Today, Paul’s Fantasy Writings has the privilege of an interview with author Richa S Mukherjee. Richa has written books in different genres, including I Didn’t Expect To Be Expecting about pregnancy, and the thriller novel Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd.
At the back end of 2019, Richa and I connected with one another on Instagram, and I was thrilled when she agreed to have an interview.
Where do you live and does this place, or anywhere else that you’ve lived, appear in your writings?
I live in Mumbai, but I feel that I’ve spent the better part of my life in transit. Having lived across several cities owing to my father’s government job, I feel that experience, and having to blend into various people and cultures, was integral to shaping my neutrality, perspective and eye for detail in general. It seeps into my writing as well at some level.
Your first book, I Didn’t Expect To Be Expecting, was a humorous take on the journey of pregnancy. Did you draw inspiration from personal experience?
Absolutely! It was a veritable circus unfolding around me. I couldn’t help but channelize it onto paper. I never ‘officially’ admit that the book is autobiographical as it might land me in trouble! But yes, a lot of my experiences at the end found a way in.
This blogger: Haha! I am sure it would land you in a lot of trouble with your friends lol. No doubt, they all know who they are in your story (*smiles wryly*).
Your second book, Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd, could not be more different as it is a mystery-crime thriller. Were you not tempted, though, to write another book that was similar to I Didn’t Expect To Be Expecting? What made you choose to write a novel in the thriller genre?
I did toy with a sequel or something in a similar genre, but variety excites me. The thrill comes with a challenge. For both books, I honestly allowed the topic to choose me. The decision to write a thriller came from a contextual trigger and I decided to go for it, follow my instinct.
Humour is the common thread between both books. But it proved a major challenge, as giving due credit yet balancing two genres within one book is an arduous task. It was fun nevertheless! While there will be more Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd installments, my current book, is an entirely different contemporary tale that came to me on one of my travels. So, I suppose I’ll keep experimenting and hoping that my gut doesn’t lead me down a hole!
This blogger: I have got to hand it to you, Richa, you are certainly up for a challenge. To be able to write in different genres takes skill and knowledge. Your knowledge range must be incredible in order to come across as authentic. Keep it up!
Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd is being made into a movie! You must be super excited. Do you have a role in the film’s development? And when will it hit the big screen?
It’s very exciting and I’m grateful it was identified. However, the process is a long and complex one. A majority of the decisions come from Endemol that holds the rights. It takes time, as there are many pre-planned projects in their pipeline. It might even end up becoming a web series. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope that it makes its way to the screen soon.
If you had to choose three books or films that are defined as ‘thrillers’ as a starting point for people who know nothing about the genre (and all its subgenres), which ones would you recommend? And why?
Clichéd, but it’s really hard to choose. I’ll go with top of mind picks.
- Murder on the Orient Express (Proving that thrills don’t always need to come from blood, gore and frantic camera movements. Of-course every book from the lady is a master-piece. I would recommend And Then There Were None as well);
- In recent times, Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train (contributing to the genre of intelligent and emotional thrillers);
- Requiem (Paranormal thriller).
As for Indian literature, there’s great work from prolific writers like Kiriti Roy, Sunrendra Mohan Pathak, but I’ve always maintained that The Mahabharata, viewed from a non-religious filter, is the most magnificent drama/thriller content ever scripted!
This blogger: I have seen Murder On The Orient Express, read and watched Gone Girl, and read The Girl On The Train. You have chosen well lol. Alas, I don’t know the Indian authors you’ve mentioned. I will look into them. Thank you for recommending them.
In two of my blog posts, I discuss how to write a memorable villain or antagonist. I believe that villains/antagonists make the story as much as the main character. What makes a memorable villain or antagonist in your opinion, with example(s) please?
I love bad guys who aren’t obviously so, who aren’t fitting into predictable stereotypes. A lot of writers have experimented with myriad shades of negativity over the years. Sometimes they are so human and relatable that you can stand in the very shoes that made them who they are. I’m a big fan of the Batman franchise (Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy in particular).
