Saumya Misra talks about her and her book in her own words:
I am a writer, editor, thinker and dreamer; I however, strive to realize those dreams, the outcome of which is always positive—for the betterment of self and society. Born into a family of journalists and writers in Lucknow (UP), I took to the pen like fish takes to water even before I was formally enrolled into school. My adolescent scribbling was identified as a future potential by my grandfather, Mr Vijay Kumar Misra, who was himself a highly reputed journalist and author of several Hindi books, and he encouraged me to play with my imagination.
While studying in St. Agnes’ Loreto Day School, I regularly contributed short stories, poems and articles to school magazines, various newspapers and even to the All India Radio’s Youth Programme. I did my Intermediate from the Loreto Convent and then graduated in Economics, Political Science and English from the prestigious Awadh Girls’ Degree College. Throughout my college period, I actively participated in all extra-curricular activities, including sports, dramatics, painting, debate, but writing remained my first love and passion.
I then did post-graduation in Foreign Affairs with Proficiency in French language from the Lucknow University and then Management in Travel and Tourism from the one and only IITTM, Gwalior. However, I opted for journalism as a career choice and worked in two of the top English newspapers, The Indian Express and The Times Of India, before launching a first-of-its-kind magazine on environment- TreeTake. It is getting heartening support and appreciation.
I care for every leaf that grows on Mother Earth and every four-legged or two-winged creature that roams it. I am also socially responsible and want a better deal for our old and young. I have the gift to inspire others. I have an innovative mind and an ‘all out’ approach towards life that often motivate those around me. My first novel ‘A Life Less Lived‘ was very well received by both the readers and the critics. Now my second novel, ‘A Grey Story’ is ready to set new milestones.
What inspired you to start writing?
I have been writing for as long as I can recall. I was lucky to have been brought up in a literary atmosphere where books were considered more precious than gems. In fact I started reading and writing even before I was formally enrolled in school. I had ‘infinite’ imagination and even class essays were a medium through which I could explore it. My Class VII teacher wrote in my report card ‘Saumya has good command over English and Hindi and should develop a flair for writing and composing’. My grandfather was also a writer and a journalist of great repute so you can say I inherited the right genes.
What did you like to read when you were a child?
I read whatever came my way, Hindi or English. There were books and books and no taboo on any of them. But I must confess, as a child my favorites were Three Investigators and Nancy Drew (I still have the entire collection). Agatha Christie, Ruskin Bond, Georgette Hayer and even the Mills and Boons, I have read the entire lot while still in my early teens. Though I was too young to be a member of the British Library, others in my family were and I got books on their cards.
I don’t even remember the names of those authors but can recall the stories very vividly. One especially good book was ‘Fire Falcon’ by some nobel prize winner. It was the story of a psychopath on the run and the burning hell his brain had created for him. It must be well over two decades that I read that book—British Library shut shop in Lucknow a long time back—but I cannot forget the story. Then my grandfather had a good collection of ‘Norman Conquest’ series.
So, you see, I loved to read detective novels and stories. There was a second hand, extremely well-stocked bookstore—Hobby Corner—that I plundered with my mother and aunt every second week. While other girls spent their pocket money on clothes and accessories, I used up every penny– and then borrowed some from my Mom– on books. I always bought the books and told the bookstore guy that I would not be returning them.
Hobby Corner was also closed a few years back for want of readers and patrons–a huge loss for the few remaining genuine book lovers. The smell and feel of the place is embedded in my memory forever. I could spend hours up there (the ‘godown’ was on the upper storey and I always went there to search for my books).
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
If someone just wants to be a writer and making a forced effort to write a book, then the very act of writing can be a challenge in itself. For me, writing is never a challenge but a soothing experience, I never make a draft before staring a novel, it all flows naturally. It may be hard to believe because my earlier novel ‘A Life Less Lived’, which was a social thriller, was a string of plots and sub-plots that were all tied up well in the end, I never ‘plot’ my stories.
I do not know, the urge to write comes from within and I start getting restless and moody. Then I take out my laptop and just start writing. That simple! Personally I feel the real challenge is not in writing a book but in marketing it because here you are dependent on others and the rule of the trade is ‘show me the money honey’.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
It depends on the subject. But no book can be written without some research—and I don’t mean reading other writers’ work and ‘borrowing’ from it. I never do that. For my previous Work, I had to talk to elderly people from my native village, understand what their world was actually like say 90-100 years back. For ‘A Grey Story’, I talked to psychiatrists and child experts so that I do not write anything that was incorrect.
What motivated you to write the book “A Grey Story”?
‘A Grey Story’ is the result of what I have perceived in certain families around me. In the book I have dramatised the outcomes, in reality I have seen the ‘victim’ – or should I say ‘protagonist’—just get into a shell and lead a miserable life, and, believe me, such a ‘victim’ can be a very, very talented person who, if given a chance, could have outshone many in a number of fields. This is what pained me into writing this novel.
Why is society so callous towards individuals who are a little different from others? Why should there be such a lack of concern for a single person? Even family members—in fact mostly family members—are the ones to exploit timid, sensitive souls. This Work is my way of telling the world that not everyone is blind to the plight of such people and if the society continues to treat certain ‘special’ kids with such disdain, the outcome can be very scary.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “A Grey Story”?
A Grey Story traces the life of Surya through her adolescence, from early teens to early twenties. Born into a large family, she is neglected by her parents unintentionally and abused by her siblings intentionally. As happens with most middle children, Surya is made a scapegoat and often targeted for faults committed by others. She is made to put up with a lot. Then, suddenly, accidents and deaths start occurring in the family.
The story is a reality check on the serious impact of such callousness on the human brain and the destruction it can cause once driven beyond tolerance. It also reveals the disadvantages of large families, where parents are unable to devote ample time to each child, thus inadvertently causing at least one of them to suffer dejection. A Grey Story shocks one into realising the serious psychological impact negligent upbringing can leave on children that can even drive them to crime.
How did you come up with the idea of writing crime fiction genre book?
This is not a ‘crime fiction’ but ‘psychological thriller’, the two genres should never be mixed. Crime fiction is the genre that fictionalises crimes, their detection, criminals, and their motives. Psychological thriller is a story which emphasizes the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states. This book is not a calculated attempt. I did not consciously plan to write under this genre. It just happened.
Who are your favourite authors?
Though I have always preferred favoring books to authors, I love every single novel, short story, essay written by Ruskin Bond and Munshi Prem Chand.
How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
I earn my living from writing and I devote at least 8-10 hours to it on a daily basis. I am also an insomniac and prefer to write during the late hours. I find the stillness and calmness of the wee hours very balmy and conducive for writing. The only problem is when I start writing, I lose track of time and can go on for up to 12-14 hours without realizing the passage of time.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
There is a difference between wanting to be a writer and being a born writer. The former is mainly impressed by the glamour and name/fame/money supposedly attached to writing and seeks instant glory, it is not necessary that he/she would be a good writer too; meanwhile, the latter has the knack or flair for writing and is fulfilled by the very act of putting a pen to paper and coming up with something that provides him/ her happiness.
The former would not be averse to getting someone else to heavily edit/rewrite his/her Work and then pay whatever ‘price’ it takes to get it well marketed and sold. Some of the ‘best selling books’ are an apt example of this trend. However, those who are genuinely interested in writing should first identify the genre they are most comfortable with and not go by what sells. For example, if mythological fiction is being appreciated but you are not good at it, do not make the blunder of attempting it, thinking some ‘good research’ would do the trick. It is not like that. Just find your forte and carve your own niche!
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