By Rimli Bhattacharya
After eight long years as a corporate honcho, Tanushree Podder realized her true calling was writing. She took the road less travelled and opted out of the rat race and took to string words for a living. She calls herself a wordsmith with a restless soul. Having experimented with writing in various genres, she calls herself a maverick writer.
An inspiration to all, she is a well-known travel writer and novelist. She is also known for the hundreds of ‘Middles’ that entertained readers of almost all English dailies in the country for over a decade. If the lady is not packing her bags to zip around the world, she is sure to be found tapping the keys of her computer. With six successful novels, a dozen best selling nonfiction titles and few hundred travel tales under her belt, she is all set to launch into yet another voyage with words.
Tanushree is based out of Pune, where she is settled with her husband.
I had an email interview with her as a motivation to everyone. Her journey across different professions inspires one to follow one’s true calling and excel in any field of choice. Please follow Tanushree Podder’s journey. She can be reached on twitter and facebook.
Rimli Bhattacharya: Madam, please tell us something about you, your birthplace, your parents, and your childhood.
Tanushree Podder: I was born in New Delhi in a family of creative people. My mother, who was an avid reader and a Hindustani classical singer, has had a strong influence in my life. My grandmother was a freedom fighter and my aunt a tabla player and kathak dancer. They were all liberated women, who transcended the shackles of their era. It is thanks to my parents, who encouraged all forms of art and freedom that I am what I am today. My childhood was happy and carefree with no fear of criticism or pressure.
RB: When did you realize your true calling that is writing and why was it so?
TP: At home we were encouraged to read different kinds of magazines and books and soon I found myself fascinated by the world of stories. Right from my childhood, I have enjoyed the process of telling stories. As I grew up, the urge to write them down became more compelling and I began writing. I continued writing even while working as an HR professional. Later, I quit my job to concentrate on writing.
RB: A steady job is also a sign of financial stability and writing we all know can fetch you very little money or sometimes no money at all. What is your take on it?
TP: It is unfortunate that there is not much money in writing. Frankly, it is difficult to make a living on the money one earns through writing. One does need a steady job to take care of the financial aspects. These days, however, there are a lot more avenues for a writer. Content writing pays quite well, I am told. It is best, perhaps, to work at a steady job while indulging in one’s love for writing.
RB: You call yourself a traveler and a novelist as well. Have you also written travel diaries? If yes, can you please share the details?
TP: I have been a journalist and have done all kinds of writing before deciding to stick to travel writing because I love travelling. I do maintain travel diaries, which give out details of the places I visit, along with my experiences. Someday, I hope to find the time to work on them and get them published.
RB: Which were the places you travelled? And what was the best place you would like to visit time and again?
TP: I have travelled vastly through the country and abroad. Being an army wife helped. We were often posted at far flung and exotic places. It is difficult to list out the favorite place because each place I visited had a charm of its own. The cuisine, culture, architecture, music, everything is different everywhere and I enjoy each facet of my travel. In fact, I wouldn’t mind visiting each place again. Having said that, I would list Ladakh, Bhutan, Greece, and Rome as my favorite destinations.
RB: What is your inspiration? To be precise, the oxygen to write and travel?
TP: My readers are my inspiration. The biggest inspiration for a writer is when someone tells them that he/she enjoyed their book. The same goes for me. Not just an inspiration, appreciation is the biggest motivator. It gives me a reason to do better.
RB: Where and how do you get ideas to write?
TP: Ideas are everywhere. They come from all kinds of sources like nature, events, people, news, conversation or experience. One just needs to observe. For instance, the idea of writing A Closetful of Skeletons came to me after reading a newspaper report.
RB: Which was your debut novel?
TP: Nurjahan’s Daughter, published in 2005 by Rupa Publications, was my first novel.
RB: Many authors take to writing as it is cathartic. Do you find writing cathartic?
TP: Writing fulfills a very strong need to release one’s emotions. It offers an opportunity to release pent up emotional energy. In that sense it is cathartic. That is true for all writers. There are so many social taboos, events or experiences that can become overwhelming at times. Writing about them can provide a release.
RB: Which writers have inspired you when it comes to etching female and male characters?
TP: There are so many writers who have influenced my thinking from time to time. As a teenager, I was greatly influenced by the strong female characters in Ayn Rand’s books. Later, I found myself enamored by several women characters. Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton Wilkes were all women with unforgettable characters. As for inspiring male characters, there are too many to be listed.
RB: Which genre inspires you more, fiction or nonfiction?
