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Going places Wednesday January 12, 2005 Q & A By Vikas Swarup Ever since the buzz about his debut novel and his six-figure advance got around, life hasn't been the same for Vikas Swarup. Along with a demanding job as a director of the Pakistan desk in Ministry of External Affairs, Swarup is now busy fielding questions from the media and attending calls either from movie directors, publishers, readers or aspirant writers. For someone who never dreamt of writing a novel, getting his first book published without a hitch (the literary agent was so impressed after reading four and a half chapters that he asked for the entire novel) and then seeing it snapped up by leading publishers in 16 countries, translated into 14 languages, being made into a film by BBC's Film Four and having a prominent Bollywood director keen to make a Hindi film, is much more than one could have asked for. "I have been very lucky," says a modest Swarup, whose book releases today. Perhaps the fastest written novel (completed in two months flat), Q And A is the story of Ram Mohammad Thomas, an 18-year-old poor waiter who wins a billion on the quiz show Who Will Win A Billion? And subsequently is arrested - the producers of the show don't have money to pay him. Swarup narrates the story of the poor orphan through the 12 questions in the quiz show. The '86 batch IFS officer wanted to write a story that was not just different but had a unique character one could empathise with. "I love thrillers and wanted to write a social narrative which was also a page-turner," says the author who rates Agatha Christie as one of his favourites. Influenced majorly by vernacular literature, Swarup doesn't want to get typecast as a writer of a particular genre. "I want to try all the genres. At present I have a few plots in mind for the next one but haven't started work on any," he says. In fact, the debut novel was a "challenge" to see whether he could do it. Now that he has met his challenge, the next step should be easy.