The Speaking Stone takes us back in the early 20th century in the era of King Radha Kishore Manikya, ruler of Tripura. Though the book starts with contemporary Mumbai, we are continuously made to alternate between the past and the present. We had the pleasure to interview the author Ratnadip Acharya where he talked about his writing and other aspects of his life. Excerpts from the same:
Ques: Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Answer: Your question reminds me of Khalil Gibran. He writes somewhere… I became silent when I was asked to talk about myself. Well, please read the rest of the answers. Hopefully, it will speak something about me.
Ques: When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
Answer: As I understand, almost all the authors are doing something more(apart from writing) to make a living. So an author/writer is not someone whose only entity is that only he/she is a writer. Well, in my case the desire for writing sparked (I am an electrical engineer with a complete technical background) in the early twenties when I devoured the short story of Guy De Maupassant, Tagore, and O Henry. The surprise ending in their stories left me simply awestruck. I realized the greatest stories can be spun from ordinary lives. I became a better observer (as I feel) and felt that I could voice my thoughts in words and thus the journey began with writing short stories until I gathered enough courage to write novels.
Ques: What inspires you to write books? What are the things which catch your attention?
Answer: Your question reminds me of William Somerset Maugham, a renowned British author. He once said ‘I appreciate, rather admire harmless decent people. They have little dreams, little flirtations, little envy, jealousy in life but they are not the characters of my story for their lives are mostly eventless. I am more taken to the people who have some unusual singular traits in their nature that make them unique.’
Well, I also search for uniqueness in people and events for those who are the best fodders for writing.
Ques: Tell something in brief about your book ‘The Speaking Stone’? How did the idea of coming up with this book strike you? What amount of research you did for this one.
Answer: I grew up in Tripura but never did I imagine that one day I would write a historical thriller on Tripura and its royal dynasty. The idea struck me a couple of years back when I was visiting the Royal Palace and its museum in Tripura. Since then, no looking back. I did painstaking long research to identify the characters, verified the historical facts that I collected from various sources and slowly things started taking shape.
Ques: Do you see books as a carrier of an important message or a medium of entertainment?
Answer: It is both and both have their own purpose. Have you read Uncle’s Tom Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This book is on the atrocities that the black Americans or Negros had to face centuries back. It is said that this book inspired people so much as to start the civil war in North America, resulting in the emancipation of millions of Black Americans. If you write a book which carries an important message and capable of transferring the lives of people, you have done a wonderful job, but if you are writing a book only for entertainment, well, it is good.
Ques: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Answer: This is an excellent question and the answer is yes, provided what kind of stuff you are writing. If during the process of writing you feel guided by some external source and that you have become a medium through which the writing is happening, know that great spiritual alchemy is happening within during this process of writing. But if you are writing a mundane love story or something using just your intellect, it is merely ordinary stuff.
Ques: Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
Answer: Almost six months a year, I write. It is enough time to write a novel. The rest of the time I work with the editorial team in editing and re-editing different drafts of the novel. While writing, usually I work 4 hours a day and it affords me to complete writing 700-800 words which are, as I understand, good enough for a day.
Ques: Have you ever faced writer’s block? If yes, how did you overcome it?
Answer: Rarely. I give myself time and naturally get a new zeal to write.
Ques: When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?
Answer: Yes, I did as like all young men/women. I expected to do romance in life and with life. I dreamed of living like a vagabond, from one place to another, writing to my heart’s content, making a comfortable life out of it. But as I came to age, hard reality struck hard and I realized only a very few are lucky enough to make a living only by writing.
Ques: What is that dream goal you want to achieve before you die?
Answer: I am very much into several spiritual practices, and eager about past lives. I would consider my life complete if ever I have a distinct vision of my past lives and if the process of authentication proves them correct. I will then feel I have really earned something that even death cannot steal from me.
Ques: How would you describe the contemporary scenario of writing and reading in India?
Answer: Rarely do I read any contemporary Indian fiction and hence not well-equipped to answer this question. Owing to the wonderful reach of social media, many authors are coming with new novels almost every second day. I don’t know how many of them are really well-read and write error-free English. All the same, many are quenching their thirst for writing which is wonderful. However, as I understand, reading habit is steadily shrinking and in the coming days, it will apparently shrink even further.
Ques: How important is marketing a book in the present conditions when every day we see new titles coming up? Any tips to share?
Answer: I don’t know, I am trying to figure out the answer rather.
Ques: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? What is your favorite genre?
Answer: Nowadays I don’t read much of fiction, rather devour more non-fiction, like works by OSHO, J Krishnamurthy, ParamanshaYogananda. In my twenties and thirties, I read hundreds of novels. In one word I love classics and the authors who top my list are Rabindranath Tagore, Leo Tolstoy, William Somerset Maugham, Guy De Maupassant, O Henry, A J Cronin to name a few. There are a few more Bengali authors whose work I really admire.
Ques: Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Answer: After reading a few chick-lit fictions, youngsters think they are well-equipped to write a novel. Many youngsters send me their manuscripts to have a look into it. There are hundreds of grammatical mistakes in those manuscripts. To learn a language well you have to study a good deal otherwise your work cannot have an impact on readers. Please read works and stories by Guy De Maupassant, O Henry, Mulk Raj Anand or at least R. K. Narayan, you will witness how beautiful stories/sentences are formed. It will make you better-equipped to voice your thoughts.
Ques: Are we going to hear more from you in the future?
Answer: Be with me, soon will come up with another unusual novel.
*We wish Author Ratnadip Acharya all the best for his future endeavors.*
Connect with the author:
Facebook: Ratnadip Acharya