Hello, let me begin by telling you what a great honor it is for us to be able to interview you today. So let’s begin with a short introduction. Please tell our readers a little about yourself.
I am the author of the psychological thrillers The Colours of Passion: Unravelling Dark Secrets behind the Limelight (Aug 2017) published by Readomania and In the Shadows of Death: A Detective Agni Mitra Thriller (Dec 2015), published by Srishti Publishers. My books have received accolades from readers, book critics and the mainstream national media, the most prominent among them being The Times of India, The Hindu, Business Standard, The New Indian Express, Punjab Tribune, Yahoo India News, Zee News, The Free Press Journal, Absolute India Tabloid, Tahlka News, World News Network, Go-Getter, the Go-Air in-flight magazine, and Shubh Yatra, the Air India in-flight magazine.
An eminent blogging site called ‘In the Shadows of Death’ one of the 6 books that broke stereotypes in 2015, and another rated it among 15 top thrillers by contemporary Indian writers.
My earlier works include the popular Kindle e-books Nargis Through my Summers and Loves Lost, also available in paperback as Romance Shorts (2016), a collection of four dark-romance short stories. The book has been highly appreciated by readers and bloggers across the nation. The book has been rated among the top 10 unconventional love stories by contemporary authors by a blogging site, and was ranked at #4 among popular romantic books in an online poll conducted by a popular youth e-zine.
I have also written columns for Sportskeeda, India’s largest all-sports website, and Yahoo! Sports.
I received the Golden Pen Award in the Monsoon Romance Contest 2014 for my story “The Girl of My Monsoons” organized by Sulekha.com and judged by an eminent panel of literary luminaries.
I have spoken at and my books have been featured in events like The Supernatural Lit Fest, Kolkata (2017), Rakshak Foundation and Rotary Club of Kolkata debate on International Women’s Day (2016), Antaragni – the annual fest of IIT Kanpur (2016), World Book Fair, New Delhi (2016, 2017).
Apart from being a writer what else do you do? and how do you manage these roles altogether?
An Electronics and Telecommunications Engineer from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, in my day-job, I am a VP with a technology consulting multi-national. Author of several publications on emerging trends in business and technology, I speak regularly in various national and global conferences and technology summits.
As for my balancing two careers, writing is a passion that actually allows me to unwind. Sometimes, stories have grown from thoughts I pen down at airport lounges or on long flights during my business travels. I believe if you are really passionate about something, you end up finding time for chasing your dreams.
What caused your shift to writing?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I have never really written for a purpose – it is just something I love to do. In my early childhood, I would spend hours writing, as well as making illustrations for my own stories. A number of my poems were published in children’s magazines back in the day. I continued to write through my teenage and later in college.
I kept writing in office magazines for a couple of years, but the demands of my career as an Information Technology professional and my travels across the world soon left me with very little time and creative energy to write fiction.
However, as I travelled across the world, I grew as a person getting to observe people from widely varying cultural backgrounds and to study their emotions, their thoughts, their behaviour from various perspectives. And stories began to grow all over again.
My motivation to become a published author became overwhelming when I received the Golden Pen Award in the Monsoon Romance Contest conducted by Sulekha.com in 2014 (the winning entry in that competition was later developed into a story that now features in my book Romance Shorts, a collection of four dark-romance short stories).
My debut novel In the Shadows of Death, a psychological thriller, set in the city of Kolkata, was published by Srishti Publishers and Distributors in December 2015.
Do you agree that writing is always necessarily drawing from the personal life of the author?
Most of my stories explore the dark recesses of the human mind and the stark realities of urban life in contemporary India. The depiction of unpredictability of human behaviour, and the complexity of human relationships in the novel has roots in my keen interest in psychology. My characters are not all black and white, and I am never judgmental. I offer reasons for their actions, which primarily have their roots in past experiences. The insecurities and vulnerabilities my characters suffer from, and the inner devils they battle are all very real. And there is perhaps a bit of my own self in my stories. This is not always conscious, though. The settings of my stories sometimes reflect my own experiences in the corporate world, thanks to my association with it for several years.
