Yamini Pustake Bhalerao, although a dentist by profession, veers towards writing crime. Her first story, Operation Superstar, introduces the reader to the ‘Laundry Girl’ Indira — someone who will clean up after you for the right price. Her novel is forthcoming in 2017, but before that, we sat down with her to talk about her writing:
Why a ‘laundry girl’? Why not, say, a laundry boy?
I wanted to give the readers an unorthodox female protagonist. The portrayal of female protagonists is often very polarized. They are either righteous or devious. I wanted to push the envelope and develop a character who is an independent young woman and working in a morally ambiguous profession to blur the lines between good and bad.
The concept itself is based on the dark aspects that each of us have. Secrets, mistakes, lies, deliberate offenses, which people don’t want to talk about. People who have an image to protect have a lot to lose if their weaknesses are exposed. And what happens if you could hire a person to cover up those secrets for a price? Sounds like a great business opportunity to me!
What makes women protagonists in crime writing unique?
They have beautiful layers to their characters. Female protagonists have multiple facets in every genre. But in crime, you not only get to make them mysterious but also unapologetic about their actions, which is a treat for both readers and writers.
Indira operates in the grey, but is clear about the choices she makes. Is it easier to have such a protagonist in a work of crime?
No, because you want as much liberty as you can get with your characters when you are writing crime. Indira is a businesswoman. Her choices are clear; it seems more practical that she stay out of jail so that she can keep running her business. But, things always change.
Is there a case the Laundry Girl wouldn’t take on?
Cases where she would be asked to cover up child molestation, rape or murder. She does have a moral compass. But then, you never know as well.
Which crime writers inspire you?
My first crime read was a Sidney Sheldon novel. I have read many of his works. My favourite is Tell Me Your Dreams. I’ve also enjoyed reading John Grisham. The Client tops my list. But my favourite crime writer has to be Lee Child. I love the Jack Reacher series. I own almost all his books. I buy his books without a second thought, without even reading the blurb on the back.
Three things all crime writers cannot do without?
A crime, a culprit, and a twist.