Chirdeep Malhotra . Updated: 6/30/2020 12:02:24 PM Books and Authors

Author Interview: Debarshi Kanjilal

Debarshi Kanjilal is an urban fiction writer based out of Bangalore, India. He is an accomplished learning experience design professional who has help shaped adult learning content strategy for some of the most reputable organizations in the world. He has recently come out with his debut novella, “Based on Lies”, a gripping psychological thriller. He is currently in post-production of his second novella, “SuperBu: Homecoming”, which is set to release on August 15, 2020. In a candid chat with Chirdeep Malhotra, he talks about his debut book, his writing journey, his favourite books and authors, and much more. Read On!

Please tell us more about Debarshi Kanjilal as a person.

Well, I am just a normal millennial man with a penchant for crafting interesting stories. I am from Calcutta, currently settled in Bangalore for work. I prefer Calcutta, Bangalore, and Bombay and such, more than their updated names. I have been working with global organizations as a learning design consultant for the last ten years. I am lazy by nature, am passionate about dogs, interested in socio-political issues, and trying my darndest to be woke. I like hanging out with close friends over a couple of beers on Friday nights.

Can you tell us more about your writing journey?

I started writing when I was eight. Like many introvert kids, it was my preferred form of expression. I used to write juvenile little poems at the time. In fact, I put out a small collection of those old poems on Kindle several years ago. It’s still out there, I think. But, as in most middle-class families, I was told that pursuing writing as a profession would be career suicide. So, I stopped writing for a while until I started writing "Based on Lies" a couple of years ago. Now I’m back at it again, trying my best to get a little better at it every day.

Please tell us more about your book “Based on Lies”.

“Based on Lies” is a psychological thriller novella that is intentionally hardboiled, disturbing, and raw. It tells the story of a young couple living in Calcutta, of whom, the man is either clinically insane or a psychopathic criminal; the book takes you on a journey to finding out which, while also revealing the darkness in other people who populate this fictional world.

This is your debut book, and you have delved into the genre of Psychological Thriller. How did the idea of writing this book emerge?

It’s funny, really. “Based on Lies” didn’t start out destined to be a book. For a brief period of time, I was obsessed with the story of the notorious American serial killer – Ted Bundy. I was reading about his history, expert opinions about him, and a whole bunch of his interviews. One night, I wondered, ‘what if a character as messed up in the head as that lived an everyday life like the rest of us?’ That made me want to write a short story with that premise. I did. It was the first chapter of the book. Once I was done, I shared it with some friends who had myriad questions and opinions. That’s when I realized that I had more to say about these characters. And it became a story of its own, completely unrelated to Bundy or his life.

In terms of the complexity of the character and the nuances of the dialogues, the character development of whom was the most difficult in this book?

The book focuses heavily on the story of Anurag, the main protagonist, so a lot of thought obviously went into building his character, figuring out his why’s. But for me, the most difficult was Aditi’s character. I wanted to do much, much more with it but as I wrote more of her story, I realized that her parts didn’t feel as ‘lived in’ as I had wanted them to be. I had to scrap huge chunks of her story in the edits.

What kind of research did you do for the book?

As I mentioned earlier, I had just done a lot of reading on Ted Bundy prior to writing this book, so I had a bit of a grasp of the mind of a deranged killer. That research came in quite handy. That apart, I did some digging on mental health in general. Mental illness was a very central plotline in this book so it was important that I stayed accurate to some of the symptoms and effects of mental illnesses. One of the themes I am always excited to explore is how the human mind reacts to different stimuli, so it was important that I did some justice to the subject.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

The primary challenge was finding time to actually write the book. But that apart, again, as I mentioned earlier, writing from the perspective of the female protagonist was a big challenge. I wanted to tell her story but I didn’t want it to come off inauthentic, so I decided to limit it to the experiences that I could actually convey without ‘mansplaining’.

Can you recommend five books from any genre, for our readers to add to their reading lists, that you particularly cherish?

This is a fun question, thanks.
First, the book that got me interested in reading as a kid – “Moby Dick”. Next, a favorite of mine in contemporary Indian literature – “Ghachar Ghochar”. Third, I’d say “Lord of the Rings”. I’d recommend anyone to pick LOTR over Harry Potter books, if you had to choose.
Fourth, “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” by Aimee Bender. Not many people have read this but it is such a fantastic, whimsical book. Lastly, “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”. I loved learning about a different side of Mahatma Gandhi. If I may take the liberty of adding one more to the list, “Man-Eaters of Kumaon” by Jim Corbett is a blast of a read.

There are many new writers and poets who are aspiring to get their work published. What would you say to them?

Getting your work published is easier than ever now. But that also means that competition is stiffer than ever, post publication. Take your time. Invest in professional editing. Know that writing is 20% of the work but the good news is that no one’s stopping you from acing the other 80% either. Persevere and you will succeed.

What are you working on next?

“SuperBu: Homecoming”. It is the first in a series of novellas about a dog who lived an interesting life as a part of a middle-class Indian family. It is a fiction novella inspired by true events and written almost in memoir-style. It is currently set for release on Aug 15.

Can you share with our readers a motivational quote that keeps you going?

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”― Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo.

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