Tejas Desai was born and raised in New York City, where he resides and works as a Supervising Librarian for Queens Public Library. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University, attended the University of Oxford and holds both a MFA in Creative Writing/Literary Translation and an MLS degree in Library Information Science from Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY).
He is the author of the international crime trilogy The Brotherhood Chronicle, which is critically-acclaimed, as well as Good Americans, the first volume of The Human Tragedy series, which speaks volumes about the human condition and modern life in America.
In addition, Desai is a novelist, short story writer, blogger, playwright, filmmaker, actor, educator, librarian, publisher, and a critic of literature, arts and culture.
In 2012, he founded The New Wei literary movement which seeks to promote provocative and significant narrative artists as well as diverse voices in the literary world. His interviews and articles on literature have been published in Huffpost, BuzzFeed, The London Post and other publications.
The Dance Towards Death, which just hit the Amazon Bestseller Charts, is the third and last book in your rather amazing crime series. When you did the final read through what did that feel like on a personal level?
It felt both immensely satisfying, and honestly, a bit of a relief. I’m meticulous so even though the basic draft of The Dance Towards Death was finished years ago, it has still been chiseled and revised several times since, most recently due to the read-throughs of my copyeditor and proofreader,who also give me general editorial advice. I am blessed to have a great team.
I’m really proud of The Dance Towards Death, aesthetically it might be the best book in the trilogy and I think it’s a worthy conclusion for this exciting and thought-provoking international crime epic, but I’m also excited to move on to my next project, the next volume of The Human Tragedy series, currently titled Bad Americans.
You are well known for intertwining Hindu-Buddhist thought with gritty dialogue, is that naturally your style, or was it a conscious choice for this series?
While I do think I write naturally well that way, and the Hindu-Buddhist content with gritty language/dialogue come directly from my Indian-American upbringing in Queens, NYC, I can also write many other characters and subjects, changing language and style based on content, so I think in this case it is a choice based on the subject matter.
You can see this best in my short stories in Good Americans. For example, if you read the story “Bridget’s Brother,” you get a rather female-oriented, highly educated and aspirational voice. “Malta: A Love Story” and “Dhan’s Debut” incorporate a range of contrasting voices and styles based on gender, class, sexual orientation and situation. I think you’ll get even more of this in Bad Americans, its anthology sequel.
But even within The Brotherhood Chronicle, there’s a large diversity of characterization, so NYU Business Graduate Student Jody Chou sounds much different from the Aussie drifter Rob Johnson, and the Thai stripper Aspara sounds much different from Duncan’s upper class wife Lamai. When you’re getting Rob’s point of view, the narration has a different tone than when you are getting Niral’s or Bob Macaday’s. So I think a diversity of voices and styles plays a part in all my work. I’ve met and lived among so many various types of people, so that inevitably translates to my fiction.
In this series Niral Solanke, your protagonist goes down the rabbit hole of a complex international criminal world. How did that storyline evolve for you?
It started with me wanting to write an Indian-American noir thriller, and when I started incorporating different social elements based on experiences and observations from my life, travels, interviews, anecdotes etc., a whole world of characters, storylines and situations began to form.
The first book (The Brotherhood) went through well over 20 complete revisions, so characters and storylines changed a lot in that process. But the second and third books (The Run and Hide, The Dance Towards Death) were mainly written straight through, with only one major structural revision, and even that was just tightening up the action. After a while I just stopped thinking about the plot, it just came out of me, and I stuck with it.
This is a bit like asking a parent which if their kids they love the most, but I am going to go for it – which of the books in this series is your favorite, and why?
That is a tough one. I do think each book is better than the last, breaking the rules of most trilogies. And while I do love the third book The Dance Towards Death, especially how many characters return from the first book to round out the trilogy, how the overall picture is clarified and especially the New York City political plot and locations, if I really have to choose, I have to go with The Run and Hide.
Some of the passages from The Run and Hide, especially when we get into Rob Johnson’s head, the setting descriptions of Thailand and some of the narration of Niral and other characters’ internal struggles are some of the best writing I’ve ever done in my view, and I’m really proud when I read them back at events.
If sure your fans are wondering now that this series is complete, what is next for you?
After I’m done with interviews, promotions and events for The Brotherhood Chronicle, I’m going full steam into the next volume of The Human Tragedy, my innovative portrait of contemporary America in short stories. It’s tentatively titled Bad Americans. I’ve already started writing it, but I’ll be able to focus on it a lot more.
Like the first volume, it will probably be around 10, possibly more, short stories that provide a diverse portrait of America today, but unlike the first book, there will be a story overarching the stories too, in addition to the internal reality the first book created with its introduction. I’m not going to give many more details than that. I’d recommend readers check out Good Americans, and if they like it, be prepared for an even more dynamic second volume.
The Dance Towards Death is available on Amazon by clicking here.