Friday, March 11, 2016

Dangling with Sutapa Basu

    Today on 'On Writing', we have the brilliant author and editor Sutapa Basu who will share with us anecdotes from her career as a writer and editor.

An author, poet and publishing consultant, Sutapa Basu also dabbles in art and trains trainers and is a compulsive bookworm. During a thirty-year-old professional career as a teacher, editor, and publisher, she traveled the Indian subcontinent, Nepal and Bhutan. She has visited UK, USA, Dubai and Singapore while working with Oxford University Press, India and Encyclopædia Britannica, South Asia until 2013 when she decided to start writing seriously.

Sutapa is an Honours scholar from Tagore’s Visva-Bharti University, Santiniketan and holds a teaching as well as a masters degree in English Literature.

As a publisher, Sutapa has developed and published around 400 books. Recently, her short story was awarded the First Prize in the Times of India’s nationwide WriteIndia Contest, under Author, Amish Tripathi. 

Welcome to 'On Writing' Sutapa Basu.



How did writing begin for you? Was becoming an author always your dream or was it a particular event or incident that gave birth to the author in you?

A: Writing began for me at the age of eight years when I used write play scripts for my brother and me to act out. It was just a game then. I was already a bookworm by that age and always wondered what it would be like if my name appeared on a book as an author. Books, reading and writing have been my constant companions through the growing up years. So it was natural for me to incline both my higher education in English Literature and my career in publishing towards books. I knew then and still know that I must keep writing.

How important are the names of the characters in your books to you? Do you spend agonizing hours deciding on their names?
A:The names of my characters are very important to me as the names conjure up their images for me. They become real people and live their stories and I usually write what I see them doing or hear them saying. I do not really spend agonizing hours but sometimes a certain living person may inspire a specific character. Then I may use that person’s name or a resemblance to that name so that image in my mind of that character becomes clearly defined.

What is your least favorite part of the publishing/ writing process?
The beginning and the end. Basically when a story starts forming in my mind, it builds up gradually over days. But when I have to map it out on a word document, it tries my patience because my fingers don’t move as fast as my thoughts. Besides, the mapped out story may not be the final story. When I start writing, I may change the twists and turns of the plot or add characters. So after a time, the mapping exercise becomes a redundant.
The other part which I don’t like is the last proofreading of the book. Usually, I am very tense then because I don’t want to leave any errors in the proof.

What is ‘Dangle’ all about? How long did it take to complete writing it?

A: Dangle is about many things. I don’t like to compartmentalize books into specific genres but you may call it a psychological thriller. The main plot is about a young, beautiful, independent girl who is haunted by a fear, her journey to self discovery and being empowered by the knowledge. Travel is a metaphor because as the protagonist goes from Chicago to Manipur to Indonesia, she uncovers layers of her own consciousness. Dangle also exposes the reader to life lived among the horrors of militancy, of the tribulations of the armed forces policing the troubled regions of India, varied reactions to domestic violence as well as the way Bengalis living outside Bengal sustain their cultural identity. Tagore’s lyrics and poetry become a recurring motif in the book. So there are many issues that I touch upon in Dangle without making any judgments or statements. I like to leave the reader with something to chew on and make their own interpretations.

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

A: My favourite character is the protagonist, Ipshita because the entire story is from her viewpoint. She has been based on numerous young people that I have interacted with. How she thinks, what she does, what she wants to do, her responses to many situations are how I imagine most of the young people today would behave. I have two children, a few nieces and nephews who belong to that generation and I have been constantly observing them. Ipshita echoes many of their sentiments.

Do share a snippet/ Quote from your book.

A: Excerpt from Dangle
She looked into the dark depths of her own eyes, thinking.
What the hell! Why does this fear lurk in my mind; pouncing the instant I lower my guard? It holds the strings and pulls me whichever way it wants. I am like a puppet! Why does this fear stifle me; stalk me? Why does it hang me upside down, and laugh? In the blink of an eye, the ground beneath my feet crumbles, and I dangle, clawing at the empty air! Too long it has been the master…too long this has been going on.

Anger flashed in the eyes looking back at her in the mirror.

No more! No more…living on the edge. Now I will control Me. If I take a dive, I must pull the cord of my parachute. No more panic attacks. I will be in charge…nobody else.