Take, for example, the recent release, Joker. There were more fans than haters coming out of theatres. Look at Two-Face, Poison Ivy, The Riddler. Most of them were bad guys/gals in an obvious, larger than life manner. But their backstories and their peculiar mannerisms made them so popular. You hate them, but you empathise with them too.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of this psychological thriller called Greta. The villain was an old lady! But the character was etched out so organically and with subtlety that you had mixed feelings about her right till the end. Normal people can be bad as well. Those are the complexities that make characters memorable, some in an obvious, some in a subtle way.
This blogger: First, no I have not heard of the series Greta (pardon my ignorance again). But you have definitely piqued my interest. I shall look into the series. Second, I think your understanding of what makes a villain/antagonist is spot on. You give me (hopefully our readers too) confidence that you have created and will keep on writing complex villains/antagonists that we can empathise with.
Which of the characters in either of your novels is the least like you? And why?
In Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt Ltd, there is an elderly character called Pamela Kapoor. She seems normal enough on the surface, but is full of bitterness, drawing on the past ever so often. I find it a restless pursuit, misgivings and regrets.
The past should be a source of comfort, not conflict and stress. I’ve learnt to make peace with what has happened and don’t imagine I ever want to be in Pamela Kapoor’s shoes. I sincerely hope life backs me up on this intention!
This blogger: You sound like such a positive person and a joy to be around. Life will back you up on this because you will make it so.
If you could give your younger self some advice about the writing process, what would it be?
Stop looking around. It’s distracting. All that matters is what’s in your head and what’s coming out of your pen. Other writers are on their own trajectory and you are on yours. Believe in yourself and write.
How has writing changed you?
It has made me more patient. Yes, the writing itself is great and cathartic, but there is no instant gratification. Everything takes time. The idea to stew, the story to get written, the research that comes before, and even cuing it for publication. It’s important to take a deep breath and keep at it without getting frazzled.
This blogger: Wow, I cannot say I saw this answer coming. It sounds like writing has made you an all round amazing person. Plus, to have learned patience is so important. So few people have it and I believe it is to their detriment.
Have your family and friends read any of your novels? If so, what do they think of them and how do you feel when they talk about them with you?
There are more claims of reading than actual reading! 😀 But I’ve had a whole lot of support from them and for that I love them to bits. People assume that once you have a publisher, you’ve climbed the mountain. That isn’t true. Authors have to work as hard in getting the word out. And family and friends play a key role.
At first it was a bit embarrassing putting myself out there. But now I enjoy hearing them talk about the books, the characters and what they enjoyed the most.
This blogger: I have not published my book yet, but I imagine that you are completely right. I do marketing as a job, and marketing is a whole different ball-game than publishing. I also glad that you have no qualms talking about your work, Richa. If you don’t promote your books, no-one will!
Plus, I think it’s so funny that your friends and family claim they have read your work when it is dubious (*laughs*). Still, their support is what matters most. And when they read this interview, I hope they see how much you appreciate them.
Are you writing another novel at the moment? If so, please could you tell us a bit about it?
Yes! I’ve just finished editing my next book. It is a simple yet complex story of a mother and daughter, and their journey of discovery. The humorous take on the complexities of that relationship is what lends it a unique voice. They become reluctant partners on a journey that changes everything between them.
This blogger: Cool! You have the rare ability of making even well-trodden plot come across as intriguing, funny and worth reading. I look forward to reading it when it’s published.
Lastly, outside of writing, what do you like to do?
Often, I feel that I need another life to accommodate everything I love! But this one is filled with travel, poetry, music, reading and dance. My husband and I even run an Instagram handle called Traveling Lobsters to capture memories from our shared passion.
This blogger: (*smiles warmly*.) You sound like you have a happy, wonderful and very cultured life. Enjoy it for as long as you can.
End of Interview
That brings our interview with author Richa S Mukherjee to a close. I would like to thank Richa for her time, and to say that it has been wonderful getting to know her better. I wish her all the best in her future writings, up coming screen adaptation, travelling, and dancing.
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