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Interview with Nibedita Deb


Nibedita Deb 

The Goddess's Homecoming: Stories of Hope and Courage


She hails from the City of Joy. She is a two-time gold medal awardee - first from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, and then from the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA). She is the recipient of the Sir Ratan Tata Trust Scholarship (2013) and All India Reynold’s Scholarship (2003). In 2017, she founded Curioven, a boutique content development agency, and was adjudged as a winner at the National Leadership Awards 2020 in the “Women Entrepreneurs” category for her outstanding work. She has been trained in Rabindra Sangeet and Hindustani Classical Music and loves to discuss art, music, movies, innovation, and books.


Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?

A. I think that not many people know that my first piece of creative writing was published when I was just eight years old! Haha. It all seems silly now, but I think it was an important day for my writing pursuit. I had written a 6-line poem, and my school magazine had published it. My English teacher had congratulated me and asked me to continue writing. I remember feeling super-inspired that day.


Q.2 When should we expect your next book? What will it be about?

A. I wish I could give you an answer right away. But all I can say at this stage is that I am working on a couple of projects. One revolves around the nuances and themes of Indian Music, and the other chronicles my experiences of living with hyper-anxiety. Both of these projects are very close to my heart, and I hope that my readers will get to read and experience something new from them.


Q.3 The Goddess’s Homecoming is your first book. Where’d you get the idea to do a collection of short stories instead of a full-length novel?

A. Since this is my debut work, it was essential to choose the right form. The short stories approach seemed to do justice to the various shades of womanhood and Goddess Durga that I wanted to bring out. It also enabled me to bring a sense of closure and completion to each of the lead characters easily and quickly. I have a compulsive need for closure. So it just felt right. Also, I wanted my audience to taste my writing without feeling the need to finish reading the entire book. Even if they read just one or two stories, they would understand my style and message. This possibility intrigued me.


Q.4 How do you select the names of your characters?

A. I like to pick names that are true to the story setting and the characters. For example, Mohuli from the first story is a tribal woman from Purulia, and in my head, she is fragile like a flower. The name “Mohuli” did justice to both of these aspects. Similarly, Anjali, in the third story, was deprived of being the child goddess due to the prevailing social demons. I wanted her name to have something to do with Durga Puja and Ashtami (the eighth day of the festival, i.e., the day when the key events in the story unfold), and finally landed on “Anjali.”


Q.5 What were your feelings when you first saw the cover of the finished product?

A. I was ecstatic. Until that day, this book was just an idea in my head that only I cared about. But it is now a piece of work that anybody can pick up and read. Now anyone can partake in it. Creativity is a gorgeous feeling.


Q.6 What do you want readers to take away from your book?

A. I would leave that bit to them. Instead, it would be wonderful to know from my readers what each of them took away from the stories.


Q.7 What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing this book?

A. It was fascinating to learn about the various folklore, legends, and rituals surrounding Durga Puja. I have used some of them in my stories. I learned many interesting tidbits but didn’t get a chance to cover them in this book. Maybe next time.


Q.8 What was the hardest part of writing this book?

A. Editing. I edited each story 8-10 times and I am still not happy.


Q.9 Do you feel that there are specific challenges in marketing and promoting short fiction compared to novels? How do you promote your short stories?

A. No, I don’t think so. More than the book’s form (i.e., Short Stories vs. Novella vs. Novels) is the combination of the message and the timing that impacts the book’s promotion the most. For example, I was clear from the beginning that a book like The Goddess’s Homecoming must be released during Durga Puja. The five stories revolve around Bengali women/girls during Durga Puja, so what better time to launch and promote it? There are other important days/seasons I will be targeting for re-marketing of this book. Like the International Women’s Day that’s coming up soon. It’s critical to get your book’s message to coincide with the right timing. That is the key to book marketing – short stories or otherwise.

 

Q.10 What’s your advice to short story writers who may not be published yet? What are the keys to success, in your opinion?

A. Write about something you care about. Since short stories can be deceptively tricky, it helps to enroll in a few courses or read a few books on the subject to get a grasp. Lastly, read as many short stories by eminent writers as you can! It’s the best way to master art.


Q.11 Who would you most like to thank for their involvement in your writing career?

A. I would like to thank my English teachers in the schools and colleges where I have studied. They made me see the beauty of Language and Literature and introduced me to the fascinating world of stories. I can’t thank them enough.


Q.12 What impact, if any, do you feel the advent of e-readers has had on increased interest in short stories?

A. It’s hard to comment on this statement without considering the data that backs up such a claim. But personally speaking, I don’t see why or how the two should be related in the first place.


Q.13 Who edited your book, and how did you select him/her?

A. I had tremendous support from Ms. Sudipa Palit and Ms. Roshni Srimany for editing and proofreading. They truly made life easier for me. I hope to have their support in my next projects as well.


Q.14 Can you work anywhere, or is there a certain space, and quietude required to write?

A. No, I can work anywhere. I just need a chair with good lumbar support and a table that doesn’t require me to bend too much. Once the ergonomics are in place, I am good to go.


Q.15 How does your family/friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?

A. They are extremely supportive, but I think they need a little more convincing that I am worth my salt as a writer, haha! But that’s alright. I enjoy that little bit of challenge.


Q.16 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good and bad ones?

A. I do. I enjoy the good ones and use the bad ones as pointers for my next work. It’s the only way to grow, isn’t it?


Q.17 Have any of your characters been chalked out based on someone you know?

A. Mohuli’s character is very loosely based on an enterprising rural woman I had met in East Champaran, Bihar. I was doing field-work there during an internship. I found her to be truly inspiring and stoic in the face of excruciating odds. But all the events that take place in the story are purely fictional.


Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?

A. I would love to meet one of my favorite authors - G. K. Chesterton. I am currently reading his book, What’s Wrong With The World and it’s full of interesting, thought-provoking ideas. It would be lovely to have a fireside chat with him about it.


Q.19 What books have most influenced your life?

A. The list is pretty long! But to name a few - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Every Breath You Take by Judith McNaught, The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.


Q.20 Lastly, can you please share the experience of your writing journey so far?

A. For much of my writing career, I have written for others, as I have been doing commissioned content work since I was 19 years old. But it’s only recently that I mustered the courage to write for myself and get it out for everyone to read. The response to my debut book has been overwhelming. Critics and readers alike have been kind enough to give my book a chance. But I still have a long road to travel, and I am excited about every part of it. The ability to change the world - one story at a time - is a gift that we writers have been blessed with. I hope I never take this opportunity for granted!

 

Share your social account links -

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TheGoddessHomecoming

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/nibeditawrites/ 

Medium - https://medium.com/@nibedita


 

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