marketing, and that entire industry was essentially brought to an immediate standstill. While we figured out how to move forward, there was time, to not only research the book, but also find the creative mental bandwidth to put it together. Of course, once work restarted in interest, the research and writing was limited to weekends, till I finally took my next vacation to finish the first draft. Honestly, it would never have happened on the side of work, and could only have happened with genuine time off from work.

Do you think anyone can be a good author despite their background?
Absolutely, 100% I believe it. My belief is that everyone has at least one story within them that they can tell passionately and honestly and that gives all of us the potential to be an author. The evidence for it is all around us in the enormously different profiles of eminent authors today. As it was for me for a long time, it is likely self-doubt and a lack of belief that stop us from telling the stories inside us.

What advice would you give inspiring authors?
I would only say that, like any other field, the road is not easy. But, for me in the past and for so many of my friends and colleagues, the challenge has always been to actually finish a draft that they start. So, all I would say is that if you have a story to tell, put your head down and finish it and you never know – the result may surprise yourself as well.

Who are your favourite authors and how do you feel they’ve shaped your writing?
For the longest time, all of my favourite authors were in the genre of thrillers and spies. Sheldon, Ludlum, Patterson and Clancy have been lifelong favourites. Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle were hugely enjoyable when I was younger. And now, with age, the width of my reading appetite has expanded and I have thoroughly enjoyed books like ’10% Human’ and ‘The Bottle of Lies’.

But, my strength, I believe, lies in writing fiction, especially crime/spy fiction, likely because that is what I read most of when I was at my most impressionable. I think that my style of writing is an amalgam of strategies and devices from these illustrious names and I hope that I can keep building this skill as I move on to the next book.