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“The Beginning of My End” is a distinctive on-Grounds ghost story

Author Siddharth Dalal elaborates on the creative process behind his newest novel

Dalal hopes that readers find the book as propulsive and exciting as some of the more famous novels it pays homage to.
Dalal hopes that readers find the book as propulsive and exciting as some of the more famous novels it pays homage to.

For Class of 2002 alumnus Siddharth Dalal, writing novels may not seem like the most obvious career fit. Dalal works in the fields of software development and engineering — seemingly possessing the disposition of an analyst more than an artist.

As it turns out, however, this technical background played a significant role in the writing of Dalal’s first fiction novel, “The Beginning of My End.” According to Dalal, the inspiration for his new novel had been slowly building in his head for a long time, and started as a fascination with the spooky and spiritual.

“My whole writing [journey] started 15 years ago, and it was kind of jump-started by my interest in the paranormal,” Dalal said. “The mixture of U.Va., paranormal activity and technical realism really spoke to me.” 

“The Beginning of My End” tells the story of Rahm, an Indian-American engineer who is unexpectedly murdered by his girlfriend, Marie. As Marie disposes of Rahm’s body, his research team — who work on Grounds at the University — is found dead, and the missing Rahm becomes the chief suspect in the investigation into their murder. This plot thread dovetails as Rahm’s ghost becomes wrapped up in complex corporate espionage and seeks revenge for the deadly conspiracy against him.

While that synopsis carries traces of numerous well-worn subgenres — from the spy thriller to the ghost story — Dalal hopes that his personal experience in engineering adds a dose of technical realism to these genres that can sometimes seem defined by their implausibility.

“That’s what stuck with me about the story,” Dalal said. “I had the opportunity to add an engineer’s perspective — as well as my own perspective as an Indian-American immigrant — to the genre.”

Of course, the book is not intended to be a drab, overly technical slog. On the contrary, Dalal hopes that readers find the book as propulsive and exciting as some of the more famous novels it pays homage to.

“If I had to describe the novel to a prospective reader, I might sell it as a mix of Harry Dresden and Dan Brown, or Greywalker and Robert Ludlum,” Dalal said, referring to two popular book franchises and authors of thrillers, respectively.

It wasn’t until the pandemic that Dalal really began working on the novel. For Dalal, it was both a way to combat the tedium of the drawn-out pandemic and a way to bond with his young son, who was working on a novel of his own.

“It took discipline to balance everything. I basically had to take the time it would have taken me to commute to work in my office, and apply it to writing my novel,” Dalal said.

It would not have been possible, Dalal said, to get the novel finished without support from his surrounding family and friends, who provided him with constant encouragement and feedback.

“My family was a great support system,” Dalal said. “I also had friends giving me small feedback, most of it at the editing stage.” 

Now, the hard part is over, and Dalal is eagerly awaiting the official release of his new book — “The Beginning of My End” will hit bookshelves Sept. 24. After that, Dalal already has big plans for the future of the fictional universe he has created.

“I’m already planning a sequel based on the perspective of another character in ‘The Beginning of My End,’” Dalal said. 

While there are no official release plans for that novel yet, readers can be sure to expect another distinctive mixture of genre pleasures.

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