Is there a certain type of scene that is harder for you to write than others? Did you face such an issue while writing ‘Dangle’?

A: Well, since you asked me I find it difficult to write mushy, lovey-dovey romantic scenes. I didn’t face this issue in Dangle because the romance in it is more covert. The passion is deep but mature and does not need to be expressed through pink clouds, flowers and chocolate dialogues.

You work as the resident editor at Readomania. How different or difficult is it when it comes to editing your own work?

A: Very difficult because I tend to end up doing exactly what I warn authors whose books I edit NOT to do. Improving the writing! Copyediting is a stage in the publishing process where the development of the story has been completed so one must not give in to second thoughts then and start changing the story.
I also find it challenging to edit because I have to consciously remove all emotional attachment to my work. As an editor, the role is to snip and polish and edit so that the story becomes a better read. I prefer another editor to edit my work and Dangle has been edited by a very competent editor, Vaijyanti Ghosh from Readomania.

You are the winner of the Write India contest by Times of India under Amish. How was the experience of writing a tale based in a bygone era?

A: Wonderful experience! I enjoyed the research I had to do. I learned so much. In fact, being set in an interesting historical era, the story came so naturally to me.

What are the three tips you have for readers who are aspiring writers?

1) Please read works of other writers to observe how they deal with the techniques of writing. Never copy a style but find out about different styles of writing and then develop your own.

2) Always remember that a good story or plot is not enough to hook your reader. It is the presentation of that story, which includes character building, language, pace and voice that makes the impact.

3) Write something every day. The more you write, the better you will get at the skill because much of it is skill dabbed with some talent.

Thank you Sutapa for that interesting chat! I wish the very best for ‘Dangle’ and all your future endeavors.



Go ahead and buy 'Dangle'. It is an amazing read, folks.

That is all for now.

Have a great day!

Much Love,

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lessons from my father: Lesson two

Father and Mother (2008, Thiruvonam day)

Five years ago, a cruel March took away my father from me. Even after all these years, the wound is still raw.

This year I am honoring his life by sharing life lessons that I have learned from him.

Lesson 2: Love endures

Theirs is a unique love story. Even though romance is often called as clichéd, each story has its own special nuance, a different zing.

Born in a quaint little village in the lap of Ezhimala, they knew each other almost all their lives. Maybe it was the courage of the fourteen-year-old boy who was forced to quit school and become the bread winner of his family, after the sudden death of his father that won her heart.

Maybe it was the respect he had for the frail, dusky girl who went against the norms of the society to pursue education and career with a passion that made him fall in love with her.

I don’t know. They never told me. But I could see the depth of their love in the way they supported each other through the highs and lows of their lives. They were as different as chalk and cheese. Or apple and orange. Yet they were one strong team.

My mother was a working woman from the age of 21 till she retired at the age of 58. I remember my father helping her with the daily chores. She left early for work. He would become a mother to all of us till the time we left home together. He dropped me at school on the way to the hospital. I was his pet as I was the youngest of his brood of three.

Occasionally they would quarrel. But unlike in other houses, there would be no raised voices. A stony silence that would create an impenetrable wall between them would signal that it had happened.

In my teens, this ominous silence made me panic. Will they go separate ways? What if such a terrible thing happened? I would go to each of them on peace keeping missions. Sometimes, I would succeed. Sometimes, the timely arrival of one of their mutual friends would make them forget all about their quarrel. But sometimes the silence would continue for weeks.

Throughout this, he would continue with his daily duties. He would drop her to the bus station on time and he would pack her lunch box while she was getting ready. She would make sure that he ate on time entrusting one of us with the duty of serving him food.

Once, during such a period of silence, I asked him why he did not talk it out with her. Why he did not speak what he had in mind. What he told me then remains in my memory till now.

“I am angry with her now. If I speak now I might say words that might hurt her more than if I had stabbed her with a knife. You cannot take back words that you speak and the wounds they inflict run deep. I will wait till I cool down and my mind is calmer. Then I will talk.”

