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,