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Mainak Dhar: Writing a book requires not just creativity, but the discipline to see it through



Mainak Dhar wears many hats. He considers his most important job to be the best possible father and husband he can be.

An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, his ‘day job’ is in the corporate sector, leading teams and businesses for a major multinational firm.

A self-described ‘cubicle dweller by day and writer by night’, when he’s not with his family or at work, he loves creating and sharing stories.

He is the author of over a dozen books, some of which have been bestsellers in India and abroad including the bestselling Alice in Deadland series, 03:02 and Sniper’s Eye.

His books have been translated into Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, German and Portuguese, reaching millions of readers worldwide.

He is also a passionate student of Karate and holds a Black Belt. Learn more about him and contact him at




Q. Can you tell us a bit about your book "The 1st Assassin"?

The 1st Assassin is a thriller about an officer in the special forces, who is now doing a desk job at R&AW in Delhi after a mission left him scarred physically and emotionally.

He is put on a task force investigating a purported assassination plot against the US President during his upcoming trip to India.

Initially, he revels at getting back into the thick of action as opposed to sitting at a desk, but soon learns that things are not what they seem.

There is a deep conspiracy at play, the enemy always seems to be one step ahead, and soon he is no longer sure who to trust. It becomes a race against time to unravel this conspiracy, while keeping himself and those close to him, alive.

Q. What inspired the idea for your book?

There were two motivations for this novel. First, to explore the psyche of, and pay homage to, those who serve in uniform and put themselves in harm’s way for us. Often popular culture like the movies portray them as larger than life heroes.

Having grown up around such people (My father spent more than 30 years in the Intelligence Bureau), I know that they are only human. They deal with the emotional burden of what they see and do, and have their own families and issues to deal with.

What makes them real heroes is not that they are invulnerable but the fact that they can deal with all these stresses and still do their duty when called upon.

The second motivation was to peel back the convenient labels we find on media and in social media on the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in the world around us.

Often, the world is made up shades of grey, and the real villains are not just the ones pulling the triggers or planting the bombs, but their hidden masters, who are often stoking conflict and chaos in their pursuit of power, money or both.

Q. So, where did you start? What was the writing process like for this book?

I started writing the novel during the early days of the COVID lockdowns in March 2020. The world around us was going crazy, and so much seemed to be out of our control.

The last book I had written had been one around leadership and personal branding (Brand New Start) and I was starting to think of another book to help young people with mentoring (Leadership in 100 Words), but thrillers are my first love, and writing this book was my own personal catharsis and refuge in those dark days.

I wrote the first draft within a few months, and then to be honest, with all the chaos of COVID and my settling into a new job, I didn’t really think about publishing it.

When readers began reaching out to me earlier this year about when my next thriller would be coming, I thought back to this book, polished it off, and brought it to readers.

Q. Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m pretty transparent so what you see is pretty much what you get. So any reader who goes to my website at or my social media handles (@dharmainak on Insta or will get a good feel of who I am as a person.

Q. What first made you fall in love with writing and books in general?

I don't remember how it began, but even my earliest memories are of me wanting to write. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and in those days with no Internet or video games, books were my refuge and source of entertainment.

Somewhere along the way, reading stories led to me want to create stories of my own. I had a bunch of poems written and filed away, and when I was in Grade 7, I read an interview by Stephen King where he said that the moment anyone paid you for your writing, you were a professional writer.

That gave me the courage to staple my poems together with solutions to the next term's Maths textbook and sell the 'book' to my classmates at fifty cents a pop.

I made $12.50 in 'royalties' and came home and announced to my Mom that I was now a writer. That's probably the moment when the dream of being a published author was born.

Q. What has the pandemic taught you?

To be grateful for what we have and those who we care about, and not take anything for granted.

Q. Which quality do you think is the most important in an aspiring author?

Writing a book requires not just creativity, but the discipline to see it through. So, if you want to write, be ready to commit to that discipline and hard work.

Also, you need a very thick skin and doggedness to keep going because you will inevitably face rejection and setbacks. I don't mean to dissuade you, but just go in with eyes wide open.

Building a writing career is not just about having a cool idea and dreaming of writing a book. Converting that to reality is hard work, and you need to make a conscious effort to make writing an important part of your life and routine.

Q. How do you cope with stress?

Spend time with family, run, practice Karate, write.

Q. What has been your biggest achievement?

Getting promoted to ‘husband’ over 18 years ago and to ‘father’ 14 years ago.

Q. Future of through your eyes?

It’s really bright. I’ve seen Salismania grow over the years, and its great to see it evolve into a community that connects young people around issues which are relevant to them.




The 1st Assassin: A Unit 22 Thriller

I once worked for the government, going into missions that never officially happened, killing enemies we never officially killed. They gave me a bunch of medals, partly for doing my job well, mostly to keep my mouth shut.

I still work for the government, but now I ride a desk, barely tolerated by my boss, barely tolerating myself. My world is turned upside down when I am put on a task force investigating an assassination plot against the US President.

Nothing is as it seems, the enemy always seems to be one step ahead of us, and I must keep myself and those I care about alive long enough to get to the bottom of this conspiracy.

The clock is ticking, the body count is mounting, and the assassins never stop coming.



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