Author Highlight: Saugata Chakraborty Discusses his New Book ‘They Go To Sleep’ and Stories from his Life
We are back with another author interview. Today, with us, we have Saugata Chakraborty– the author of ‘They Go To Sleep’. In this interview, Saugata talks about his writing aspirations, the route to getting his book published, and his inclination towards fiction and books. Stay on...while we chat with him.
What inspired you to write this book? Any tales to tell?
Lots! After ‘They Go to Sleep’ went to the press, I started penning down the real life events that inspired each of the stories. These backgrounders are now available as a Kindle book ‘The Insider Account’.
What motivates you to write?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a particular motive. Sometimes, it’s a newspaper report that nobody gave a second thought, sometimes it’s a conversation with friends or an absolute stranger. I am aware that a story idea can hit me anytime. If you find a sub plot in my stories, those are invariably something that I have experienced for myself.
How do you handle the response to this book, especially from your friends and colleagues?
It’s a humbling experience. Of course, many of my friends and colleagues knew from the past that I write, but then coming out with a whole book probably exceeded everyone’s expectations. Less than half the stories in the book were published earlier in our in-house magazine ‘Without Reserve’ and very few people within RBI actually read those, so when the stellar debut of ‘They Go to Sleep’ was announced, there were lots of surprised looks. The weirdest query was raised by one junior colleague when he asked if I had hired a ghost writer. A few of my well-meaning friends have pointed out what they believed the weaker points of the book were. I guess such balanced views helped me to absorb the unadulterated adulations that were on offer.
What kind of research did you do to pen down this collection?
‘What’s in a Name’ did not require any research as the entire text is a replication of a real life chat on messenger. ‘It was Time’, incidentally the first story written for the book also falls into this category. On the other hand, the concluding chapter of ‘Six Days, Seven Lives’ required intensive theoretical study of Bharatanatyam; ‘They Go to Sleep’ forced me to read about the narcotics scene of Goa apart from the migration of Saraswat Brahmins through the breadth of the country; ‘Blowing in the Wind’ necessitated a study of every single report, blog posting about the queer twin suicide by an uptown couple in 2012. ‘Aperture’ was a result of following photo features about the insurgency in Kashmir for at least a couple of years; ‘The Man Who Sold his Gods’ similarly involved browsing through newspaper archives, art magazines, police and private investigator group websites as also studying the video tapes available online of a few key characters in order to understand and reproduce the language they speak. It would suffice I think to say that it took me six years to write the 12 stories for the book as the background research did take a lot of time.
Can you name some of your favourite authors and novels?
My all-time favourite would be ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams. I find Frederick Forsyth’s detailing to be impeccable. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn along with their creator Mark Twain will remain eternal favourites. The dark humour of Roald Dahl has also impacted me. Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, Hemingways ‘A Fairwell to Arms’, short stories of O’Henry, Saki and now those from Jeffrey Archer enthrall me. I still have not mentioned Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle. The list is virtually endless!
Do you think writing a book from the comfort of a bedroom is possible?
I guess it is possible to write a story without having any firsthand experience of its characters and circumstances. But, if someone has never set out on a journey, however trivial it is, it’s very difficult to even start writing. In order to be imaginative, one needs to have own experiences as a starting point. It is also important to get out of one’s comfort zone once in a while just to keep the desire of writing something new burning. At least it is so for me.
Do you have a favourite place to write? Such as a beach or the hills?
Hardly. I mean when I am at a beach or the hills or any other place outdoors, I get so mesmerized by nature, and the people that I forget everything about writing. So, while the elements of storytelling are gathered from outside, actual writing takes place at home.
What was your biggest learning during the publishing process?
That I need to be more patient. If I could wait for six years to write the book, it was equally important to have spent a few more months in improving upon the content with professional help. That little extra time could have been used in creating more awareness about the book. I refused to have any and though the book was ready for the fairs in January, here we are working on few revisions in the month of April.
Any advice for budding writers?
Read more, do your research well and do not aim for any shortcut to success. There is none.
Something personal, readers don’t know about you?
That I believe in competition and in emerging at the top of it.
Any books in the pipeline?
I am writing a series of features about the contemporary India that I have seen and experienced in the last two decades or so for my blog. It’s called Deshmrittika (Soil of the Land) in Bengali. If these short features ever appear as a book, an English version will also be launched. Since ‘They Go to Sleep’, three more short stories, again in three different genres, have been written. If everything goes well, you will see Inspector Sutanu Deb to be back in action as early as in June.
Connect with Saugata Chakraborty:
Twitter: @ twitsaugata