Author of the Week | Shubhodiya Ghosh
I hope this week’s theme made you smile and gave you a trip to your childhood. The next week’s theme is a little obvious but extremely important, having a look at the calendar is all you need, to guess.
This Week’s author is a beautiful, young lady who loves to play with words and weave her character rather carefully. Her journey is going to inspire you and you would surely connect with her story as she found her passion for writing in activities that all of us have done as a child. She is Shubhodiya Ghosh. You can reach out to her on social media and Wattpad as follows:
So, what was the first book you ever read? How old were you then?
Ah well, I think my grandmother would have the accurate answer to that, but the first book that comes to my mind has to be a collection of moral stories. My entire family is composed of voracious readers and literature enthusiasts, so reading was instilled in me pretty early. I was likely four or five then, and reading used to be my most favorite afternoon activity.
How many Books/Short Stories/Poems have you written? Which is your favorite? Are there any that ended up getting shelved for the time being?
I’ve written three novels so far, and am currently working on the fourth one. Though the first few stories and novels are pure embarrassments now, I cannot pick a favorite. Each one has helped me discover a new style, new technique, new setting. That being said, I’m more invested in the book I am currently writing-- Dil Beparwah, which also happens to be the third book in the dil series, but can be read as a standalone too. Dil Jaanta Hai was the first book, followed by its sequel/extended epilogue Dil Dhadakta Hai. All of these books can be read independently. I’m not very much into poetry, but I have written one, called What If We Dropped Our Pretense. I don’t have a count of the number of short stories, most of them are rough drafts anyway. However, I’m working on an anthology, a collection of short stories revolving around people living on the same floor. It’s been on my mind for years now but had to shelve it for longer.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Yes, and I consider myself extremely lucky for being able to do so. Wattpad has an exciting inline commenting feature, which enables readers to react/comment to every line as they read. Reading and responding to the comments is easily the highlight of every week. They say all kinds of things, and are creative too! Now and then I’d come across a meme they’d make about some character, and as a Gen-Z kid, let me tell you, that’s the most overwhelming form of appreciation from fellow Gen-Zs. There’s constructive criticism and character analysis too, which helps me work better. If there’s a scene they relate to, they share anecdotes of their experiences, and all of us end up having a really good conversation. They often tell me that my books feel like a web series, and the weekly updates add to the excitement of the whole process, and now we’re on the third ‘season’. I love the community of fellow writers and readers that we’ve built over the years, it’s the only thing that’s kept me sane through rough times. I’ve made friends and connected to more people in general because of the community.
When did you write your first Book/Short Story/Poem and how old were you?
So, I’ve mentioned before how afternoon reading used to be an activity I always looked forward to, right? Well, apart from that, there was another favorite game my grandmother used to play with us kids, that we fondly recall as alternate endings. She would make us sit in a circle around her, and begin with a few lines that would initialize a setting and our main character, and the person next to her would have to add another few lines to keep the story going, then the next person would have had to continue to the plotline, sometimes adding a conflict to keep it interesting, building on it. By the end of three rounds, we would have an entirely new story. As a kid, this game would fascinate me so much that sometimes I’d play it all by myself. One fine evening, I had a strong urge to pen it down and read it to my parents late at night. So I grabbed a Lexi blue pen (tell me you can smell it!) that my mother used to keep by the telephone and a rough notebook that was full of multiplication tables and tears shed by my six-year-old self. Now I don’t exactly remember the details of the two-paged story, but it was about Sam, Suzan, and a magic window. God, what a rush it was, having composed sentences that made sense and formed a story! It was thrilling.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Sam, Suzan, and their magic window had introduced me to writing stories, and there on my daydreams consisted of characters from my bedtime stories book, but with alternate endings. I love watching films as much as I love reading, and often, after watching a movie, I’d recreate its story in my head, introducing myself as a new character, devising alternate endings. Then I’d work to use that alternate ending and ponder over an overall story that I could perhaps create. During the summer vacations of my fourth grade, my father was away on a work trip and he had taught me how to email him so that we could share pictures. It was during that time that I’d open MS Word on our PC and type away whatever came to my mind in the form of stories. It was thrilling. I’d come across story writing contests online, and participate in school competitions from time to time. Whenever fiction was under consideration, I always felt in my element. Then in eighth grade, my classmate told me about Wattpad which happened to be a site for amateur writers and readers. I was hooked to it instantly, and the rest is history!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Antagonists, anti-heroes, and villains. The villains. I love writing about them, wobbling at a junction where the protagonist is the least liked character (as far as societal moral standards are to judge by). Now, there are chances that this quirk of mine has had a South Korean drama influence, or maybe it has something to do with the early 2000’s daily soaps wherein the antagonist could be identified by their ability to raise their shapely brows. As a kid, I used to be so fascinated by the eyebrow-raise that I’d often sympathize and side with the antagonists more, and I guess I grew up to fancy grey-characters, which, I suppose, shows in my stories.
