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‘Writing Was My Escape To A Different World’

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Tell us a bit about yourself...
I grew up in Delhi. I am an only child and I guess I was a lonely child. So I discovered the reliable company of books early. My mum is an avid reader and I probably inherited my love of books from her. I have been living and working in UK since 2001. I am a Paediatrician and I work full time in a hospital in Wigan, North West England and at present I live in Manchester.

What was the purpose behind writing this book in the form of letters?
I believe we all carry stories within us... But stories are meant to be told. So, I think this was the story within me at the time, and I wrote it because I felt the need to tell it. This is a story about friendship, ambition, life’s challenges and of course, love. Things that touch most of our lives, things we all care about. So, I hope the reader will be able to identify with the protagonists and enjoy reading it.

I have no physical descriptions of my protagonists, and though I am pretty sure Abhi ain’t no George Clooney and is definitely not quite as dishy as McDreamy of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, he isn’t bad either. So if anyone is a fan of medical serials, Greys Anatomy, ER, etc., and like a peek into the world of doctors and medicine, then this could be their book.

I am a fan of epistolary novels and I like the first person narrative. So, when the two protagonists are separated by thousands of miles, I felt the only way to write it was in the form of letters. Also, letter writing is a lost art now. So I wanted to remind myself and others about the joy of writing and receiving letters, which we all were doing not so very long ago.
 
The Other Side Of The Table
by Madhumita Mukherjee
Fingerprint
Pages: 240
Price: 195
Being a medical professional and your hours at work, how difficult was it to put the book together?
It was difficult at times if I was particularly busy at work and tired, but overall still doable. Doable, mainly because I wanted to do it. It was my escape to a different world, in my head, away from the daily grind, something that kept me sane. But I didn’t write every day. When I did, there were lots of late nights involved as I am not a morning person.

Do you plan to write more? Tell us a bit about your writing schedules.
Yes, I do plan to write more. Whether I will or not, depends on whether I can or not. And that only time can tell. After all, words and sentences and ideas don’t exactly appear on the page at one’s bidding. I wrote mainly at home, in my bedroom. It has big windows and lots of light and looks out at a patch of sky between the rooftops and concrete jungle that is central Manchester. I write any time of the day or late at night. I mostly write longhand, but sometimes typed straight on my laptop.
Oh, and I write down things I wanted to write about, on the day, not sequentially, but keeping in mind the basic idea of the book and then I tried to put them together like pieces of a jigsaw. Didn’t always happen. But when it did, it was magic.

Can you share with us one of the most memorable moments you had while writing this book?
I had a different version of the first page of the novel for quite a while. But I wasn’t particularly happy with it. Then one day, the first line as it stands now in the book, which a few people have told me makes them do a double take, just came to me and it felt so right. It looked so much better on the page. And I thought, why didn’t I think of this before. It had to be this. It made so many things fall into place. It almost helped set the tone of the entire novel, I think.

That was a memorable moment for me while writing this book. Strangely, I remember nothing else about the day that had that moment in it. It could have been any day, except, that it wasn’t.

How did you find a publisher for your book?
I Googled ‘literary agents, New Delhi’ and Red Ink Literary Agency came up. So I called them and their editor asked me to send a synopsis and the first few chapters (in this case, first few letters) to her. About six to eight weeks later they asked me to send the entire manuscript. I did and then spent a couple of excruciating months wondering what they will make of it. Then a couple of months later, they said they really liked it and they were going to send it off to publishing houses. Fingerprint very promptly and enthusiastically offered to publish it and that was that.

What’s your energy drink?
I wish there was one... But the English believe ‘There is nothing that a good cup of tea can’t fix’ and I am believe that too. A good cup of tea can be very restoring. But I like coffee too. Indian style, with lots of milk and sugar.

What makes a book a really good read or a bestseller?
A good story and good writing definitely makes for a good read. A book that entertains, informs and where the reader identifies with the character and the story resonates with them is a ‘good book’. Whether that book then becomes a bestseller or not, is quite another matter. Many worthy books don’t sell well. On the other hand, many bestsellers are hugely disappointing, in terms of quality of writing or what it has to say. Yet they seem to have a life of their own and fly off the shelf. I guess no one knows the answer to what will make a book a bestseller. If I should ever find out, I promise not to share it with anyone.

What's the hardest thing about being a writer?
I think, not being able to say what you want to say, is the hardest part of being a writer. Not finding the words, not being able to construct a good sentence, not getting the idea to take the basic plot forward, etc. I think the process of writing is an absolute minefield of things waiting to make you feel inadequate and inject a hefty dose of self loathing into you.

What are you reading now?
Heartburn by Nora Ephron. The last book I read was The Dog who came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith. The dog in question has the most wondrous name in known canine history, Freddie de la Hey...

E-books or printed format?
Printed format, definitely. I love to pick up a book with a beautiful cover. Turn it around and admire the cover design. Open it and stick my nose in it. Aah... the smell of fresh paper... Can’t get that with e-books.

Besides I like my books to be there, ‘to have and to hold’... often falling asleep clutching the book I am enjoying reading at the time. You can’t do that, not really, with an e-book. Besides, it can be cold hugging a kindle...

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