Would you write outside your comfort zone? This is one of my curiosities with all fiction writers I meet. I ask that and other questions to Sucharita Dutta-Asane, one of my co-writers on the African-Asian short story anthology Behind The Shadows, and now a blog-and-writer-buddy.
1. What has your writing journey been like?
It’s too early to speak of this, but yes, it has been a meandering road. With all the ups and downs involved in a between-two-pressure-cooker-whistles kind of writing. It has also been a journey that has brought me my greatest wealth—two fantastic mentor-writers and a strong support group of writers who’ve believed in me.
2. Tell us about the genre you write in, and what inspired you to choose it. What is a genre that you find intriguing enough to try which is currently outside your comfort zone?
I have been writing short stories for a long time and am currently working on a novel and a short story collection. So the short story is a comfort zone. I like the brevity and terseness this genre necessitates. In a lighter vein, it is also the genre that is possible in the kind of time crunch one deals with around two young kids.
Drama is completely outside of my comfort zone right now but a genre I look forward to in the future, what I long to do.
3. How important has your online presence been in the publication and sales of your work?
I used to write for online magazines—short stories, articles, book reviews—and the readership these brought me proved to be fulfilling and fruitful in the long run. They gave me a reader base I could always go to without having to prove myself over and over again.
4. What are your views on self-publishing vs traditional publishing?
That’s a conundrum for our times. While self publishing has its merits in terms of time taken and control over the finished manuscript, I still root for traditional publishing. As a writer, I’d rather concentrate on writing than on the kind of energy required for self publishing. There’s also some satisfaction in knowing that a respected publishing house has liked and accepted my effort and finds it publishing-worthy. At this point of time, in traditional reading societies like ours, books seem to acquire much more credibility and respect when published this way. Of course, that says nothing about future possibilities.
5. What is the last book you loved reading? Why?
It’s difficult to pinpoint any one book, but yes, I loved Jerry Pinto’s ‘Em and the Big Hoom’ and Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s wonderfully restrained novel ‘Between Clay and Dust,’** Ambai’s ‘Fish in a Dwindling Lake,’ Julian Barnes’ ‘The Sense of an Ending,’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘The Thing around my Neck,’ and many more.
Pinto and Barnes’ books deal with memory in different ways, and this is a recurrent theme for me too, something of an obsession that I frequently explore.
6. If you had the chance to speak directly to your ideal reader, what would you say to them?
Read me. What else would a writer want?
7. Tell us about the books you have published, and anything you have forthcoming.
For a long time I published my short stories and a novella on a now defunct site called http://www.4indianwomen.com. I also write book reviews for various sites including Open Space and Asian Cha. My print publications include:
- ‘Deliverance’ in Vanilla Desires, from Unisun Publications, Bangalore (2012).
- ‘Sine Die’ and ‘Balance of Love’ in Ripples: An Anthology of Short Stories by Indian Women Writers, APK Publishers, Pune (2010).
- ‘From Sita to Vaidehi—Another Journey,’ a magic realist story in ‘Breaking the Bow,’ an anthology of speculative fiction based on the Ramayana, Zubaan, New Delhi. Editors: Anil Menon and Vandana Singh (2012).
- ‘Cast Out’ in ‘Behind the Shadows,’ an anthology of short stories from Asia and Africa. Editors: Rohini Chowdhury and Zukiswa Wanner (2012).
Sucharita Dutta-Asane juggles writing and editing with motherhood, 24 hour profiles that interrupt, facilitate, and balance one another in ways she had never imagined. With online and print publications to her credit, she is forever excited about writing and getting published, but burning the midnight oil is never enough; in between changing diapers, feeding, and managing homework and house help, writing often takes the backseat. When writing seeps through the cracks and dreams to predominate, the supportive family is kept at bay while she pounds the keyboard and lets imagination and language take care of the rest.
Having heard Sucharita and learned about her writing, would you like to talk about yours? What is your comfort zone? Would you write outside of it?