In conversation with Saugata Chakraborty

Hello, my dear Outsetians. We have a talented Central Banker turned author with us. None other than Saugata Chakraborty, the author of They Go To Sleep

 Hi Saugata,
Thank you so much for your time.

Thanks for this opportunity to interact with the readers through your blog.

·         They Go to Sleep- Why this title for a collection of short stories?

‘They Go to Sleep’ is also the title of a story, the first one in the collection. If you look at the other stories of the book, you will find that all of them, except ‘What’s in a Name’ talk about an end be it a death, an abandoned memory, a relationship, dreams, and even nightmares. The interconnectedness of the stories is at that level and hence the title. ‘What’s in a Name’ is thus the outlier in the book and talks about the end of this deep, dark theme for something happier to take place in the future.

Tell us more about you.
And I will tell you about the incident that changed my view on life. One fine day in August 2017, I woke up to find that the right part of my face was not responding to my brain. The right eye would not close and all other parts including the lips went limp. Fortunately, it was a case of Bell’s Palsy or idiopathic facial paralysis that was curable with medication and facial physiotherapy, but that day I could realize that it takes a moment to lose control over everything that we seem to have. Then I decided that I should try to share my stories with a wider audience before something more drastic happened, and here I am.

·         Your stories touch the readers at the emotional level. Did you feel a surge of emotions while writing them?
In my opinion, when we narrate or write a story, we should leave the emotions attached to the plot behind. Otherwise, there is a chance of presenting a colored view to the readers. Thus, I would wait for really strong emotions to recede before I start penning a story centered on those emotions.

        When did you decide to sit down and write something?

My first serious attempt at creative writing was in 1996. One of my classmates was selected by a cross-border panel of eminent Bengali poets to edit a magazine and I was tempted to contribute to its first issue. As a teenager, I wrote about my frustrations with the policymakers and used a rather unimaginative pseudonym of Kalki. The submission was never printed though.

·         A Central Banker to the writer- How was the journey?

I am glad that you asked the question. Actually, it happened on the reverse. When I joined the RBI in 2005, I was gaining prominence as a budding poet. The job at hand forced a break till Orkut introduced the idea of social networking. From 2006 to 2013, I contributed literally a few hundred poems to different Orkut communities, a few little magazines based out of Kolkata, edited a poetry blog for a very brief period, and all that. But then in 2011, I was commissioned by the Bank to write a feature on a heritage walk taking place in the Fort area in Mumbai, where our iconic Central Office Building stands for our in-house magazine Without Reserve. That story was met with some rave reviews, insiders felt that they were getting to read about a fresh perspective and my journey as a writer in English started with that. 
A few of the stories in ‘They Go to Sleep’ were originally written for Without Reserve. Those incidentally are the stories that majority of the readers of the book have found a connect to. 
Yet, as a community, we, the Central Bankers are not perceived to be very open to the public interface. Commitment to the job demands reticence on certain issues and that probably creates a barrier between us and the outside world. That’s why I felt I should dedicate a book of fiction to the “often misunderstood community of the Central Bankers”.

  Which is your favorite genre?

A genre that I am petrified to make an attempt at is children’s literature.

  How was your publishing experience?

Let’s start with the rejections. Rupa and Srishti were swift to send their response in negative. I would not name those who did not respond, but that was expected. Penguin India Random House gently nudged me to Partridge and I must say that their foreign office did a wonderful job in convincing me that I have a fairly good manuscript in my hand. We, however, could not reach an agreement on the pricing of the book and had to finally part ways with a promise on my part to work with them in the future. I got back to Karthik, my Publishing Consultant from Notion Press, whom I had contacted before discussions with Partridge had started. They asked for three sample stories and the editors sounded excited about the prospect of the book that Karthik proposed to put on display at the Chennai and New Delhi book fairs in January this year. We were already in November, and it required express processing on their part. There I had made the first mistake of not getting the content edited or even proofread by another set of eyes. The first edition of the book which you had read thus had a few typographical errors. As a souvenir of my mistakes, the Kindle edition of the book has been kept as it is while a revised paperback edition was made available in April. So, I would say that the pre-publication experience was really nice. 
But then, getting a book of short stories by a first-time author launched by a self-publishing platform is one thing and its distribution in India is another. 
Finally, the wide area of offline distribution of the book is starting in June. I am keeping my fingers crossed on this last leg of the life cycle of the book.

What is your advice to aspiring authors?

To be very, very patient. They should not lose heart over rejections and exhaust all the options of a traditional publication before attempting self-publication. Even if someone goes for the latter, it is absolutely necessary to get her content edited or at the least proofread. Last but not the least, try to build your identity as an author before you come out with a book. This could be achieved through a blog, contributions to newspapers and magazines, and social media platforms.

How can the readers reach you?

They can WhatsApp me on 9870071069. My Instagram id is #saugatathechakraborty and my Twitter handle is @twitsaugata. Facebook is full of Saugata “Chakraborties” but the trick is to search for ‘They Go to Sleep’ there. I am a Goodreads Author now, so connecting over Goodreads is also possible.

With that question, I guess we have come to the end of this interview. Thanks again for this wonderful platform.

Thank you so much for your time once again


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