The Bookoholics: What inspired you to write ‘When the Devil Whispers’?

Ajinkya Bhasme: WTDW is inspired by true events. I first heard this story from my mother, who is a lawyer, when I was very young. I was terrified of stepping out of my house in the fear of getting abducted by these child-killers. 20 years later, I found myself in a cafe thinking of writing a book. And my mind involuntarily projected this memory of my mother narrating the incident to me. My body was covered in chills and I wrote the first sentence of my book- “To err is human; to forgive is divine; and then there are crimes that are so harrowing that even the Devil gets scared to walk alone in the dark.” I believe that words and stories have an aura. Authors are mere media to convey these tales. This story spoke to me and 4 years later, after rigorous research, WTDW became a book.

I believe that words and stories have an aura. Authors are mere media to convey these tales.

The Bookoholics: Your first book at the age of 11 was ‘Boo in the Well of Dangers’ was about a ghost. You love thrillers and mystery since childhood? It’s quite odd for a young child.

Ajinkya Bhasme: I loved to hear bedtime stories, but they got repetitive and flavourless for me very soon. In a desperate attempt of preserving my interest for novel tales, after epic scriptures were done, my mother started narrating tales from her courtroom sessions. The human mind was intriguing for me and the more I heard, the more I wanted to hear. I had read all detective fiction in my school library and it was about time I felt like writing something of my own. Darkness fascinated me and it still does.

Ajinkya Bhasme
Ajinkya Bhasme

The Bookoholics: It is stated that the book is inspired from a real case, how did you write the characters? Was there a lot of research involved?

Ajinkya Bhasme: Oh yes! 4 years of insanely frightening research. I lived in the neighbourhood for a few days to get the feel of the place of the crime. There were many horror stories that surrounded that place as a result of a deep psychological anguish. The people are still dealing with the horrors of knowing what happened. They don’t open up with honesty that easily. It took time and patience to befriend them and really understand the story. Unlike journalism, my intention was not to speed up facts and report, my intention was to hear their part in this grim tale. 4 years is a long time, you know I could get another graduation from IIT in those 4 years 😛

The true horror stories are not under our bed or in the closet, they exist among us.

The Bookoholics: How did your book affect your personal and professional life?

Ajinkya Bhasme: I am a method writer so I get quite involved with my characters. I also visited the prison in the book twice under a pseudonym to feel the vibe. And trust me, I’ve seen a lot of darkness in my life, have been scared of ghosts, but the moment I stepped inside that place, it felt like I would no longer be capable of feeling happy ever again. The true horror stories are not under our bed or in the closet, they exist among us. I was deeply disturbed, but the story had to be told. My colleagues have always supported me in my writing, right from my juniors to my CEO, everyone always keeps encouraging me. And that enabling atmosphere not only helps me do well at my regular job, but also deal with writing dark material in a positive manner.

The Bookoholics: Since you started writing from a young age, why go for chemical engineering and not something related to writing?

Ajinkya Bhasme: Honestly, it was always a debate between arts and sciences, and guess who won due to earning potential? Sad, isn’t it? Ever since childhood, I tried everything I could and just attempting things was not enough. I needed some form of closure in whatever I took up. I was a bright student since the start. I loved mathematics, science and logical reasoning (I still do). I am an absolute nerd at heart so I knew I wanted to study these subjects. Off recently, I was bored and did not know what to do, so I ended up taking an entire course in clinical psychology and getting certified in the basics. I am a total random homo sapien and the decision to do engineering from IIT was absolutely random too. My parents and I though I was going for MBBS but next morning I told them- IIT. After my father fell off his chair laughing hysterically for 15 minutes, he realised I was not joking. So as of today, I am chemical engg from IIT Bombay, work as an HR in UPL, consult on chemical projects, write books, choreograph dance videos every week, speak 6 languages and I think that I am not even done 1% yet. There is so much more to learn in this world.

The Bookoholics: Who is your favourite writer from this genre?

Ajinkya Bhasme: Dan Brown, Stephen King, Agatha Christie.

Ajinkya Bhasme
Ajinkya Bhasme

The Bookoholics: Which part was hardest for you to write?

Ajinkya Bhasme: The plotting is the most difficult part of the writing process for me. As a thriller writer, the plot has be fast paced and I believe, you must not give away all details to the readers. Some things are best left to imagination. I started off as a poet, so I love using ornamental language. However, it doesn’t suit the context of crime thrillers, does it? The plot of WTDW was already super complex, so I did not want my readers struggling with the vocabulary as well. The focus was meant to be on the story. It was hard to simplify the language but still keep my fresh literary device so that people don’t get lost in the plethora of attractive lexicon.

The readers may see a movie adaptation of the book real soon

The Bookoholics: How hard was it to get your book published?

Ajinkya Bhasme: Oh you had to pinch the nerve! Writing the book was easy, getting it out was more difficult. Between us, the day before the launch of WTDW, my family found me in one corner of my bedroom, crouched on the floor, crying with genuine tears. I tell my mother, burn the bloody book, I can’t take this anymore. Murphy’s law seemed like specially designed only for me- “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” I dread the same for my next book too.

The Bookoholics: What publishing advice will you give to young authors?

Ajinkya Bhasme: More often than not, artists become the worst critics of themselves. A new author should know that the world is often unkind to new talent. It takes some time to break the resistance and get accepted. Be ready for a lot of rejections, but don’t let it become dead weight for you. Accept only the criticism that you think can help you grow, rest is just weed. Find the clan that loves your material; write for them, write for yourself. Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate.

The Bookoholics: Is there a second book on the way? If yes, does it belong to the same genre?

Ajinkya Bhasme: Heck yeah! It is another thriller/horror. Sanjana witnesses the public cremation of her husband. Her family and in-laws are there to support her. Her 5 year old son knows now that he is everything Sanjana has got now. But 10 years later, there is a knock at her door. Her dead husband has come back to life. Everyone sees him and everyone is convinced he is back. He looks like him, acts like him, talks like him but Sanjana is convinced it is not him.

The Bookoholics: What was the most common response you got from the readers?

Ajinkya Bhasme: Readers have been incredibly kind with WTDW. They have said mostly great things. Considering it is my first big work, I feel blessed. The most common response is that the book kept them excited till the very end and the end was unpredictable.