Starting from this month is a new monthly feature on my blog – ‘author of the month’. What better way to debut my series than to feature debutante author Anupam Patra whose book ‘Promises of a Firefly’ has been released recently.
Even though Anupam is from my home state, I got introduced to him through the blogosphere. I was attracted to the distinguishing literary and artistic quality of his blog from day one.
I was excited to read his book and I was not disappointed. As I gather from his Goodreads page, so have been the experience of many readers who have spoken very highly of the book.
Brief note about Anupam
Anupam was born and raised in the millennium city of Cuttack in Odisha. He finished his schooling and graduation while growing up in the thousand year old city’s narrow lanes and ambient warmth. Inspite of the necessity of having to pursue science and then law for a career, his love for art has always shone the light of his soul. He used to teach and has worked as a banker prior to taking up public service as his profession. An avid lover of all forms of art, he confesses to find comfort in telling stories.
My Interview with Anupam
Q: Tell us about your writing journey.
A: It began here in blogosphere in the autumn of 2011. I walked into this space, looking to turn myself away from a few things that were happening in my life at the time. I didn’t expect anybody to read what I wrote, I mean, there were veterans whose essays and stories and poems were around. But I got lucky to earn a small but supportive readership. Their consistent magic with words inspired me to keep scribbling something every day. There were times when the struggle would resurface and take me away from writing for days but whenever I returned my friends here were there to take me back with un-deteriorated warmth. Their support has been my real asset. I had never thought of writing a book. Till I met Mahua Ray Das, a phenomenal artist herself, who on our very first meeting decided to push me towards that goal. She was cynical about my writing but gentle with her guidance, even when I was hostile to her suggestions. She set my sail on that course. She stuck around, never let the boat rock. To ensure it never drowned, she herself got on the boat and took that long, undetermined, lonely, neurotic, journey with me. It was not easy. I was constantly mired with problems but she never gave up, even when I was constantly forcing her to. Her contributions for this book are immense. The journey for this book began with her eliciting a promise from me in a small book café in Bhubaneswar in August 2015, the promise that I’ll give her a book of my own one day. The belief she had in me was what fuelled my will to write.
Q: Who have been your inspirations?
A:The works of Richard Flanagan inspire me. Out of all his works, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Gould’s Book of Fish have left a lasting impression on me. His writings have an effect of breaking me in a beautiful way. There’s an element in his stories that wraps itself around you. Like a sunrise waiting to happen and you wait for it after a long, despair driven night and the sunrise manages to bring a sort of an illumination that is sweeping and vivid and fresh yet you find yourself unable to forget for a moment the night that has passed. For it is that night which Flanagan has by then wrapped around you forever.
Q: How do you balance your creative pursuits with your public service?
A: It is undoubtedly tough. I am not earning anything from the book. The whole of my royalty shall go to a foundation that will use it for a year’s school fees and ancillary expenses of an orphan girl and if anything remains, it shall be donated for procuring academic essentials for orphan kids. If there is still any money left, the above cycle will be repeated. On the other hand, the earning from my profession takes care of my needs. Actually, it also takes care of my writing in many ways. Plus, the hopes with which the common man comes to the chair I occupy, is a huge responsibility to discharge. I have a moral obligation to justify the tax payer’s contribution that makes my salary. So the scale is always tilted towards the side of my service. My profession involves a lot of reading and research and writing after all of which the mind and the body get worn out. It is then that my heart’s will to weave stories balances out my desire to write fiction. But it is such a physically taxing indulgence. As a result, so many times, I have dozed off on my computer table, only to wake up hours later, about the time of dawn, drooling on the keyboard.
Q: As you evolve as an author, do you feel you are evolving as a person also?
A:The life of a writer can be terrible in spite of being purposeful. When he is able to catch the tone of his characters in ink, and everything is flowing out smoothly from his pen, it is the most complete he will ever feel. But when it doesn’t happen that way, there is barely anything he can forgive in this world. By that measure, the worst hit was taken by my family. They had to quietly let me go for hours, sometimes they were wise not to ask why at all must we part, and sometimes emotional to prod, neither of the ways bringing any change of luck. Eventually they understood how it is going to be. Then there would be work and health conditions and lack of imagination and all sorts of things that would make me want to shut everything for once and for all. I don’t know about others but for me, writing is walking down an untaken road where there are equal chances of confronting delight and despair. But you brave that chance because you want to bring to life moments you think deserve to be experienced by your readers. When you’re penning those mistakes, regrets, hopes and love your characters find on pages, you are creating experience, and you cannot create any without letting it touch you. I have always only written in one method, one hand dipped in ink and the other in shades of life. It’s a fulfilling endeavour. And for all that it is worth, you evolve in the end. You evolve because at the completion of any struggle, there is some evolution that is bound to happen.
Q: What were your expectations as you started writing the book? Are you satisfied the way the book has turned out?
A:You’ll perhaps find an author who will claim that his work couldn’t have been better. So I won’t say that I am satisfied the way the stories have turned out. Surely, they could have depicted more, had greater depth and better proximity to what I wanted to tell through them. But, I wouldn’t change the larger picture in any of the stories. That has come out exactly how I’d wanted. As far as my expectations from my book are concerned, to be honest, I never wrote it with any expectations. Maybe because I have no illusions about my writings. The only hope I had in my mind was that my readers should get the point of the stories. That’s all. And I’d happily go to sleep.
Q: Any other thing that you would like to share about you or the book with our readers.
A: I am a novice and there’s a lot I’m to learn about the craft of writing which is why I’m keen on hearing honest opinions as to where I could have done it better. And yes, I hope I’m able to write more books. At the moment, it feels like I cannot write one more line of fiction ever again, like writing this book has dried up all creative juices within me. Believe me, it is frightening, this feeling of inadequacy.
About the book, I’ll say this. Since the book was published, I’ve been asked about its theme. Even at the launch, when I took questions from the audience, a curious girl came from far behind the crowd, asking for the microphone. She must have been a fast reader for she raised some interesting points about the theme and the genre of my stories and if all of them are tragedies and interconnected. Recalling her query, I’d like to say that the stories in Promises of a firefly are not light tales or have cheerful narratives for they intend to show us our boundaries regardless of the occasional heroics life affords us. Now, that is not necessarily tragedy. It could be something as simple as truth. Some of these truths we are likely to have seen or heard around us. And as one of my readers told me over e-mail, there is this element of hope that can be found if the stories are read carefully. I want readers to find out for themselves. And if they are able to remember the stories, recall their moments when they are not holding my book – that would be a great thing for the storyteller in me.
Promises of a firefly is available on Amazon. Here is the blurb: A blind girl’s chance meeting with a stranger sets her on an unforgettable journey of love and light; a loveless marriage is rebuilt by the very thing that is meant to destroy it; an estranged mother’s fight to reunite with her daughter reveals to her the strengths and flaws of bonds of blood, two women separated by years of hostility discover the many forms of heaven and hell as fate decides to redeem their relationship; an eighty year old man’s chronicle of love and loss that tells us all about the permanent consequences of choosing against our heart’s will. These are stories of promises and letdowns, of faith and betrayal, of sins and atonement; stories that introduce us to lovers, bravehearts, convicts and prostitutes. ‘Promises of a firefly’ binds together eleven tales that remind us of our gifts, our glories and the crushing limits of our lives. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org