TP: I am not partial to any genre. Most of my books have required extensive research, especially the historical fiction. Since I refer to various sources while writing a book, I can’t afford to neglect one in favor of the other. Also, I started writing nonfiction books much before I began penning fiction.
RB: How do you make a character in any book come alive for you?
TP: Imagining them as real characters can make fictional characters come alive. I try to give them the same traits and reactions as the people I meet. This makes the characters believable and real.
RB: Which is the toughest genre to you in terms of writing?
TP: I think writing a novel in any genre can be a challenging process. Having said that, I think detective fiction offers a real challenge because you have to make sure that the crime is believable and the readers don’t discover the murderer too early in the book.
RB: Are there some stories/poems/essays lying in your closet and you wish them to see the light?
TP: There are a couple of unfinished manuscripts that have to be worked upon before they go into print.
RB: In your latest novel, A Closetful of Skeletons, the female protagonist Ramola is intriguing. What triggered you to write a novel with some grey area open for readers to read and judge?
TP: All human being have grey areas. No one is totally white or black. Ramola is a Bollywood star who worked her way up to the top of the ladder through various machinations. With no sugar daddies.
RB: Does any character in any of your novels resemble you or your life?
TP: Not really. A couple of my characters may have similar traits but they don’t resemble me or my life.
RB: With feminism on a high do you choose to write on females or are you unbiased?
TP: I have written books with female as well as male protagonists. While Nurjahan’s Daughter, Escape from Harem and Solo in Singapore had women as central characters, Boots Belts Berets and On the Double were totally male-centric. So I think I don’t nurture bias in writing. Having said that, I do have strong ideas on gender discrimination.
RB: What are the challenges you faced in your journey of travel and writing?
TP: Travelling on my own offered a challenge as well as adventure. Finding one’s way around a strange country, adjusting to its demands and rhythm is always challenging. The same goes for writing. You suffer the same fears and anxiety in writing a book.
RB: Who had been a constant source of inspiration to you?
TP: My husband is a constant inspiration and support. Not only does he motivate me, he also encourages my dreams.
RB: Many a times we get to hear writing is also a sort of ego boosting, what is your say on this?
TP: Yes, writing is an ego booster. The moment when you hold the first published book in your hand and see your name written on the cover, is perhaps one of the biggest ego booster for a writer.
RB: Have you ever made a female character villainous in your novels and also was she loved for her aggressiveness?
TP: Nurjahan’s character in my book, Nurjahan’s Daughter, is not the stereotype of woman. She is bold, ambitious, ruthless, and scheming. To that extent, she is a negative character but she is also a strong and successful woman. Most of the readers told me that they loved her character because it seemed real.
RB: What is the trick to keep your novel unique?
TP: I am constantly on a mission to innovate and improvise.
RB: Books are meant to retain sanity but we hardly find readers? What do you say?
TP: That is a sad truth. Less and less people are reading today, thanks to distractions like the internet. Reading is not only pleasurable but it helps to mould the personality. I would say that everyone should read at least two books a year, if not more.
RB: What is your next writing project and when do you plan to launch it?
TP: A couple of books are on the anvil. I am also working on my next murder mystery.
RB: What is the best piece of advice you have received till date and also that advise you have for upcoming authors?
TP: Develop your own style of writing, don’t ape anyone. That was the advice given by my mother, who was an avid reader. For upcoming authors, my advice would be to pursue the goal with determination. Perseverance and hard work along with dollops of positive attitude are a must for all writers. Do your best and be prepared for the worst. There will be crests and troughs but don’t let that come between you and the goal.
RB: Do you plan to travel backwards and pen your autobiography?
TP: No. I don’t have any plans of writing an autobiography.
RB: Apart from travelling and writing what are your other hobbies?
TP: I read a lot, across genres. I also love theatre and music, mainly classical music.
RB: Some facts which irritate you and you would like to shove them away?
TP: The snobbishness associated with literature and gender discrimination in the literary world is irking and should be done away with.
RB: Some moments which you would love to treasure forever?
TP: I think the birth of my daughters were the best and unforgettable moments. It may sound like cliché but holding them in my arms was the most touching moment.
RB: Where do you plan to see yourself in next five years?
TP: I hope to do better work and grow as a writer in the next five years.
RB: Thank you for your time. Any tips for us as a parting gift?
TP: Never give up dreaming. There is no limit to what one can dream and achieve.
Rimli Bhattacharya completed Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology. After obtaining an MBA, she worked in the corporate sector. Rimli is a trained Indian classical dancer, based out of Mumbai, India. She tweets at: @rimli76
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