KK: This is your second book after getting high praise for Exit Interview. Where did you get the idea to do a collection of short stories instead of a full-length novel?
AM: There were always so many ideas swimming around in my mind. Short stories were the obvious outcome.
KK: Are the stories old or new?
AM: I started writing the stories after the publication of my first book Exit Interview in June 2015. So that way the stories are new.
KK: Did you have any goals for this collection when you wrote it—to get published, or just to finish, etc.?
AM: I had written a post in my blog titled ‘My boss is always touching me’. It was written in a very misleading way but in the end the reader could understand the boss was my then 4-year-old son who lords over his work-from-home mom. The reactions to that post were very positive. That was for the first time I realised I could probably write short stories. Then I wrote around 4–5 and sent to Readomania. Publisher Dipankar Mukherjee immediately asked me to finish the collection. That motivated me to finish the stories.
KK: How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing each book?
AM: I always wanted to write but my full-time job in journalism never allowed me the time to write a novel. I quit my job in 2011 and started writing my novel Exit Interview. I am glad I moved from full-form to short form in my second book because I could show my readers that I can write in another format. I want each book of mine to be totally different from the other and hook the reader with its own essence.
KK: What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
AM: I read anything that interests me. Apart from the famous ones, I do read a lot of new authors and I find it really sad that so many relatively unknown authors are such fulfilling reads in comparison to some bestselling ones who just churn out trash.
From Jeffrey Archer, Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, Stieg Larsson to Haruki Murakami, my reading list has been varied. Rabindranath Tagore and Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay have also influenced me immensely.
KK: Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?
AM: I write on my laptop which invariably crashes when the book is going through edits. But since I keep the book in various stages of its making in my email, I haven’t landed in big trouble so far. But on both occasions when my book was published, I had to buy a new laptop.
My writing schedule is very erratic. I usually write at night when everyone in the house is asleep. I try to keep a diary where I jot down my thoughts and a basic structure of what I intend to write.
KK: Do you write every single day?
AM: I can write continuously for a week if there are some ideas in my mind and then for days I might not write at all.
KK: Any writing rituals?
AM: I guess I need my 7-year-old son around me to write. I started writing after he was born and I had quit my job, and now it’s his immense pride in me that makes my creative juices flow.
KK: Ballpoint, uniball or fountain pen?
AM: I am very fond of gel pens. Keep buying them.
KK: Will you meet your readers at book signings, conventions, or similar events?
AM: It is always a pleasure to meet your readers and take their feedback. I will definitely do that.
KK: What’s the worst job you’ve had? Has it influenced your writing?
AM: As a journalist I have held jobs at various newspapers and magazines. None have been bad jobs, but my experiences at workplaces and my brush with both good and bad people definitely influenced my writing. In Exit Interview most of the characters were based on real-life people I had met in the workplace.
KK: Tell us some more about your book.
AM: Museum of Memories is a book where each story takes off from a memory and delves deeper into social perceptions, often challenging them. All the stories are based on real-life experiences.
KK: Are you planning to adapt any of your stories into drama or to the screen?
AM: Some short-filmmakers and advertising professionals have shown interest. Let’s see what happens. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
KK: What’s more important: characters or plot?
AM: Both. If any one of them is weak the story slips.
KK: How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?
AM: Even an Amitav Ghosh or a Jhumpa Lahiri keep regular jobs. I think it’s hard to survive only by writing fiction; one has to do something on the side to earn a living. I work as a freelance journalist.
KK: Are you going to keep writing and doing only part-time work, or do you see yourself eventually going back to a full-time, corporate-type job?
AM: I don’t see myself doing full-time work anymore. I will be expanding on my part-time projects.
KK: Any last thoughts for our readers?
AM: Museum of Memories is not just a book, it’s meant to be an experience.
About the Author:
Amrita Mukherjee has worked in publications like The Times of India, The Hindustan Times and The Asian Age in India and she has been the Features Editor with ITP publishing Group, Dubai’s largest magazine publishing house.
An advocate of alternative journalism, she is currently a freelance journalist writing for international publications and websites and also blogs at http://www.amritaspeaks.com
Amrita’s debut novel Exit Interview earned the tag “unputdownable” from reviewers and readers alike.
Praise for Museum of Memories
The prose flows, emotions evolve and narrative quickens with the best form of surprise—the small surprise that is credible, human and moving. Amrita Mukherjee is a fine writer.
Minister of State for External Affairs/
Rajya Sabha MP/Veteran journalist/Author
Always a pleasure to see an ex member of the Hindustan Times editorial team turn to creative writing and to show such sensitivity in her fiction!
Ex Editorial Director,
Hindustan Times/TV personality/Author
Each short story of Amrita’s is a reader’s delight. Be it the element of surprise which is the soul of a short story, vivid etching of characters, construct of plots of varied themes, inimitable story telling style, language lucidity, food for thought, Amrita has mastered them all. I have no hesitation in saying that Amrita is a reincarnation of O. Henry.
Thirteen soul-stirring stories gathered from the experiences of a senior journalist
A surrogate mother narrating her emotional ordeal; a house-husband telling his side of the story; an innocent girl talking her first brush with the not-so-innocent world; a woman judging her friend for her Facebook posts…and many more that chronicle the journey of discovering life.
Amrita Mukherjee, a journalist, realised over the years that every story had an inside story; interviewees actually opened up when the Dictaphone was switched off. Apart from meeting people for interviews, she collected these stories at the office cafeteria, at drawing room conversations, during interactions with strangers while travelling on the metro-rail or talking to fellow moms while waiting for her son at the school gates.
What emerges is a work of gripping fiction based on real incidents.
Published by Readomania, Musuem of Memories is available for purchase at bookstores and on Amazon http://amzn.in/42K6szM.