Sutapa Basu- The Author Who Presented Historical Characters In Unique & Interesting Style
Author Sutapa Basu is a name that is quite popular among quality book readers. Being the daughter of a History teacher I always had a close relationship with the historical characters. I thank my mom and her style of narration which helped me in having an interest in books with a historical base. I always wished to interview author Sutapa because of her inclination towards writing books on historical characters like Padmavati, Nadir Shah, and Genghis Khan to name a few. My dream came true in 2021 and Yes, here I am presenting the chit-chat session with Author Sutapa.
Welcome Sutapa Basu Mam, I am glad to be with you and share your story with my readers. Hope you will not mind sharing your journey with us.
Sure. I will be delighted to do so.
How the author within you came into the limelight or better to say when you realize there is an author within you?
I have been reading books ever since I can remember. My favorite stories were Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, and Noddy. Later, I graduated to Enid Blyton’s adventures stories, school stories, and the classics. Even when I was very young, I saw the magic spell of these writers. Reading their stories, I went on fantastic journeys to distant lands and time-traveled, their words created ideas in my imagination and a parallel universe emerged for me. They had special powers. These writers could get into people’s minds, make them imagine worlds they would otherwise never know, change the way they thought. It was that special power of creating books that could change the world that inspired me to write.
Any favorite author of yours who you follow in your life?
I have too many favorite authors to name just one. Some writers who have inspired me for life are Nevil Shute, Somerset Maugham, Saki, O. Henry, Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie, Phillipa Gregory, and Indu Sundaresan.
Inspiration is very important to realize the potential of a person. Who is the inspiration for you?
My inspiration has been my grandmother. She was a painter, a fantastic chef, did beautiful embroidery and crochet, an amateur violinist, a great board-gamer; all self-taught, and only us, her family, reaped the benefits. She used a dictionary to teach herself English because she wanted to read classics such as Tolstoy and Hemmingway. She traveled alone several times to the USA despite being unable to speak any English. Her strength, courage, and willpower came from a deep self-conviction that inspires me, always.
Your book ‘Padmavati, The Queen Tells Her Own Story (2017) is the first notable work of yours that received appreciation from many and turned out to be a bestseller. Can you share a few words on this book and how you decided to write on the subject?
Historical fiction is a genre I enjoy reading very much. So it was natural for me to veer towards it when I began to write.
By writing Padmavati I chose to write a historical fiction that revolves around a woman because I felt that history often glosses over the roles that women have played across time. Either they have been portrayed as helpless decorations or downtrodden. However, my research has thrown up how strongly they have influenced history even when they did not actually rule or have been behind the traditional veil.
Among other female historical figures, I wrote about Padmavati because I found her immensely intriguing. I wanted to know how a girl who was not an Indian could adopt Mewar’s traditions to the extent of committing Jauhar. My research convinced me she was a strong woman who knew what she wanted. In my book, Padmavati, The Queen Tells Her Own Story, I depict a woman who charts her own destiny. When society wants to choke her voice society, she cleverly wrote down her story and left it hidden for posterity. She wanted to transcend time which she did successfully.
Most of your published works are historical fiction… why you like the historical fiction genre so much?
Historical Fiction makes the past come alive. Historical icons whose deeds we read about fleetingly in a history class become living, breathing people who have likes, dislikes, virtues, and vices. Besides historical fiction gives me an opportunity to compare the past and present times. It tells me the causes of modern events, shows me how similar the past and present are, and sadly reveals how humanity continues to commit the same mistakes over and over.
Say something about the Invader Series of you.
The Invader series is a set of books about world conquerors who invaded India. The first one was The Legend of Genghis Khan and the second is The Curse of Nader Shah. The third is yet to be published. While each book exposes the historical events from the conqueror’s lives, each story also builds the protagonists and their secondary characters as human beings.
I have tried to trace their lives’ journeys while telling an intriguing story that is woven through the historical facts. Though both these figures have been labeled as tyrants and barbarians, I have revealed the circumstances that they had to fight to reach the heights that they did. In the end, one cannot but be inspired by these conquerors.
In recent time 2 anthologies of you got published. Why a sudden shift from novel writing to the anthology?
I have always been writing short stories. In fact, I began my writing journey with short stories especially when my story Braveheart won The Times of India Write India Contest First Prize under Amish Tripathi.
Both my anthologies, Out of The Blue, Stories With A Twist, and The Anatomy of Affection, Tales That Touch You are collections that have been written over years. So it was not a sudden shift from writing novels to the anthology.
Besides, I find it difficult to restrict myself to a specific genre. Too many stories are chattering in my head and I want to explore all kinds of genres. Otherwise, where is the fun in all this?
The latest launch is The Cursed Inheritance (2021) at the backdrop of Kolkata. How the plot came to your mind?
My other favorite genres are thrillers and mysteries. I have always enjoyed reading thrillers that have amateur detectives. As a young person when I read them, I would imagine myself solving similar mysteries. I have been wanting to write something on similar lines for a long time.
Why set it in Kolkata?
Kolkata has many old mansions with secret histories. They have inspired the plot of A Cursed Inheritance. But you must read the book to know how the different aspects of Kolkata have influenced its plot. Revealing any more will be a spoiler.
Who is your target audience for the above-mentioned book?
All readers who enjoy a fast-paced mystery with elements of thriller, the paranormal, and sleuthing.
So many books by you and you have so many readers. Many gave positive as well as negative reviews for sure. But I want to know which review from your readers is still the one that touched your heart and why?
There were many reviews that touch my heart. However, during the lockdown last year, I received a hand-written letter from a young girl who wrote how much she enjoyed my books and a few questions about them. It was written on lined notepaper. What touched me was during a raging pandemic, she had taken the trouble to write this letter, then go out and post it. Of course, I wrote back to the address on the envelope. I hope she received it.
Say something about the awards and recognitions you received in your journey as an author?
Writing is a task best done in solitude. When I am in the throes of developing my story, I travel that path alone. No doubt, the characters of my story live in my head and often direct me about what they want to do in the story but until the book goes out to the readers, I am not sure whether I have accomplished what I set out to.
Awards and recognitions tell me that I have attained my goal. They reiterate my conviction that my voice, beliefs, and expressions have an audience and readers want to read about them.
My first award as a writer was the Write India Contest Prize. It set me on my writing journey. Later, my debut book, Dangle, a psychological thriller was nominated for the Anupam Kher Award and last year my book, The Curse of Nader Shah was awarded Best Fiction by Auther Awards, 2020 by JK Papers and TOI.
I cherish all these awards for they convince me that I must write more and more.
Mam, you are not just a story writer but a poet too. So how the poetic side encouraged you to pen meaningful poems?
Poetry is not something that I work at.
Poems have their own lives and they just drop into my head whenever they feel like. Maybe late at night, at dawn, in my sleep or in the middle of veggie shopping.
Then I must drop everything and quickly pen down the words or else they get into a sulk. And they disappear from my head.
So poetry just happens to me.
Say something about your role as a publishing author.
As a published author, my endeavor is to help people realize that reading should be an integral part of their lifestyle. I deeply believe in the therapeutic powers of books and reading. In this modern world of instant gratification, with life moving at breakneck speed and buffeted by the storms of stress, books are an island of stability. It is an escape route. When we enter the imaginary world that books open for us, we experience serenity, balance, and calmness. Books help us introspect and think. They open doors to self-discovery and self-realization.
What are your other passions in life?
I love designing interiors and gardens, though I do need people to implement my designs. I love listening to music especially Tagore, reading and watching films that leave me with food for thought. I am very fond of traveling and discovering new places, peoples, and cultures. And I am mad about spending time with my grandchildren.
Please share few words about www.storyfuntastika.com.
My website www.storyfuntastika.com is intended to do exactly what it says: make story reading a fun pastime. It profiles my stories and poetry for all ages, my translations of Bengali musical lyrics, and my blogs. It is a blank canvas that I like to play with and splash with my very own colours.
You are so much, talented mam. I Will request you to share with us the concept behind your Bistro Buzz Conversations chat show.
Bistro Buzz profiles how the world buzzes. The idea is to have a forum where I can converse with my Facebook community. I invite people to respond to posts on ideas, share their thoughts, speak up on topics and meet guests on live chat shows. Bistro Buzz hosts inspiring people who already hold a significant presence in their chosen field of work or passion AND they are also authors.
All the guests who have kindly agreed to be on these live conversations have been erudite, inspiring, and garnered a huge number of views.
What are your future plans- what else you want to do?
Keep writing in a variety of genres, try my hand at writing screenplays, discover new places, and make more friends.
What next in the pipeline in books and of what genre?
I have a writer’s quirk of not talking about my next book until it is accepted for publishing, so bear with me. However, I am certainly going to continue writing in the genres that I am already writing in as well as diverge into other genres of fiction and nonfiction.
Traditional or self-publishing what are the pros and cons of both types of publishing?
Whether traditional or self-publishing it is the quality of the published book that always counts. The advantage of traditional publishing is that there is a defined process that ensures the quality of all aspects of a final published book. In the case of self-publishing, if the author makes the effort to find out the defined process of quality control, the end result will be as good as a traditionally published book.
The disadvantage of self-publishing is most authors do not bother with quality control processes. As a result, self-published products have earned a bad name.
On the other hand, a self-published author does not have to deal with rejections by traditional publishing organizations.
However, marketing a book is difficult for a self-published author while publishing houses support their authors with established publicity systems.
Any tips for budding authors?
Keep aside time for reading while you write. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Reading the works of other authors teaches you to write better.
Remember to write in the genre that you love reading. Do not fall into the trap of writing the in a genre that you believe sells well but one that you don’t enjoy reading. You will end up writing something that neither you nor anybody else would like to read.
Always write for yourself. Rewrite and edit your work any number of times before you are satisfied with it. Never give your first draft to anybody to read.
Take up writing only if you are passionate about it. Spend time and effort on it. Writing is not a hobby. It is serious business. If you don’t take your writing seriously, then nobody…no publisher, reviewer, or reader will take it seriously, either.