It was perhaps this love, which didn’t allow him to hurt her even with a thoughtless word, that made her survive a fatal stroke later on in life. It was certainly this love that made him come out of the ICU and back into life after an attack of meningitis. It was, without a doubt, this love which made him leave this world while she held him in her arms.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lessons from my father: Lesson 1

Series: Lessons from my father (A tribute to my late father)

My father during the trip to Taj Mahal

March is a difficult month. It just drags on and bombards me with memories of loss. Five years ago, a cruel March took away my father from me. Even after all these years, the wound is still raw.
This year I am honoring his life by sharing life lessons that I have learned from him.
Lesson 1: Ignore haters, but learn the lesson they teach:
This particular incident happened when I was in the third standard. I hated studies. It was always games and story books versus mugging up my textbooks. No prizes for guessing which side won. But still, I managed to pass with decent marks in every exam until that one time. I failed in the midterm exams. That day, the girl whom I considered as my friend refused to give me company.
“You are a loser. I don’t want to be seen in your company. Go away,” she screamed at me. Other kids, who were watching, giggled and began to follow her lead. When my father came to pick me, I ran to him with tear-filled eyes and declared that I would never study in the same school again. He asked what happened and I told him everything. I told him he should go and beat that girl.
“Yes, I will. But first let us eat something,” he said. I happily went with him. At the restaurant, while I ate, he told me a story from his life. The story of a mysterious letter.
One day, he received a letter written in the Kannada language with no return address. He was baffled because he didn’t know anyone who was from Karnataka where the language is spoken. Letters and postcards were rare and important pieces of communication in those days. Why would someone send him a letter in a strange language? What did it say? He was curious but he had his doubts.
So he went straight to a bookstore and purchased two books; ‘learn Kannada in 30 days’ and a Kannada -Malayalam dictionary. He devoted himself to learning the language. When he mastered reading the language, he took out his letter and read. The letter began with the salutation, 'To the donkey of Kunhimangalam' (our village). Rest of it contained details as to why he qualified for the coveted post. After reading, he quietly burned it.
He then went to the person who he suspected as the sender of the letter. He was someone who worked in his hospital and whom he had caught red-handed stealing medicines from the hospital store. This person hailed from a village which was on the Kerala-Karnataka border and hence well versed in Kannada. His intention when he sent the letter to my father was to publicly humiliate him.
Obviously, he would go to someone who knew Kannada and would get embarrassed when another person read it out to him and explained the meaning.
He told the person about the mysterious letter. He said he was very thankful to the person who wrote it because it made him learn Kannada, a language he always wanted to learn. While the other person turned red with shame, he walked away with his head held high.
“So my dear, it is always important that we learn our lesson even when it comes disguised as an insult. The best revenge always is to prove your haters wrong, to get benefited from their hatred. I learned a new language because of that man’s hatred. You will prove to her that you are better than her in studies. You are capable of doing that, aren’t you?”
I nodded vigorously and smiled up at him.
That year, I studied doubly hard and emerged as the topper of my class. My proud father gifted me several comics and sweets.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cover Reveal: His Christmas Delight by Summerita Rhayne

Today I am hosting the cover reveal of Summerita Rhayne's new book, 

His Christmas Delight.

So are you ready?

Here it comes...





Caught by Santa!
For Myra, Christmas means supporting her friends. They rallied round getting her back on her feet after she lost Pete, her husband, so she's always ready to help any of them. No matter to what lengths the challenge makes her go. Only she didn't expect to find Santa almost catching her in her wrongdoings. Then she finds that the handsome Santa is Jay, her old high school friend. Now he's changed from a gangly geek to an attractive stranger. After missing out on the dating scene for a long time after losing Pete, she feels the first stirring of desire. But Jay is playing hot and cold, refusing to admit the attraction sizzling between them.

He’s back in Goa just for Christmas
Jay knew Myra as his best friend's girl. Now Pete is gone, but Jay is finding difficult to let go of the scars he picked up in Coast Guard service. He’s home only to help revive his brother’s toy shop. When he finds himself making excuses to stay, he knows he’s crossing the limits he’d set himself. What’s the purpose in taking this further when he knows he cannot be the one to give her the happiness she deserves?  But no matter how hard he tries, the scorching flames of wanting only seem to get stronger. How can he keep on denying the attraction between them when she insists on coming close?

Book Link at Amazon:
Goodreads link: