Well, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and it doesn’t make even a smidgen of difference to me. Yes, really. I write romances because I like the genre (and I enjoy reading them as well) but that’s about it. I thought it would be nice however, to put up this little chat I had with my friend Kanchana Bannerjee whose book A Forgotten Affair I recently read.
Congratulations on your first book. It’s a great debut. But as a reader I first want to know if Sagarika will ever get her memory back.
Honestly I don’t know. It doesn’t matter if she gets her memory back or not; what’s important is that she realizes and discovers her self. She understands the abusive marriage she was in and stands up to that, rejects it, confronts her husband and walks out. The story isn’t about memory loss or getting it back. It’s really about a woman’s quest to find her inner strength.
What was the inspiration for this story?
The society we live in, the marriages I see around me. I see so many women who have accepted submission in their personal relationships. They are minimized and put down. It’s a myth that abuse happens only in the lower strata of society. It is just as rampant in so-called educated and affluent homes. I wanted to write about this. Often this happens in such a subtle form that women themselves don’t think much about it. Some don’t reveal how much they earn, some tell the husband they are going to the salon when they are off for a meeting. They joke about this, saying what’s the harm in a small white lie if it keeps him happy. This is wrong, so wrong. Women need to accept this first.
There are times when I felt that if Rishab had been a grey character instead of outright black, there would have been more conflict for Sagarika and the readers. Were you ever tempted to make him the suffering husband?
In my first draft Rishab was mildly bad and the four friends who stepped in as beta readers, unanimously said, the story is very placid. Why does Sagarika not like the husband? That’s when I re-worked and made him a dark and despicable. I enjoyed his character more when he became so psychotic and crazy. I love dark and evil characters. They are more fun. In my novel 2 there are two characters who are unapologetically bad. Very very bad, evil and nasty and there’s no sad story to justify their actions. I love such characters.
Do you like naming your books before you write them or after you write them? What was the case with A Forgotten Affair?
I’m horrible with naming my books. I can write 80K words, even more easily but to think of a title; I’m no good. Clearly I’m not a woman of few words. So the novel was called The Accident till my editor stepped in and christened it A Forgotten Affair. My second novel is called Novel 2. That should tell you how awful I am with titles.
As a reader I’m not sure how I feel about open ended endings but as a writer I love them because there’s always the chance for a sequel. Any plans for a sequel?
No, there will be no sequels. I don’t like sequels. In my opinion all sequels are awful except for very few books like Harry Potter, Hunger Games. A Forgotten Affair had to be open-ended. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know the ending soon after I start writing. I know the beginning and the end; so then it’s all about reaching the end.
Sagarika’s affair with Akash is presented in a very non-judgmental manner which I liked but do you think it gives out the message that people should take happiness where they can find and to hell with commitments? Her friend Roohi does act as her voice of conscience which she ignores.
We live in a society where such relationships happen. As a writer it isn’t my job to pass judgement. I’m not a moral cop. Neither am I writing a book to sermonize people or impart a lesson. I write because I enjoy writing. Through the story I’m not trying to send any message at all. I’m just presenting a slice of life as I see. Read it, enjoy it and if it triggers some thought in you, that’s great.
What’s your typical working day like, as a writer?
I’m a morning writer. I write best in the morning and like to be done with at least 3 hours of it before noon. I have worked from home as a freelance writer for a long time so I’m very disciplined about my work.
It was great chatting with Kanchana and her book is an unusual love story. One that tells you to love yourself first, and its devoid of mushiness. It’s a mature story and perfect for Valentine’s Day. Go read it!