Today is the birthday of my first travel book ‘Three Men on Motorcycles - The Amigos ride to Ladakh’!
It went live on Amazon exactly 4 years ago, on 17th April 2017.
This book was written 4 years after the actual ride in 2013 - and indeed, was largely written as an exercise to clear my mind and keep my spirits up… as it was written largely in hospital rooms where my mom was fighting her battle with cancer. I used to carry my laptop to the hospital and write when she was sleeping.
This was not my first book - it was actually my fifth.
My first one was a traditionally published professional book- ‘What they didn't teach you about Marketing.’ But my main writing was fiction - short stories (these were collected and published as ‘Bombay Thrillers’ and ‘Dipy Singh, Private detective’) and was followed by a novel - ‘Dipy Singh and The Mystery of the Office Rat.’
But all of these books had not exactly set the world on fire, but were chilling out in the depths of the charts and showed absolutely no signs of swimming their way up to bestsellerdom. I was not too worried about it - I had enjoyed writing them and was happy just for the fact that the books existed. I would have loved for them to be successful, of course - but I was happy just to have books out.
I had started writing small travel blogs during our trip to Spain in 2014 - and the character of ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ jumped straight out of my brain and into my laptop. I just loved writing about SHE and our travel adventures, and even illustrated them with little cartoons and stuff. I started writing travel blogs fairly regularly - and when I started motorcycling, I started blogging about that as well. I used to post them on a blog site and shared them on social media, and got a lot of positive feedback from readers - not just people I knew, but also from strangers.
And all of this - my experience of writing short stories and comedy and thrillers, my love for writing travelogues and my decision to break away from all established tropes of writing and write in my own way and my own style and for my own enjoyment, and of course my urge to poke fun at my nearest and dearest - came together as I starting writing about our ride.
It started just as a journal or a blog, but the stuff just poured out of me like oil - and before I knew it - it was a book! You can’t really go wrong when you have so many amazing ingredients - the Amigos - (Me, Mr Perpetual Motion (Adi) and the tandoori-chicken-eating Ghost Rider (Delzad)), SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED, the Diva-like personality of the Royal Enfield, various supporting cast members like the boys from Bangalore with the ancient grandma bike, the RD350s, the big BMWs - and of course the obligatory RE. The biggest character was obviously the grand land of Ladakh - which was the amazing canvas on which all these stories were written.
I tried to make it as different from other travelogues as possible - while trying to take the best learnings from my favourite writers - Jerome K Jerome, Bill Bryson, R K Narayan, Pu La Deshpande and of course, the immortal Wodehouse.
No filter - but no nastiness and no incessant cribbing, love of travel - but no fake enthusiasm, tell it like it is - but make it fun. Add in lots of context - history, geography, stories and legends, local culture, true events, mishaps and misadventures - to make the trip relatable. And put in lots of photographs so that readers can actually see the people and places and get a real feel of the ride. I posted galleries of photos on my website and gave links to them in every chapter, so that readers could see full resolution pics rather than small grainy pics in the book body.
I loved writing it - it was a blast! I went through various rounds of rewriting and polishing - and Adi made the most kick-ass cover ever! What an awesome creation!
The book went live on Amazon - and to my utter surprise, became a success! It got a lot of very kind reviews and went to the top of the best-seller charts in Travel Writing in Amazon India, and stayed there for quite a while. I was totally stunned. It had readership in other countries as well US, UK, Australia, etc - with no marketing whatsoever. I had no idea about book marketing then ( and I still don't!) and all sales and page-reads were totally organic. I even got contacted by a travel site for an interview! I was gobsmacked.
My mom passed away just a few months after the book was published - and I will always be grateful that she got to see the book do well and hit the #1 spot and get that orange ‘Bestseller’ badge. She was so happy.
I enjoyed writing ‘Three Men on Motorcycles’ so much, that I immediately started writing the next one - ‘Three Men Ride Again - the Amigos ride to Spiti’ and enjoyed that too, and wrote another and another and another... Now there are 11 travel books so far - 5 books in the Amigos series, and 6 books in the ‘One Man’ series. I have a long line of books in the ‘To Be Written’ list and hopefully will get around to writing them soon. (fingers crossed...waiting for muse)
And it all started with this book.
Happy birthday, book!
I blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!