I would love to be known as an author who dares to tell unconventional stories that are popular and widely read in India says, Sourabh Mukherjee.
Sourabh Mukherjee is the author of the psychological thriller In the Shadows of Death: A Detective Agni Mitra Thriller (2015) that has been receiving accolades from readers, book critics and the mainstream national media, the most prominent among them being The Times of India, The Hindu, Business Standard, The New Indian Express, Yahoo India News, Zee News and in-flight magazines of leading airlines.
His earlier works include the immensely popular e-books Nargis Through my Summers and Loves Lost, which are available in a combined paperback format as Romance Shorts. The book was ranked at No. 4th among popular romantic books by Indian authors in 2016 in an online poll conducted by the popular youth e-zine SalisOnline.com.
Sourabh’s books have been showcased in the World Book Fair, Delhi (2016, 2017) and at Antaragni, the annual Fest of IIT Kanpur, 2016. He was the recipient of the Golden Pen Award in the Monsoon Romance Contest 2014 for his story “The Girl of My Monsoons” organized by Sulekha.com.
An Electronics and Telecommunications Engineer from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, in his day-job, Sourabh is a Vice President with Accenture and has worked for the past two decades in a variety of roles in leading global information technology firms like IBM, Cognizant, Infosys, and Wipro. The author of several publications on emerging trends in business and technology, Sourabh speaks regularly in various national and global conferences and technology summits. A keen observer of human behavior and cultural diversities, Sourabh loves traveling and has traveled across the USA and various countries in Europe and Asia. An avid reader of fiction, Sourabh is equally passionate about photography, movies, and music. Here is the highlight of the confab we had with him last week;
Q. Your last novel In the Shadows of Death got positive reviews from critics and readers, how it feels and what is the response of the readers in general outside the online portals?
Ans. It is a wonderful feeling. The feedback I have received from readers and reviewers has been overwhelming. In The Shadows of Death has consistently been among the top sellers in various listings in its category. The book has been receiving accolades from the mainstream national media, the most prominent among them being The Times of India, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, Business Standard, The New Indian Express, Yahoo India News, Zee News, The Free Press Journal, Absolute India Tabloid, The Punjab Tribune and in-flight magazines of leading airlines.
At the launch of the book, Prof. Subodh Sarkar, prolific poet, writer, and recipient of the Sahitya Academy Award said, “The writing is intelligent and layered. Adopting the right language for a thriller is not easy, and that is where the book scores with its language and tone. Thrillers are no longer stereotyped. A contemporary thriller is also a story about human emotions, human relationships, and our frailties and vulnerabilities. In the Shadows of Death is a classic example of the same. The book conforms to a global style of writing thrillers.” For me, that was a huge recognition for my first novel.
Readers and reviewers have loved the style of the narrative, the non-linear storytelling, the characterizations, the twists in the story, and most importantly the tragedy at the core.
Q. Tell us something about your novel In the Shadows of Death, what made you choose the subject and what is its USP?
Ans. I feel what readers have loved about In the Shadows of Death is the fact that, in the garb of a thriller it deals with several extremely relevant and sensitive issues which are not usually talked about – like sexual harassment of the male child, ‘reverse’ sexual exploitation at the workplace, the politics of success through sexual favours and an in-depth look at adultery and infidelity in the modern urban Indian society.
In The Shadows of Death is a fast-paced psychological thriller unfolding in the city of Kolkata, with Agni Mitra, Assistant Commissioner of Police, investigating a series of murders of adulterous women, even as he has to battle storms brewing in his personal life. The voice of the serial murderer, whose identity is undisclosed till the climax of the story, runs on a parallel track across the novel providing the reader with insights into the killer’s traits, his actions, and his emotions.
The detective is not portrayed as an infallible law enforcement machinery. He is a human being dealing with personal issues. The character of the serial killer, on the other hand, is not uni-dimensional either, and a parallel track throughout the novel in the voice of the killer provides insights into the dark recesses of the killer’s mind.
Q. You have written romantic shorts in the past and now a thriller, which genre you enjoy writing the most and why?
Ans. Under the garb of its obvious elements of thrill and suspense, In The Shadows of Death has a strong emotional and romantic undercurrent. The way I look at this is, I write only about human relationships. The many ways in which they unravel and manifest themselves end up creating stories that sometimes excite us, scare us, or make us sad – leading to the corresponding categorization of the stories into genres like Romance, Horror, Drama or Thriller. But, it’s always the complicated and unpredictable human nature at the core of everything.
When I look at the feedback I have received so far for, In the Shadows of Death, most readers have been touched by the underlying element of tragedy in the story. My novel is primarily about our inner devils destroying relationships we value.