Please tell us about your first writing venture (“Your first story or poem”)
Let me take this opportunity to talk about the first Agni Mitra thriller In the Shadows of Death.
In The Shadows of Death is a fast paced psychological thriller unfolding in the city of Kolkata, with Agni Mitra, Assistant Commissioner of Police, investigating into a series of murders of adulterous women, even as he has to battle storms brewing in his personal life. The voice of the serial murderer, whose identity is undisclosed till the climax of the story, runs in a parallel track across the novel providing the reader with insights into the killer’s traits, his actions, and his emotions. This narrative style has been appreciated by readers and critics.
Agni, as a detective, is not portrayed as an infallible law enforcement machinery. He is a human being dealing with personal issues with his own insecurities and vulnerabilities.
The character of the serial-killer, on the other hand, is not uni-dimensional either, and a parallel track throughout the novel in the voice of the killer provides insights into the dark recesses of the killer’s mind.
Does the blend of being in a multicultural environment find a way into your work in the form of varied perspectives etc?
That’s very true. If you look at the settings of my stories, whether it is the corporate world or the movie or fashion industry, my characters come from eclectic backgrounds, speak different languages, and have widely differing perspectives towards life and the world.
As an example, if you consider my latest novel ‘The Colours of Passion’, the mix of characters includes a successful young entrepreneur who has changed the face of retail and luxury living in Kolkata, a girl from nowhere who rises to dizzying heights of stardom, a male model coming to the city from Bihar and making it big before giving in to alcoholism and substance abuse, an ageing Bengali diva who has reigned over the silver screen for two decades and will go to any extent to hold on to her crown, a Kolkata-bred fashion designer from the elite class, a Marwari businessman with a restaurant business which has run into troubled waters with the changing tastes of the new generation of Kolkatans exposed to global cuisines, and her daughter who runs a boutique.
A lot of this comes from my own travels across the world, my working with people from different parts of the country and the world for several years and my keen observation of human behaviour.
How difficult or easy is it to publish a book in a technology governed world?
Technology has made publishing easier. One can self-publish a book on Kindle or on a mobile platform with a few clicks. However, this puts additional responsibility on the author to take care of editing, proofreading, layout and ensuring an overall pleasant reading experience. In many cases, that goes missing. So, while the market today is literally inundated with books from self-published authors, very few of them manage to make a mark.
Technology, of course, plays a significant role in marketing and spreading the word about a book. Social media, blogging sites, e-zines and the like have made it easier for authors to reach out to a much larger reader base than was ever possible.
Would you like to talk about any dream writing projects or any projects you are currently working on?
I have a couple of ideas for the next Agni Mitra stories. Currently, I am also working on a theme based collection of novellas.
What’s your mantra for tough times?
The lessons you learn from tough times are enriching. They make you stronger, wiser and more mature. It does help to take a few punches.
Any word of advice for our young and budding writers in the world?
It is important to create real, identifiable characters in a story. Correct use of the language is essential. An author should ensure that a story progresses at a uniform pace – a story that slows down after an energetic start is a big let down for me. Finally, it is not about the length but always about the impact of a story. I have read 1-page stories that have left me thinking for days.
What is your take on Writers Block?
Writers’ Block is inevitable. However, this is something one should not brood over. I take a break from what I am writing at the moment, and focus instead on other compositions. Maybe a blog, or an article for a magazine or a short story. It is important to keep the flow of thoughts and words unhindered, maybe in a different context, until you eventually get your groove back.
What according to you is the most difficult part of writing fiction of any form?
Readers today are evolved. They are exposed to a variety of content across a variety of channels. They are smart and have a world-view. They also have short attention span and they are spending a lot of time on social media and apps in their handheld devices. To cater to the new-age readers, and to remain relevant, it is extremely important to produce quality content that is appealing, relevant and at the same time can hold their attention.
With so many writers around and with publishing houses willing to nurture fresh talent, once the book is born, the marketing and distribution of the book has become extremely important. An author needs to ensure that,the book reaches the target audience through the right channels, and there is strong and favourable word-of-mouth about the book.