Jayant Swamy is a Management Consultant and Corporate Trainer based in Seattle, USA. Holding an MBA from IIM Bangalore, he has donned different professional hats over the past twenty plus years; his corporate repertoire including companies like Microsoft, IBM, T-Mobile, General Electric, and Tata Consultancy Services. He has recently come out with the book Family Secrets, which is a corporate thriller.
I chat with Jayant about his book Family Secrets, what inspired him to write this book, book recommendations, and much more.
Hello, Jayant! Tell us a bit about yourself!
I was born and bred in beautiful Bangalore, and have been living in scenic Seattle for more than two decades. Both cities represent home for me. IIM-Bangalore educated, I have been desultory in my career, flitting across management and finance, technology and business, training and teaching.
I am attracted to novel pursuits all the time – dabbling in Improv, writing the screenplay for a full-fledged Hindi movie, moderating for film-festivals, training networks and book clubs, helping launch non-profit start-ups, and some more to come.
I consider myself a maverick. I don’t believe in conforming to societal norms that I personally don’t resonate with. I advocate individual choice provided it does not hurt or harm others. People blindly pursuing social acceptance is bothersome. I envision a world where all human-beings are respected and everyone possesses some amount of compassion.
If you could only describe your book Family Secrets in five words, what would they be?
This is such a powerful exercise! You really got me thinking. Here are my top five words (in alphabetical order): Cerebral, Delicious Emotional, Entertaining, Riveting.
Now tell us a little more about the book! What can readers expect?
The illegitimate son Abhimanyu is the solitary owner of the Vikramaditya fortune. Waking up to this reality in mid-life, Siddhartha, the legitimate son, seeks justice for himself. A description of each of the five words from my preceding response tells readers what to expect:
Cerebral – Siddhartha’s well-planned cons, countered by Abhimanyu’s strategic boardroom manoeuvres.
Delicious – In line with my tagline borrowed from Maya Angelou, a balanced mix of passion and compassion, humour and style, make this a novel that can be savoured long after finishing reading!
Emotional – Siddhartha’s tender relationship with his wife, Abhimanyu’s mother’s daring extra-marital alliance, Abhimanyu son’s coming out journey.
Entertaining – Bringing all the above elements together into a corporate thriller and a dynastic drama.
Riveting – Fast action, quick pace, glamour, intrigue and back-to-back scenes that move the story forward.
What was the moment when the idea of the book first came to be? What made you pursue it?
I started writing this book when my first novel Colours in the Spectrum had trouble finding buyers. This book was meant to be a reincarnation saga of the two lead characters. Later I heard family folklore about a patriarch and his extra-marital alliance that had transpired several decades back. It made me wonder what type of trauma his daughter from his earlier marriage may have experienced.
The lead characters were already too much a part of me by then to let them go. I transformed the book into Family Secrets, a fictional story of those two lead characters as half-brothers, and continued to explore their mindsets and motivations, machinations and trauma.
Is there a scene, element, or character you really enjoyed creating and writing?
A really tough question! While there are several, I’ll settle for a toss-up between two scenes. One, the opening heist where my amateur conman and his actor-wife rob a jewellery store in broad daylight. The other, the climax that transpiring on a single day, brings together the stories of all five principal characters and throws up thrilling twists and turns one after the other.
Your other work of fiction is your debut novel Colours in the Spectrum. While writing the book Family Secrets, was there any difference in your writing process the second time around?
Great question! Yes, tons. While writing Family Secrets, I was more confident of my writing style, my revisions were strategic, and I had no compunctions about dumping scenes and sequences if they were deemed redundant or out of context.
When writing my first novel, I took too many liberties time-wise. I used to constantly restructure the novel and try to force fit everything I had written. I used to edit it continually, only to find the fifteenth edited version closely resembled the second or the third. I experimented a lot, learnt a lot from the meandering, made a lot of fond memories for myself, all of which came in handy while writing my second.
I am a constant learner. Learning is a process, as is writing. Iterative, reiterative. My motto is to avoid making the same mistakes again. It’s perfectly ok to make new ones and learn from them.
How have you been coping with the current pandemic and what will be the new normal for you post it?
Believe it or not, my productivity has gone up during the pandemic. Between marketing Family Secrets and writing my next, a book on personal evolution in the non-fiction genre, I have little time for much else. I am a people-person and don’t fancy a solitary working style in the long run. I hope to be physically back in workplaces once this is behind us.
For the pandemic itself, I have taken a rather philosophical view. At some level the Universe is giving humanity a wake-up call to slow down, save the planet and develop compassion towards fellow humans!
Lastly, are you currently reading anything and do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
Yes! As always I am reading a lot of stuff. I have started on Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land. I find it is as unputdownable as a thrilling novel. Given my tight schedules, it may take me another month or even two, to finish though. Splendours of Royal Mysore by Vikram Sampath is next on my ‘To read list’.
I try to read at least one book a month. Let me laundry list the books I read in the last six months (in alphabetical order). Readers can exercise their individual choice and take their pick!
Amnesty by Aravind Adiga
Dharma: Decoding the Epics for a Meaningful Life by Amish and Bhavna Roy
Duryodhan by Kaka Vidhate, translated from the Marathi by Vikrant Pande
Hidden in Plain Sight by Jeffrey Archer
Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akthar
Suheldev: The King Who Saved India by Amish
The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakurni
The book ‘Family Secrets’ is available online and at your nearest bookstore.