Q. What is your quest as an author? Where you want to see yourself in the times to come?
Ans. I would love to be known as an author who dares to tell unconventional stories that are popular and widely read by readers in India. I refuse to believe that there is only one genre that sells in India. Our readers are exposed today to global titles, they are watching a variety of content from all across the world on TV and on the Internet. We should not underestimate their reading preferences.
Q. How much your stories are inspired by your own life?
Ans. The story explores the dark recesses of the human mind and the stark realities of urban life in contemporary India. The depiction of the unpredictability of human behavior and the complexity of human relationships in the novel has roots in my keen interest in psychology. My characters are not all black and white, and I am never judgmental. I offer reasons for their actions, which primarily have their roots in past experiences. The insecurities and vulnerabilities my characters suffer from, and the inner devils they battle are all very real. The setting also reflects my own experiences in the corporate world, thanks to my association with the industry for almost two decades. There is a bit of me in all my characters.
Q. Is finding a publisher was a challenge? How is your experience so far of working with Srishti Publishers?
Ans. It has been a wonderful experience working with Srishti Publishers. I will always be thankful to Jayantakumar Bose and Arup Bose for believing in my unconventional take on human relationships and agreeing to publish my first novel. Jayanta-da, as I call him, was extremely encouraging when I was a bundle of nerves as we were nearing the date of release. He was very confident about the book and I am happy I have not let him down. Arup was very responsive, always available to answer my ‘first-time-author’ questions and made valuable suggestions regarding marketing and promotions and helped me make the right contacts.
Q. Who are your favorite writers and also tell us about your favorite books?
Ans. Satyajit Ray and Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay are of course icons when it comes to Bengali crime fiction. I have grown up reading Feluda and Byomkesh. However, as for influences, I have always been fascinated by Saradindu’s work. Byomkesh is very flesh-and-blood, never larger than life. Also, every Byomkesh story is about human emotions that drive one to the path of crime and how we give in to inner devils and unleash the criminal lurking inside each one of us.
Jeffrey Archer is an all-time favorite. I think he is an institution when it comes to storytelling – whether it’s his novels or his short stories. I have been a big fan of Agatha Christie – mainly because of Poirot’s methods of investigation, the witty repartees, the human emotions at the core of the crimes. Among more recent crime authors, I like the Alex Cross stories by James Patterson. I was floored by The Devotion of Suspect X and Malice by Keigo Higashino. I am also hooked to the works of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.
Q. Who or what is your inspiration to write?
Ans. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I have never really written for a purpose – it is just something I love to do. In my early childhood, I would spend hours writing, as well as making illustrations for my own stories. A number of my poems were published in children’s magazines back in the day. I continued to write through my teenage and later in college.
Later, as I traveled around the world, I grew as a person getting to observe people from widely varying cultural backgrounds and to study their emotions, their thoughts, their behavior from various perspectives. And stories kept growing.
Q. What’s next? Already weaving ideas for future books or not yet?
Ans. The next book in the franchise The Colours of Passion is due for release in the next couple of months. In fact, the story was conceived even before the release of In the Shadows of Death which carries the synopsis of the next book. The story is very close to my heart. It is set against the booming real estate and shopping mall scene in Kolkata and the movie and fashion industries. The story is about what happens when money and glamor come together. Everyone who has read the story so far has found it gripping and the climax unexpected.
Q. Tell us something about your work apart from writing and personal life a bit?
Ans. In my day job, I am a Vice President with Accenture India working on emerging technologies in the areas of Information Management and Analytics – which keeps me quite busy around the clock and on the road most of the time. I regularly write papers on emerging trends in business and technology, and also speak in various national and global conferences and technology summits.
I live in Kolkata with my family – my parents, my wife and a son. I am an avid reader of fiction and make sure I read every day. Music helps me unwind, my favorites depend on my mood. And I am a big movie buff.
What I find interesting about myself is my ability to chase my dreams under all circumstances. While I have had this extremely blessed journey from being a state topper in West Bengal Higher Secondary Council Examinations to being among the toppers in the Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering department in Jadavpur University to finally become one of the youngest Vice Presidents in Accenture, I have managed to remain loyal to my passions and have anchored programs before live audiences, spoken at national and international conferences and carved out a full-fledged writing career.
Q. Any message for the readers and budding writers you want to give?
Ans. It is important to create real, identifiable characters in a story – unless of course, one is writing a fantasy or a superhero story. Correct use of the language is essential. An author should ensure that a story progresses at a uniform pace – a story that slows down after an energetic start is a big letdown. Finally, it is not about the length but always about the impact of a story. I have read one-page stories that have left me thinking for days.