People who follow me know how much I loved reading Ardh-Satya The Half Truth & Other Stories by Ananya Mukherjee. I wanted to conduct this interview for learning something from the Author both as a reader and a writer, and I learnt quite a few things. She has beautifully used words to paint beautifully in her book.
Do check out the review here Ardh-Satya The Half Truth & Other Stories
Thanks to Leadstart Publishing for connecting me with the author. And a big thank you to the author Ananya Mukherjee.
Ananya Mukherjee is a former business journalist and the ex-editor of HRM Asia, a leading business title in the Asia-Pacific region. Ananya is acclaimed writer with more than 1000 publications to her credit. Before moving to Singapore, she had amassed years of experiences in the Indian print and television media. Her journalistic acumen covers a whole gamut of subjects including politics, lifestyle and business.
Born in Jammu, India and having lived across several states in her childhood and youth, she has had very rich cultural experiences through her interaction with the diverse population of her native country.
Ananya is a regular columnist with Bkhush.com and her column Shuddh Shakahari Desi is widely read and appreciated by an international audience. Ananya has also recently edited Amazing Africa, a Corporate Journey, a collection of short stories, written by two of her colleagues.
A passionate columnist, blogger, poet, theatre artiste and trained dancer, Ananya currently spearheads internal communications in a multi-national company. She lives in Singapore with her husband and daughter.
Q. Author, observer, dreamer, rebel and thinker; a juggler of corporate life and performance art (as you say), which of these do you love doing the most?
The one that makes me forget pangs of hunger and sleep—writing! Therefore, I guess, the Author, which embodies and expresses the mind of an observer, a dreamer, rebel and a thinker.
Q. How did your journey of writing start?
With the autobiography of a broken umbrella! I was in Grade V and was tasked to submit a school homework. I had never written an autobiography before so I sought the help of my elder sister, who blatantly refused. She explained what an autobiography meant and left me to fend for myself. I had but no option than to give it a go. My English teacher was very impressed with what I wrote, though my family and I were quite surprised by her appreciation. However, the foundation of “write what you want to say, imagine and write freely” was established then.
Q. What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Being original, honest, expressive and simple. If you have ticked these boxes, there are chances that you will find a connection with people. And people in turn, will find your writing relatable. Readers like to find themselves in the words of others who can perhaps express better. When you ignore that connection, you are writing a private journal no one wants to read. Curiosity about anything that is remote weans over a period of time. It’s momentary in nature; whereas connections stay. Then of course, once you have found that audience/reader connection, you need to find a publisher who will see the value of all this in dollars.
Q. How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
I write every day without clocking my time and then there are days when I just don’t feel like putting my thoughts into words at all.
Q. How do you deal with writer’s block?
Just let it be. Neither restrict the spontaneity nor the block. It happens to all of us. We just wait for that one moment of inspiration and hope that there will be a magical impact. And when the wait prolongs, we start looking at the white space in front of our eyes and get frustrated.
I usually spend a lot of time reading and researching when I do not feel the urge to write or my mind goes into a complete blank. It’s also very self-motivating sometimes to read my own work from the past or simply to edit what I have written. On some very bad days when the mind is not receptive to written words at all, I have these long conversations with myself where I randomly record what I am thinking on tape even if I cannot write.
Q. What does your writing space look like? (A photo, if possible)
I write from nearly everywhere. My bed and my writing desk
Q. What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
I write not to sell, not to win awards. If I have touched you enough, rewards will come anyway. My greatest satisfaction comes from messages/emails from complete strangers, who have no obligations to be good to me, when they tell me that my writing has made a difference to their lives. Let me share some anecdotes. A reader once wrote to me sharing the news of her ailing mother and how she had read one of my stories to her sick mother in the hospital bed. The old ailing mother not only wanted the reader to read it to her again, but she had smiled through her pains after three months of being tied to a hospital bed. “My mother smiled after 3 months today for the first time after I read your story to her. With her, we smiled and cried too,” she wrote. In another instance, I got a call from an unknown woman who had been depressed. She said that she was unable to cope with anxiety and was feeling very low when she found one of my columns on being and staying happy. “I had to find you out because you have changed my life. After reading you, I am feeling so much better. I had to say thanks,” she told me.
