In Conversation with Ankush Saikia – Author of Red River, Blue Hills

Ankush Saikia has worked in journalism and publishing in New Delhi for over a decade and was shortlisted for the Outlook–Picador India non-fiction writing award (2005). He is the author of four novels, Jet City Woman (2007), The Girl from Nongrim Hills (2013), Dead Meat (2015) and Red River, Blue Hills (2015), and is currently based in Shillong and Tezpur.

Tell us something about yourselfDSC02106

I was born in Tezpur, Assam in 1975, and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin; Assam; and Shillong, Meghalaya. I worked in journalism and publishing in Delhi for over a decade before returning to the North East. I have done some freelance journalism of late (see my website, and have published 5 books so far, the most recent on being Red River, Blue Hills published by Westland. My next book that will be out is the second book in my detective series after “Dead Meat”–it will be released by Penguin India in October 2016.

Tell us something about your latest book “Red River Blue Hills”. How did you get the idea to write the book?

This book was actually written during 2011-12, just after I had returned to the North East from Delhi. I had this idea of doing a thriller involving a female protagonist and one in which the story moved from Delhi to the North East, taking in present realities along the way.

You have sketched a very fine picture of the effects of the militant activities in the North East. How did you do the research to build the characters and the story?

Most of it were things that I had heard or read about, or even experienced in an indirect way, so I didn’t have to do any research as such. I just used my imagination to build on what I already knew.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What inspired you to write your first book?

I think around when I was 16 or 17 and in college. I had always read a lot, and one day it occurred to me that I should try writing a book myself. The first book that I wrote, again while in college, I never submitted anywhere, as it wasn’t good enough. The inspiration really was the desire to write a book.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about his/her work?


Quite a few really. I’ll try naming a few of them: R.K. Narayan, Graham Greene, Hemingway, John le Carre, J.M. Coetzee, Henning Mankell, W.G. Sebald. I think they are all writers with a distinctive voice and view of the world.

You have written mostly thrillers. What draws you to this genre?

The challenge of keeping readers entertained even while trying to deal with complex issues.

What are your forthcoming projects?

At the moment I’m working on an article on dams in Arunachal Pradesh and a short crime novel, and after that I start work on a big book which, while being a thriller, will look at North East India from various angles.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Read my books, and recommend them to others!

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