Another quirk of mine is that I don’t plan my characters’ backstories initially. They come naturally as I write. They unfold their stories on their own!
Where do you get your information or ideas for your Books/Short Stories/Poems?
Road trip rest stops, the bazaars, the bus rides back home from school, early morning flights, our house-help, my father’s childhood stories-- there’s hardly any place that hasn’t planted a storyline or influenced a character in some way.
For plot-related research, Google has always been a great source of help, but there are times when reaching out to people who are in that particular field helps more. For instance, the main lead Varun Malhotra, of my ongoing book, Dil Beparwah, is a journalist and I had very little idea about the technicalities of that profession. Aditi Tripathi (TripuWrites on Wattpad) connected me to a few of her friends who were pursuing the subject and that helped me clear the obvious errors I might have committed. Ankita (Kimayaa on Wattpad) and Sanya (Sanya_Goel on Wattpad) helped me with the research pertaining to her field as well, especially with business and stock market-related terminology and how to use them in a way that made sense.
What does your process of writing look like? What is the hardest part?
For me, every book entails a new process. What worked for one book, may not work for another. If there is a strict procedure I’d require to follow every time I wrote a new story, I don’t think I’d be able to grow. With every new project, I learn something new; sometimes it comes with the research that goes behind it, sometimes it is a new writing style and narrative that I experiment with.
What do your family and friends feel about your work?
My friends have always been encouraging and enthusiastic about my stories and work in general, they keep tabs on my works and check on the stats now and then. And it’s not just them, they’ve gotten their parents involved too, and that just makes me appreciate my friends even more. They’ve gone out of their way to show support for my books and stories, and that too without me knowing about it. Their favorite pastime includes finding out which character has been based on them, or if any conversational thread made it into the book. My family has been supportive of my stories too. They share my works with their colleagues and discuss it with their friends. But they are the typical Indian parents, and I don’t come to know about it unless someone mentions my stories at some get-together. Kind of a sweet gesture, isn’t it?
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
I can’t tell you something that you don’t already know. You just need to affirm it. Consistency and grit will handle the rest. Write for yourself, immerse yourself in that reality. If you’re happy with the draft, great. If you’re not, it’s because you know you can do better. In any case, don’t give up. If it brings satisfaction to you, that’s all that matters. The process might be cumbersome and tedious, but eventually, you’ll fall in love with it.
Who is your inspiration in the field of writing?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. There are some writers, and I can bet you that the list will grow every year. But now and then, I do find myself re-reading the works of three of my top favorite authors: Charles Dickens, Khaled Hosseini, and Ruskin Bond. I know that’s a strange combination, but from a writer’s mindset, I’m in absolute awe of their ‘show, don’t tell’ ability to imprint a scene with just a few words. Books by Khaled Hosseini, especially And The Mountains Echoed, have impacted me immensely. I know it’s one of his lesser famous works, and I’ve read all of them, and yet And The Mountains Echoed is one of those books that has shaken me, both as a reader and a writer. The narration in that book changes with every chapter. The beauty of the book remains in the fact that you get to know about the protagonist brother-sister duo, Abdullah and Pari, through the other characters. I can launch into an entire fangirling session over this book. I read the book seven years ago, and even now, my mind keeps going back to that story. That was one book that inspired me to write stories and live through the characters.
