Amrita Chatterjee is the author of an adventurous tale- Special Lassi which was published earlier this year.
Hi Amrita and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Congratulations on your new book, SPECIAL LASSI— an adventure, and a gripping novel. Tell me a little about yourself and your background?
Thank you Aman for wanting to interview me! You are a brave man. And you’ve started with possibly the hardest question to answer. So far I’ve lived in seven cities, dabbled in writing, music, art and swanky corporate jobs. In a way, you could say that books are my background. I started writing at a very early age, two years old to be precise and drove my parents to insanity by scribbling all over the walls. Now, two and a half decades later, not much has changed.
What was the genesis for SPECIAL LASSI?
In 2011, as I was backpacking around India, I started keeping a journal to record my magical adventures and remember all the lovable loons I met on the way. I never intended for it to become a book, but a friend of mine who was sick of hearing my travel stories insisted that I write it all down so she could read it in her own time. And that’s how it all started.
I really like your writing style. It is smooth, appealing and adaptable to any reader. The plot is simple but the characters and the narration that worked for me. According to you, which area should be more emphasised: the plot or the characters?
Characters, no doubt about that. As Martin Scorsese once explained beautifully, the plot is simply a sequence of events; boy meets girl, falls in love, boy dies in a tragic accident, the end. So really, it’s the characters that make the story. We all care infinitely more about what kind of a boy was he? Funny, compassionate, good looking? How did he love the girl? Madly and truly? Did he write her letters everyday or sing her a song? That’s what everyone wants to read.
How important you think for a writer, when writing about a journey or an adventure, is self-experience in that area?
For a non-fiction/travel book, I’d say it’s quite important because it’s hard to provide a new perspective on something if you are only experiencing it second hand. But when it comes to fiction/ fantasy, I guess it’s easier to let your imagination run wild because people don’t have anything to compare it against. If J.K. Rowling tells me that this is what it feels like to be kissed by a dementor, I’ll take her word for it. But if I’ve never been to Manali and I try to write about it, I will definitely fail.
What about the ‘psychedelic touch’?
Well, the Himalayas are filled with psychedelic temptations everywhere you look, so we had to indulge in it. I’m not saying that everyone should but in my personal life and travels, it has only added to the richness of the experiences, brightened the colours in the sky and made the music louder. So that’s all I can say.
When did you decide that you want to be a writer?
It was never really a conscious decision and I still don’t see myself as a ‘writer’ per se. I think all of us are capable of writing one book. It’s the second one that truly determines if you’ve got what it takes to turn it into a career.
What about the craft of writing? How do you approach your writing? Do you have a writing routine?
Yes, I’m a night owl so I like to have an early dinner and then brew a big pot of coffee. Next, I turn off the internet, phone etc and sit at my desk for at least three hours every day. Even if I don’t write anything, I just force myself to sit there. And this is something I learnt from Murakami. At first it felt absurd but now I realize how important rituals are. If you just sit there, let your mind wander, then the ideas and words will start trickling in sooner than later.
What do you prefer: Pen or Computer? And how do you stay organized (any methods, systems, tools you use)?
Computer because you’ll have to type it up eventually. And I owe my sanity to Evernote in general. It’s a great tool for taking notes, pictures, making lists, or whatever else you like. And you can access it from anywhere.
What motivates you to write?
The absurdities of life. This world is such a confusing place and I feel like I have to write about it to really understand what’s going on.
How do you decide on the settings for your story? How do they come to you?
Again, from my own experiences. Sometimes I do stupid things just to see if I can write about it.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Playing music, that’s my backup career plan.
Are you working on anything at the moment? When can we see your next work?
Yes, I am working on a novel right now. A coming of age story about a girl who hates the world. But I have no idea when you’ll see it, hopefully in this decade.
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging writers?
Yes, get a good chair. You’ll be spending a lot of time there.
About Your Reading Life:
What do you prefer while reading: paperbacks or ebooks?
Do you re-read books? One book that you would read again & again?
White Noise by Don Delillo.
Your favourite author(s)?
Franz Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood.
What book(s) are you reading at present?
Opening Skinner’s Box by Lauren Slater.