1. Let’s begin with a short introduction. Tell us and the readers a little about yourself.
First of all thank you so much for considering me worth of this.
I am an educator by profession, a literature enthusiast, and an ardent writer. A gold medallist in Applied Microbiology, I started my career in CCMB Hyderabad as a research fellow. A little diversion and halt came while climbing the ladder of success when a rare form of cancer hit me in 2010. I had to forego research and I draped myself as an educator. Presently I am working in the CSR wing of a multinational conglomerate. I stay in Singapore with my husband and often travels to India for work.
And coming to the reason for which I have been privileged to be here; writing is my favourite pastime. I am a fanatic wordsmith. Weaving tales from my own experiences and some loaned ones are like fodder to my brain. The miasma of human emotions and idiosyncrasies of life provoke my pen.
2. Tell us a little about your book.
This novel Three Days of Catharsis is my maiden novel.
Let me ask you something. Do you think a successful inter-caste or inter-state marriage is just another mere love story with a lot of drama? I feel there lies a bigger snag in it and the brunt of it is always borne by the next generation. And the brunt has a name too; Identity crisis.
My protagonist Katyayini Krishnan is an NRI girl from Singapore who was born out of a love marriage between an Iyer father and a Bengali mother. She comes to India on a student exchange program and falls prey to a series of incidents which leaves her ricochet between her past and the present. Sarcastic intrusions of university officials, the thrust norms of patriarchy, the hypocrisy is hidden behind the name of traditions, the reigning controversy over her mother tongue and a past of a chequered love life; everything vehemently declares her as a victim of an identity crisis. But does Katyayini accept her defeat so easily?
We live in an opinionated world, a world where no one is accepted the way they are. We live in a world where societal norms remain an inseparable acquaintance. God displayed his creative acumen in crafting us as just homo-sapiens, but we grew and distinguished ourselves based on language, culture, country, religion, caste and what not. Amidst this maelstrom of distinctions, what is it that truly defines our identity?
This is not a love story or a depiction of two varied cultures, but a hodgepodge of emotions of a child. It treads on the journey of a young mind discovering her true worth. And it is an audacious demand to the cultural bigots from a civilized human being. It is an effort to bring about a monumental change in humanity to grow, survive and prove its superiority based on accomplishments.
Three Days of Catharsis is a work of fiction and is dedicated to all those souls who believe their virtue is not expressed through their cultural and linguistic roots but is formulated by some meaningful deeds.
Buy the book here: www.flipkart.com/item/9781618133564
3. What is the first book that made you cry?
A book can make you cry only if it has a slice of you in it. You are interwoven to an author or his masterpiece when you find yourself strolling in the narration. I do not remember the first book which moistened my eyes. But there is one author who can make me cry every time I read him. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
You must be wondering that I named someone from Bangla literature when I write in English. So far only his narration could literally make me cry.
But, if you ask me a storyline that touched my heart; there are many. The Notebook by Nicholas Spark, Night by Elie Wiesel, The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke, to name a few.
And there is one book which did not make me cry but made me a little stronger. It made me realize that it is only I who can stop myself. And the book is The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
4. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I am a little introverted. And striving in the corporate world made me a little verbally diplomatic too. So I often write what I do not prefer to utter. Writing is more like chopping off any mental affliction. It certainly restores back my spirit.
5. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Writing has become epidemic while reading is on a path of extinction. I am not faulting the aspiring writers. But somehow, I feel the present aspiring writers in India write to become a bestseller. They strive harder in marketing than honing their narration skills. They got a knack to serve whatever is demanded. However, as we say in the corporate world, CREATE A DEMAND.
Write something that can make readers lend a thought. Either craft a story so close to reality that readers will find themselves in your characters or sculpt a fictional world so mesmeric that readers remain lingering within it.
6. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
The big ego of whom? Even the famed publishing houses have a big warehouse of ego. They reject many manuscripts which later rules the market. Regarding writers, I cannot tell because I am far from egoism. I wrote my first story at the age of twelve and kept it hidden in my black diary. I write poems on every gift card I send. My pen opines my attitude, my perceptions and of course my prejudices. I am so engrossed in crafting my tales that the ‘E for EGO’ concept never propagate. Literature and language are the most pristine creation by humans. A writer must preserve and nurture them. And I am sure ego is certainly not a healthy diet.
7. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
To be honest, NO. I was a researcher by profession and ambition as well. Always wished to see my research work published with my name Atrayee Bhattacharya. My first story was published in an English fortnight magazine and I can never forget how my father kept on caressing my printed name. So let it be Atrayee Bhattacharya.
8. Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I prefer to be original. I always write my mind and also write in a way I would love to read.
Why do we read? To know something unknown. To learn something that was never taught. In 2017 you can hardly find a reader aware of meanings of every word written. But does that mean those words do not exist? There are millions of ideologies scattered in the world, very far and well concealed from the eyes of gentrification. Readers may not have heard of them. Does that mean a writer must not explore them?
Can I tell you something truthfully? Humans are really busy earning a decent bread. A majority of people buy a book as a pastime during a train travel or for a flight. Very few readers read for the love of literature and MANY read anything that puts a less pressure in the pocket.
9. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
A good writer is first an excellent observant. You need not weep to script a scene of grief. But you must sense the magnitude of grief that you wish to portray. One must be aware of human reactions in a situation. One must disguise in one’s fictional character to make a sound narration. A narrative is good if it is logical and strike the chord of resonance with the readers.
10. If you could tell your younger writing self, anything, what would it be?
Am I not young? Just one book old! Joking.
Observe. Read and read a lot. Reading something good adds wings to creativity. Make mistakes and acknowledge them. Becoming flawless is not an essentiality to life. Never write to attain fame. Just write. Neither with word limits nor with a distinction between the right and the wrong. Stretch your script; from enraged cries of a defeat to cheers of triumphs. Knit the tales of susurrating clouds, rustling rain-soaked breeze, scorching sun, chagrined faces to prismatic mien. Orate the fables of niggling guilt, piteous atrocities, and the valiant screeches of rejection, repulsion; and the melody of love, the embrace of empathy and everything that knock your doorstep. Let your words carry your glory and your grief. Let them be the respite in your remorse. Write not to sell a book. Write to create a niche in someone’s memoir.
11. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
When my stories and articles made some noise in magazines, it was just a feel good moment. Writing is not something I do to add digits in my bank account. So, when I published Three Days of Catharsis I did not build any castle of hopes to rule the literary world. I wasn’t under the patronage of a big publisher’s marketing strategy. I was just another tom-dick-harry in the market.
Some kind souls spread a word of mouth and a queue of readers joined my wagon. They poured in their thoughts, appreciated the topic, and loved my characters and narration. And that brought a change to me. I have become more observant lest I should let my readers down.
Secondly, I realized the realms of marketing where I did not intrude. The present scenario is more like, let the storyline rest in peace and the marketing strategist do all the talking. You can call me foolish but intensified marketing of a book is more like forced intrusion into reader’s mind.
12. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
I won’t say dislike. But yeah, I was a little uncomfortable with Harold Robbins. Probably because erotica doesn’t entice me. Leaving that aside I liked his stories for its ingrained realism.
13. What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
What do you mean by appreciation? Winner of a Pulitzer award or a record breaker in the bestselling world. The book I appreciate, others may not and vice-versa. Half of India’s bestselling English writers are making a mockery of the language. I find a better job done in many regional languages.
14. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A dove. Not for any spiritual or socio-political reason. I just like the bird.
15. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
All my characters are somewhere wandering unnoticed in our social fabric. You will find them in you as well.
I weave situations and place myself to deal with them. Other characters join in and walk with me till the last thread of my tale. Hardly any characters of mine I have ever met. However, I shall always wish to meet a soul like Katyayini Krishnan of Three Days of Catharsis.
16. Did you edit out of this book?”
I edit my lines some 6-7 times until I like it. It is very difficult to please myself.
17. How do you select the names of your characters?
I first portray their innate characteristics. An emotionally robust character gets a name complementing the personality. The name of a gorgeous woman pleases her aesthetically. And so on.
18. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
(I am seriously laughing now)
Lazing around in the pretext of official work.
19. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
This is my first book and it took me nine months. As a woman, I often feel Katyayini Krishnan is my own child.
Writing is my hobby. So I have never bounded it by time but always bound it by quality. But yes. I wish to write more often. Presently writing an anthology.
20. Do you believe in writer’s block?
My writer’s block is quite bizarre. My thoughts do not get blocked; rather they face an avalanche of different plots at the same time.
Conducted by Annabelle Carrera (Communication and response team)