Writing Is More Than Just Being Able To Put A Sentence Together: inKonversation Ambalika Bhattacharyya

She has one of the most intriguing author profiles, we have ever come across Indian writers:

 Ambalika was born during an extraordinary planetary eclipse that had momentarily wiped off the sunshine from her life. When the darkness threatened to take over, she wrote and wrote, and when the eclipse passed, she found that she had authored this book. When she feels that writing needs a break from her, she switches to her other persona, to coach youngsters and help them communicate better.

We welcome Ambalika  Bhattacharyya, debut author of You Adored, Me Ignored and is all that is said above, on inKonversation and what fun! It has been a roller coaster…Read on:

AmbalikaCongratulations on the debut Ambalika. Tell us what set off the journey of You adored, Me Ignored?

Hello and thank you very much for the wishes! It’s so wonderful to be part of inKonversation at The Tales Pensieve!

Yes, indeed it was a journey that brought about You Adored, Me Ignored (YA,MI).
I was sitting on my 13th floor office at Nariman Point , disgruntled and as I sat on my chair staring into the sea, the waves seemed to get me a little thoughtful. I had just graduated from Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad (MICA), then and had got into PR out of my own will. Yet I was feeling disillusioned, with no clue why.

Since I have been writing from the age of 11 years, I had a feeling that if I wrote it down as a story, I would feel better. It seemed the right thing to do. Thereafter, when I put it up as a status message on my Facebook and a few of my friends expressed their anticipation on getting to read such a story, I took it as the final seal of confirmation that indeed, I should write it.

So, that is how it came about. Though, it took another month or so to actually write something substantial, including finding a name for the protagonist.  But once I got started, I wrote a chapter every week, stopping only when I fell ill with typhoid and subsequently losing track of the plot myself.

Typhoid has those kinds of side effects, you know. However, once my brain started working again, I lost no time in getting the story finished. Coincidentally, the last chapter of the book was written exactly a year since I had begun work on it. Though it was not meant to be that way, I was very happy to notice it.

Tell us about Ambalika, who is not the writer? 
Nice question, sounds like I get to brag about myself here!!!

Well, first of all, she does not prefer to talk. It is her last option. But when she does, she turns out to be a straight talking person with a sense of humor. Being a big fan of Newton’s Third law, she has made it the guiding force of her life. Her brain works on the ‘if-then-else’ principle. So, she sometimes has to deal with notions that she is a little cold and distant. But that isn’t true. She is unfriendly only towards cats, because of a fish related issue in childhood. (Long story, can’t be cut short. So will avoid it here.)

She has a jazzy sounding job called Pre Sales Consultant that requires her to be part of the team that closes deals with prospective clients.

It is her firm belief that all problems in the world are due to miscommunication. So it is both her dream and mission to help everyone understand what goes into being a good communicator and therefore, to be one. Better not to get her started on it, because once she gets started on that, it is very difficult to get her to stop. It’s that rare topic that gets her talking.

Apart from all that, she is much like anyone else- suffers from Monday blues, mid week dizziness, gets thrilled about Fridays, loves to eat, looks forward to sleeping in the weekend, amuses herself by bargaining over things she has no intention of buying and is lazy, hoping that all other work will get done on its on which, of course, does not happen.

What to you is the most exciting aspect of writing a story?
It has to be the plot. I like plots that have layers in them- two threads of stories running parallel, ultimately merging. It has to be mind boggling, yet simple. That’s a challenge and I like to live up to it.

Also, I like good dialogue exchanges between the characters. I like to keep them short but ensuring that they create the right impact. I spend considerable time running these exchanges inside my head before I finally write them down.

Unless I hear my characters speak them in my head, I am not convinced that I should make the dialogue part of the story.

YAMI2Tell us about You adored, Me Ignored.
On the face of it, YA,MI is a short but very good light read. A reader can pity Anam after reading the story or be amazed by her and leave it at that.

But dig deeper, and you would find that it does bring up some of the very common problems youngsters face. Like, questions about their ambitions in life, career options, pressures of being part of the herd mentality to be successful, getting compared with one another, irritating relatives, the marrying-off of a girl and cheating guys.

