Sutapa Basu: Since childhood, reading has been the secret island I escaped to when things became chaotic or boring. Each time I finished good story, I wished that I could weave a story like that.
With maturity, I yearned to create something meaningful with words. Written language was a medium to express my deepest feelings, my experiences, and my perceptions of the world. Like my favourite writers, I too wanted to build a bridge between me and readers. I wanted my writing to touch indelibly, the hearts of people who would read it. I deeply desired to form an unbreakable bond between myself and readers.
All through my life, whenever something touched me, I put it down on paper but none of it was published. One fine day, I decided to drop my well-paid job and cushy career to begin writing. For the longest time, I had dreamt of writing a book, and now, it was time to give my dream a chance.
With no idea whether I had the makings of a readable writer, I began to write my first novel. Challenges obstructed me at every turn. It was intimidated by the very idea of writing a story that would be, at least, 80,000 words. How to begin? Nevertheless, I refused to back down.
This book became a receptacle for me. Into it I released my inner self, my experiences, my views, and my voice. Basically, I bared my soul. If anything, this book was a scary leap of blind faith. Day and night, the demons of doubt poked me: what if my precious book was simply dismembered and torn apart by readers and reviewers?
Around that time, my short story won a prestigious prize, which gave me the exact validation that I sought. In a frenzy, I completed my debut book, Dangle, a psychological thriller. I was delighted when readers loved it.
Writing became a prism through which I viewed the world in technicolour. Anything I saw, anyone I spoke to, anything I read, anything I watched, I would weigh its potential of inclusion in my books. Everything and everyone seemed like motifs in the patterns I was designing!
Over the next three years I published three historical novels. Each book was an opportunity to hone my writing and surpass my earlier work. I was driven to compete against myself.
Day and night, the demons of doubt poked me: what if my precious book was simply dismembered and torn apart by readers and reviewers?
While a book was in progress, I lived in a strange environment. My world was peopled by characters of my tale who chattered in my mind. When I was not actually writing the book, its events, conflicts, dialogues, the story twists would impinge on my real world. Whether I was sleeping, travelling, eating, talking they would crowd into my life. It was a heady feeling. I was living in a parallel world that was my own creation. I felt like a master puppeteer who could pull strings to making characters act, speak or feel.
By and by, I realised that every book or story I wrote would become a part of who I am. Each one of them would define me and my voice. The perception that with every book I was recreating myself and that each version of me would exist forever was overwhelming. It drove me to labour even more.
To write historical fiction I carried out stringent research. I taught myself to weigh information and use it selectively. I learned to validate historical facts, never to distort them, to carefully embroider my fiction on a fabric of facts.
In school, history had always roused my curiosity about the men and women who dotted it. What kind of people were they? This became my raison d’être to write stories based on history. I aspired to make history come alive through my books. I intended to show historical icons as human beings with their own vices and virtues. I debunked all epithets given by historians and let my interpretation of facts emerging from research create the personalities. It would allow the reader to judge their perfections and imperfections and make their own conclusions. My purpose is to encourage and inspire readers.
With my new book The Cursed Inheritance, I have forayed into the cosy mystery genre. I wanted this book to be entertaining and a lighter read than the historical fiction that I had been writing. I made a conscious effort to create an interesting, fast-paced plot and was careful in the usage of language. For me it was good learning because the character-building in this book was quite different. Also, I experimented with POV in first person and the stream of consciousness technique. Writing a variety of genres helps me learn new skills. I grow as a writer when I change direction.
I write to connect to readers, to make them cognisant of my voice. I am vigilant that my writing continuously provides authentic content that readers feel is worth sharing.
There are times, in the darkness of the night, when I look back over these five years and ask myself, ‘Have I built the bridge that I dreamt about?’ Maybe.
Sutapa Basu is the author of The Cursed Inheritance. The views expressed are the author’s own.