Debraj Bhattacharya is an alumnus of Presidency College, Kolkata. He is a researcher/writer by profession and writes both fiction and non-fiction. He has edited a volume of essays, Of Matters Modern (2008), and written a monograph, Exploring Marxist Bengal (2016). Both are academic non-fiction books. He has also written papers, reports and op-eds. In fiction, he is primarily a short-story writer. His first story was published in 2004 in The Little Magazine. He has recently published a collection of stories set in contemporary Kolkata, India, named Tales from the Margin (2016). He is married and lives in Kolkata. His story ‘Winding Tracks’ is our editors’ pick of the week.
Could you inform the readers a little bit more about your work?
I am a writer/researcher by profession. I have previously published two academic books – Of Matters Modern (2008) and Exploring Marxist Bengal (2016). I have also published a collection of short stories, Tales From the Margin (2016). The first two are traditional academic publications while the third book is a partly self-published book. The reason behind self-publishing was that I am new in the fiction publishing world and didn’t know exactly how to go about it. Fiction publishing is quite different from academic publishing; the latter is more structured. This particular story grew out of my previous experience as a researcher on children living in streets and railway platforms. [Read more about Winding Tracks]
Please tell us something about your early years and major influences on you. What inspires you still?
I grew up reading books in Bengali and English. The English books include translations from other languages. Key formative influences were – Rabindranath Tagore, Manik Bandyopadhyay, Saradindu Bandyopadhyay and Satyajit Ray in Bengali, and Arthur Conan Doyle, Roald Dahl, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe among others. They continue to inspire me although I try to keep in touch with contemporary authors as well. Recently I liked the work of Jon McGregor.
What difference does writing make to your life?
It is one of the very few things I am good at and therefore enjoy doing it.
Is there a preferred time of the day when you get your writing done?
No preferred time. I write fiction when a story develops inside me. Then I find time according to the situation.
Did you face any challenge while writing this piece?
Writing a short story is always challenging. How much to leave out and how much to keep?
What do you think makes a good story?
The writer must know the stuff s/he is writing about and find an interesting way of telling the story. I am a firm believer in the principle of ‘less is more’.
Can you suggest some books for our readers that you think are must reads?
Nineteenth and early twentieth-century classic short stories. Most of them are now available for free or at a reasonable price. A would-be writer of short stories must read them and also try to understand what makes them special.
What advice would you give to a new author?
Read widely and don’t be in a hurry to become a star writer. Be prepared for rejections and simply enjoy the process of writing. Everything else is a matter of luck.
Read Debraj’s short story here.
Susan lands in Kolkata to teach children living in railway platforms afer her boy friend Andy dumped her unceremoniously. She thought that the change of location would help her to reboot her life. She was however not ready for what was in store for her.