And readers have been able to relate to it to. So I am happy that the subtleties have touched the right chords, even though all of these are not very explicit yet they are still there without being preachy or mushy-mushy.

Writers go through this troublesome phases of can I, how can I, will I? What is your antidote for such times?
Oh yes, a most annoying development, I should say! Pops up pretty unpredictably, making it all the more undesirable.  The best antidote for this is- reminding your self of that popular belief- ‘This too shall pass.’ And making use of this opportunity to relax, get grounded and do other things.

Trust me, it works.

I suffer from an additional problem as well- ‘When can I?’- which arises from having to juggle a day job , running the house and writing. So for a challenge like this, the only antidote is, to be extra nice, kind and patient to myself and allow to things to let go and let be.

Tell us about the works that have pushed you more to write than to read.
Oh, well, the truth is that I find encouragement in the works of almost every writer whose book I pick up to read. But yes, there is a trusted set of them that I can keep reading over and again without ever getting bored. So they are the ones whom I would credit with pushing myself in becoming a better writer.

I look up to, rather, read on to the works of James Thurber for characterizations, Agatha Christie for deceptively simple but thrilling plots, Terry Prachett for literal out of the world creativity in story telling as well as the unpretentiousness in narration and finally, there is Wodehouse for the much needed dose of craziness.

I honestly believe that I would be nothing – both as a writer and a person- had not these wonderful people written all those wonderful books.

Complete fiction vs inspired characterization; which do you indulge in more?
Aha, now that’s like a chicken-egg kind of situation for me! Lol!

There really isn’t any pure ‘complete fiction’. Every fiction has some inspired characterization. Since I am more of a ‘plot, originality and narration’ driven reader and writer, it does not matter whether something is heavily bent on the characterization side or on the fictional.

So long as the plot is engaging, there is originality in the narration and the language is interesting, I am an indulged reader!

If you have to define the kind of fiction you write, what will it be?
Well, as of now, its plain general fiction. I have not yet graduated to that stage where I can feel a sense of belongingness to a particular genre. But I have noticed that I have an inclination in wanting to create tales from war time history and religion. I have done some writing on that too. But it’s too early to give any further definition. For now, am genre- less!

A book you read recently and felt why the hell didn’t I write this.
Well, to be honest, I have never really felt like that, since I have always had this belief that I have my own stories to tell. However, there have been instances when I have felt why the hell didn’t I Think this

Like the time I read The Murder on Orient Express, The Mousetrap and The 4.50 from Paddignton. I remember, I was beating myself up with that thought. And then there was also the time, when there was a lot of activity in the neighbourhood I was staying. It had everything  from film shooting to gossiping, scheming women and unemployed, rebellious youngsters which made for a perfect Agatha Christie mystery. I wanted to come up with a story with all of these components and simply couldn’t. At that time, I was convinced that I would have come up with something brilliant while I just sat there blank.

It was a very painful period. But eventually, I got past it.

The most positive and negative aspect of the Indian publishing industry currently.
Umm.. am not sure I am currently in the position to make such statements!

I have had a fairly amicable and painless time in getting YA.MI to be published. It was all very fairy tale like. So I have not had the opportunity to know more about this industry as much as I would have liked too.

Nevertheless, the fact that the various publishing houses are on the lookout for new talents is definitely a huge positive development.

As for the negative aspect, I find the choice of stories a little saturated and repetitive. I get genuinely disappointed when I find that a good percentage of the new books deal with more or less the same story line.

So I would definitely like the industry to step up on the quality of the published matter.

Your words of wisdom for newbie writers.
I am a newbie myself and it’s wonderful to get this opportunity to share a little thought about it to fellow newbies!

I am all for new voices that have a narration to give. But good narration, is no easy work. Its effort taking, needs patience, focus and has to be developed. So better not be in a rush to finish a piece of writing. Because, like I keep saying, writing is more than just being able to put a sentence together. To tell even the simplest, time old tale in an impacting manner, one has to have a disciplined approach to both, reading and practicing to write.

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