Furthermore, my grandmother and middle/high-school English teacher, Mrs. Mousumi Guha, are the ones I look up to when it comes to building a plot. It is to them whom I owe my love for literature and story-building.
Would you consider yourself a planner or a pantser? Or both? Is your current system working for you?
A little bit of both. I write on Wattpad and I try to update every Friday. For consistent weekly updates, I had to be a planner, which to an extent, helped me structure my stories and edit my chapters before they became public. But I’m in college now, a second-year student pursuing Computer Engineering, and between enjoying the ultimate ‘college’ life and trying out new hobbies, sometimes it becomes tough to bring myself in the writing zone, and I end up being a pantser. Is it working for me? I don’t know, but it has made me realize that I enjoy weaving stories and immersing myself in the fictional universe of characters. I enjoy both extremes. Sometimes it’s all about spontaneity, sometimes it’s better off as a glass of fine wine.
What do you love the most about your writing process?
Man, I wish I could tell you that I have some elaborate writing process but I don’t. Every story brings with itself a new shade of excitement, a new vigor, a zealous thrill, and hence, a new process. I do tend to compose songs for my stories (kind of like an OST because I always visualize my stories being screened), but that’s just some bonus fun I indulge myself in. Even though one can get pretty technical about writing, it still is a creative process, and forming a routine for it just brushes off the thrill of it, you know?
Does music help or halt your writing process?
There’s no definite answer to this, honestly. Sometimes music and songs particularly influence a certain scenario. Dil Jaanta Hai, my novel that’s on Wattpad, happened because Ram Sampath and Nisha Mascarenhas’ Laakh Duniya Kahe had planted a scenario in my head where the protagonist was mourning the loss of her grandmother. That time, I had no context, no story, no plot, but subsequent scenes knitted themselves together when I kept listening to more songs. The book doesn’t particularly revolve around the grandmother’s death, but that’s how the idea had struck me. Now I’m writing the third book in the dil series, and I have habituated myself into creating a playlist for each book--kind of an audio mood board? Also, I play the guitar and compose songs, and for each full-length novel that I’ve managed to publish on Wattpad so far, I’ve written and composed songs too.
Are your characters often inspired by real people?
All the time! It’s hard not to write characters that are not inspired by real people. The Nepali uncle who I find washing cars in the parking lot at the crack of the dawn every day. Whenever I see him and his son lugging a pail of water and a washcloth towards a car, I wonder what their daily life looks like. The shiny sedans they wipe-- even those carry enough ideas to weave a story. The canteen and chai-ki-tapri-wale-uncle at whose tea-stall my classmates and I would cool off after college (before the pandemic, of course). They always seem to keep up interesting conversations. Our boisterous house help has numerous accounts to recite from memory--funny, scandalous, sad, optimistic, you name it! Apart from being fresh character inspiration themselves, their stories give more insights to newer characters. My friends and classmates, too, have inspired a lot of instances in my stories. House parties, family vacations, and visiting Kolkata are my main sources. Just interact with my family and friends, and you’ll notice where my characters come from.
Are there any specific ways that help you out of your reader’s/writer’s block?
I’m no pro at this, but I’ve come to realize now that most of the time we face writer’s block because we do not have the plot structured out and have just gone with the flow and managed to hit a dead end. Doing something completely bizarre, or unrelated, or even contradictory to the entire writing process helps me. Now when I am stuck, I tend to take a break from writing to get my mind off it and stop sweating about it. The key is to break the monotonicity. Interact with people and ultimately, some unrelated conversation is going to strike you with a sudden spontaneous inspiration or idea and will pull you out of the rut.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Look I tried to rack my brain to come up with something sappy and philosophical and impactful, but I am blank because, given the chance, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Characters and their storylines are always running in the back of my mind, no matter what I do, and I won’t have it any other way, at least not now. All I can tell my younger self would be, you were right, it is about consistency and grit.