Interview

Experimenting With Speculative Fiction And Horror Would Be Fun, Says Richa Mukherjee

Blogger and author Richa Mukherjee has penned three books. Her latest book ‘Excess Baggage’ is already creating tremendous buzz. Her first book ‘I Expect To Be Expecting’ received a lot of appreciation from the book lovers which was a humorous take on the rollercoaster of pregnancy. Known for her witty writing and passionate arguments, Richa spoke to Booked4Books on a wide range of topics. Here is the excerpt from the interview.

B4B- First of all congratulations on your new book titled, ‘Excess Baggage’. How is it going?

RM– Thank you! Despite the pandemic woes, things are going well. This little book about hope, second chances, laughter and wanderlust has been getting a lot of love from readers and it has been procured for a screen adaptation as well. People have personally connected with the conundrums of a mother daughter relationship, the various themes captured in the book like divorce, the emotional baggage we all carry and the ensemble of fun characters. As you can see, there’s a lot to be grateful for!

B4B- You have worked as a journalist. So what made you shift gears? From chasing criminals to chasing publishers. Which line of work is closer to your

RM– Shifting gears oddly comes naturally to me. All my life, change has been the constant factor. Coming from a family of civil servants, changing cities, schools, homes made me a bit of a nomad in spirit I suppose. The penchant for movement and experimentation followed me into my choice of careers as well. Whether it was chasing criminals and CEOS during my journalism days or chasing my creative colleagues and clients during my advertising years, my arsenal of observing, listening and gathering perspective continued being augmented  and helped me eventually when I turned to writing. Thankfully I didn’t have to chase too many publishers. Even that would not have deterred me. Even though I have enjoyed all the pitstops on my journey, I would always chose writing.

B4B- Can you share that ‘ Aha Moment’ when  decided to become an author?

RM– I would love to but I don’t have one! It was more of a gradual realisation, which came to me, oddly, after writing my first book. I wrote I Didn’t Expect To Be Expecting as a creative relief from the chaos and nappies on my maternity break but I ended up enjoying this unencumbered experience to such an extent that I wanted to write more. I possibly exclaimed ‘Aha’ after my second book Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt Ltd, gave up my job and decided to turn to writing for good. My husband deserves a lot of credit for having cajoled and kicked me out of my inertia and through the transition!

B4B- This is your third book if our numbers are correct. Which one was the most challenging to write and which was like a cake walk

RM– Looking back, my first book seems like a cakewalk now since I’ve become more structured and methodical with each passing book, which essentially means more planning, research and drafts. Though it came with its own challenges. I had turned in my official laptop at the time, the one at home broke down, and I wrote the entire book across a diary, scribbled notes and a barely functional Ipad mini. Every time I feel like complaining about writers block or employ some such creative excuse, I force myself to look back at this experience and feel grateful for where I am. Technically though, Kanpur Khoofiya was hard to write as I was trying to combine two contrasting genres, humour and thrillers and it was a bit unprecedented at the time. Never the less I’m glad I challenged myself.

B4B- Which is your favourite genre and is there any particular genre which you would like to explore in future.

RM– I’m too capricious and whimsical a reader to be satisfied with one genre. In fact I read two books at a time, ensuring they are entirely different themes and stories. Having said that, I do enjoy thrillers, humour, literary and historical fiction. As for personal exploration, while humour is infused into my writing I have already experimented with genres and hope to continue evolving in this manner. It would be fun to experiment with speculative fiction and horror.

B4B- Although you are an author yourself but every author has a reader inside him or her. Who are your favourite authors and which of their works is your personal favourite.

RM– I always dither and hem and haw when asked this question. There’s just too many. I’ve been reading voraciously from the time I relinquished diapers so you can imagine! Top of mind favourites would be Agatha Christie, Rabindranath Tagore, Rohington Mistry, Chitra B Divakaruni, Jhumpa Lahiri, Erma Bombeck, Stephen King, Robert Dobelli, Margaret Atwood, Neel Mukherjee, Jerry Pinto, Georgette Heyer ( I can go on! )

B4B- Character development is an integral part of writing. So how do you develop your characters and what are the traits which you personally admire in the main protagonists of any book.

RM– A clear, differentiated premise and plot structure are vital, foundational ingredients for a good book. However as per my process, once the premise is crystal clear in my head, I jump into characters and research. They are essential pillars for me and help me add texture and flavour to the story. Each character has its own developmental graph. It usually starts with history, context, personality traits etc and then it takes a life of its own when embedded into the story. I sometimes use visual charts to help me stay true to a character. Once these basics are in place, I let the plot structure and my intuition guide me. I love layered and unpredictable characters. They are interesting to read and write. Protagonists come in all hues and shapes but I personally admire earthy, compassionate, intelligent and forthright protagonists and he/she doesn’t necessarily need to fit into any typical ‘hero’ stereotypes.

B4B- After finishing the ‘Excess Baggage’ is there any idea you currently exploring for your next book?

RM– I’ve actually submitted my next book for evaluation. The second instalment for Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. I have now started the ground work for my fifth book, something I am extremely excited about. It will push me further out of my comfort zone and I can’t wait to be tossed in the tide!

B4B- We discovered an interesting article by you on ‘Women’s Web’ where you have debunked several notions about successful women. Why, according to you, this notion of women sleeping their way up  has developed in our society?

RM– It isn’t merely this one assumption. There are several such erroneous beliefs. While certain industries are more inclusive, women have been excluded from so many spheres of life for so long, that their presence and advancement is often looked upon as an encroachment, an anomaly. Successful women, powerful women, outspoken and confident women often make people uncomfortable. It is societal conditioning that has created a code of conduct for women to be docile and demure. Voices raised for equal opportunities are then decried as rabid feminists and the vicious cycle continues. This mindset can only change with men and women being equal advocates and women continuing to set an example with their hard work and determination without bothering about naysayers. There is no overnight solution. This is a battle raging for centuries and while inroads have been made, there’s a long way to go.

B4B- Writer’s Block is something which is common parlance in publishing industry. How do you get over the Writer’s block?

RM– I started writing at a very chaotic point in my life which has perhaps trained me into writing when I’m happy or under duress! I navigate the frenetic every days without loosening my grip on my pen. Writers block in a luxury I cannot afford as I eke out small patches of time through the day. There are days when the words don’t flow and on those days I don’t force myself. Leaving the words for a little while and returning to them after a workout often helps. In fact some of my best ideas and plot resolutions come to me when I’m sweating it out or in a very relaxed state of mind. Getting worked up about not being able to write never helps.

B4B- Since you have established your credentials as an author what would be your advice to aspiring writers?

RM– Write enough to understand and identify what you enjoy writing, what is your natural style of writing. Its important to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses before you attempt a full length novel. Try short stories or other smaller formats first. Most importantly, don’t emulate your favourite author, be inspired and write in your own voice.

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