Readers tell me my stories make them laugh and cry. They are spontaneous reactions. But if I am able to inspire at least one woman to feel stronger, teach one man to forgive, influence one child to be kind and brave, I think I would achieve what I want to through my stories.
Q. Are you a methodical writer?
To be absolutely truthful, I am very restless when it comes to writing. I hear voices in my mind all the time and when I hear these voices, I write. I pen the dormant communication from my conscience and give it a life. I have often told friends that like love, words happen to me. They do. Every time I have this insane urge to jot down the scatter-brained ramblings of my mind, I rush to find a piece of paper or a note-book or my phone. I do not rehearse. I do not plot, script or direct my thoughts. I just take dictations from an inner voice expressing word by word till it all starts falling into a pattern of coherence, and begins to have a meaning.
In my past life, as a journalist and editor, I had known what I wanted to write even before I began. I would compartmentalise my thoughts in columns and word counts. I would know the length of each line, even plan a kicker or be led by it, designing bullet points in my mind, mapping what is intellectually optimal to do justice to the piece. They are called “stories” in our trade. I no longer do such “story assignments”. And trust me, my love for writing has only grown since I am not bound nor driven by a blurb, page count or managing barriers. I no longer restrict myself to mind maps. I let words embrace me before I embrace them and then together we play an indulgent spontaneous game of delivering an expression that comes straight from the heart. I just spend my thoughts in words.
Q. What were some of the challenges you faced on the road to publication?
I am an incorrigible optimist, a romantic at heart, a curious learner and a tough cookie when it comes to resilience. I cannot say there was a challenge in writing the book. The real challenge was finding a publisher who saw its worth in dollars. In the publishing business, they say, you have to kiss many frogs with the hope that one of them will one day turn into a prince. I have faced rejection from over a 100 publishers and agents, some of whom found the book to be “too clean” and hence not commercially viable. I was asked to spice it up with all that sold. I knew I would not tread that path. I also knew I did not want to self –publish. I put my foot down and stuck to my belief that if you put your heart into something and are confident that it is the best you can deliver, it usually is. So, after nearly 5 years of rejection, I finally found a publisher who wanted to sign me up.
Q. If you were to describe yourself in one line it would be?
I am Ananya. You know what that means!J
Q. Your favorite place on earth?
Home. It’s where I feel most inspired, contented and creative.
Q. Working on something currently? Is yes, will it be short stories too?
Yes, another collection of short stories in English, some poems in Hindi and am converting some of my own short stories into theatre scripts. One of them will be staged in Singapore in a theatre festival in November.
Q. Last line in autobiography would be?
I am the evening melody of the temple conch shell, the slice of a crescent moon, the hop skip patterns you suddenly stumble upon on lonesome tiring roadways, the intricate motif on a blue baluchari saree, the flower that adorns your loosely tied bun, the sweet fragrance of the moist earth as rains sweep across your courtyard, the caress of a warm blanket on cold winter nights I am revolution, I am speech, I am my favourite me, I am Ananya, and I am invincible.
Q. Finally, if you could pass on a single piece of advice to authors out there reading this interview, what would it be?
Write not to sell, not to win awards. If numbers inspire you, select another trade. Writing is your calling when you write for the sake of writing, because you feel this inexplicable need to express. Be sincere in your writing because there are a million stories in your mind waiting to be written, a thousand voices waiting to be heard. Once you have your soul in your writing, you will be able to touch a chord and connect with your readers.
Go get yourself, a piece of Ananya’s journey Ardh-Satya from here
Connect with Ananya on Facebook