Deep Ghatak is a communications professional with extensive experience in Corporate Communications, PR and Journalism. Interested in literature and performing arts, he has been writing since he was a student. He works for an MNC and is a guest lecturer at the Haaga Helia University, Helsinki.
NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?
I always loved to hear and tell stories as a child and thanks to my teachers, developed a flair for writing creative essays. At the age of sixteen, I began writing columns for the youth supplement of a prominent newspaper. That’s when friends and relatives took note and encouraged me to keep writing. Curiously, even though I started my career as a copywriter and journalist, it was only after another twelve years that I got the time and inspiration to write my first novel.
NAW- Tell us about your first book ‘Fish in Paneer Soup’. How did you get the idea for the book? How difficult was it working part time as a writer?
I had a great time at school but my experience in college, partly due to my own indifference, was not so great. It was as if I had missed some crucial part of the process of coming of age and wished that things had happened differently. Fish in Paneer Soup was born from a desire to celebrate youth. It is not only about the battles of a young man, but also about love, friendship and discovery. It also captures how our middle classes are attempting to come to terms with new social norms.
I had a full-time corporate job at the time of writing my first book. Not surprisingly, it was largely a weekend effort with the attendant struggles of balancing family chores with text edits. But once the characters were conceived and framed, they started talking to me and the words flowed. It took me well over a year to finish writing the book.
NAW- Chandni and Som seem a bit shallow, not fully developed. Did you deliberately maintain a passive tone, not choosing to describe characters much?
The young readers I wanted to reach out to do not have much time to nurse a book. And yet, they are the ones who should read more often. I intended the book to be a breezy read and one that introduces the reader to different people, perspectives and places. Chandni and Som speak to readers through their actions. Their characters are open to interpretation. Chandni gives the impression that she is somebody who does not think for herself. Som is full of intelligence and potential. But he is also emotionally vulnerable and timidly tentative at times. I have met such people in real life but did not want to judge them as an author.
NAW- How difficult was it finding a publisher? How did your book find a publisher?
Literary agents did not respond. I approached a few international publishers and was fortunate that the regrets were prompt. Either the genre was not their focus area or they had a problem of plenty. That’s when I submitted my manuscript to Rupa and they immediately saw potential in the story. They moved with speed and purpose to publish the book in six months. The second edition came out in 2013.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do apart from writing?
I am a corporate communications professional and have a demanding job that keeps me busy. My wife and daughter also have claims on my time. The period between two books is usually the time a writer uses to think up new characters and situations. I’d like to believe that I am approaching the end of that period.
NAW- Did you carry out research for your book? If yes, then how did you go about it?
Some amount of online research was required to lend authenticity to the plot, places and timelines. It was not a tiresome exercise.
NAW- How much of the book is fiction and how much is drawn from real life situations?
My book has characters and episodes that are both from real life as well as from imagination. It is an equal mix. But as I have clarified to many readers, it is certainly not my autobiography.
NAW- Please name your 5 favourite books.
The Namesake, One night at the call centre, Discovery of India, The Alchemist, Angels and Demons.
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
My second novel will be about working professionals who are older than Som and Chandni. The main characters will present a contrasting yet complementary view of aspirational India and its place in the world. I am also considering writing non-fiction titles in the area of organizational behavior.
NAW- Any advice for upcoming authors?
I would advise upcoming authors to not try to be someone else or copy someone else’s style. The market has a need for all kinds of authors and stories. The biggest success lies not only in selling numbers but in having readers who wait for your next book.