Wednesday, April 24, 2024

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Shome Dasgupta

Shome Dasgupta is the author of The Seagull And The Urn (HarperCollins India), and most recently, the novels The Muu-Antiques (Malarkey Books) and Tentacles Numbing (Thirty West), a prose collection Histories Of Memories (Belle Point Press), a short story collection Atchafalaya Darling (Belle Point Press), and a poetry collection Iron Oxide (Assure Press). His first book i am here And You Are Gone won the 2010 OW Press Fiction Contest. His writing has appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, New Orleans Review, Jabberwock Review, American Book Review, Arkansas Review, Magma Poetry, and elsewhere. He lives in Lafayette, LA and can be found at and @laughingyeti.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

I still very vividly remember receiving the email about my first book winning a contest. I had a very basic flip phone at the time, but it was able to receive notifications. I saw it as I was driving home, and I pulled into the parking lot of the movie theater, and read the email in disbelief. I read it over and over and over again, and then the tears came. I don’t know how it changed my life—I can’t explain it, but if anything, I know it certainly gave me the encouragement to keep going. Atchafalaya Darling was really fun to write—there weren’t any obstacles or challenges as I drafted each story. It was the most relaxed and at ease I had felt as I put together this collection. There are some darker toned stories in this collection, but even then, I didn’t feel burdened by them, but rather my burdens were being released as I journeyed through these pieces.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

Poetry was definitely my first form entering the world of writing, and I think this was mainly because of the music I was listening to, which was heavily lyrically oriented, and I just wanted to create those same sensations with my own words.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Starting a project—I don’t think it takes too long because I have a general idea of what I’d like to do with language or the characters or the plot, but only a general idea that floats around in my head. Initially, it arrives quickly, but every new project has a new experience and process—some being quicker than others. I’d like to think that the first draft of Atchafalaya Darling was one of my quickest, but after that—the rewrites and revisions definitely require more time and attention. While there are several versions of each story, I don’t think there is anything all too majorly different; however, one simple sentence, especially at the end of a story can remarkably change the whole tone.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

It usually begins with a line—most likely an opening line that just kind of pops into my head, or an image, and with either, I explore or consider how to create a sound and rhythm out of it—this is for both poetry or prose, and then from there, I’ll see if I can continue with it and find out what happens. I've used both processes with different books, but I don't know if it starts off as intentional.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I dread give a public reading (or even recordings of any sort). The anxiety that comes with it is overwhelming. I think the actual reading part is fine, mainly because it is all a blur, but the thought of giving a reading or waiting to give one—the days leading up to it and on the actual day itself really gets to me. Conversely, I love to attend readings—whether small or large venues, I find them to be magical as a spectator.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

I don’t think I’m keeping in mind any kind of theoretical practicalities in my writing—at least not intentionally. Perhaps, it can be analyzed in such a way, but I’m not focusing on it. I don’t know—I think I write on the surface level, and maybe there’s a deeper meaning that can be found, hopefully, an engaging connection to which readers can relate. I’m not sure if I’m trying to answer any questions—or maybe once I finish a particular piece or poem or manuscript, questions arise, which might lead to go back and see if there’s some kind of answer, but for the most part, I just kind of write and then write and then write some more.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I think this varies from writer to writer—each having their own intentions. I don’t know what the role of a writer should be—I know that for me, it’s trying to connect to the world in hopes that readers might be able to find the same kind of relationship. I love the elements that surround writing—such as language and imagery, and I try to keep it as simple as that. Perhaps, the role is given from the reader rather than the writer. I do know that there are writers who have impacted society in meaningful and powerful ways, and I admire them so much in their courage to share their voice to provide a magnifying glass, hovering it over our lives, past, present, and future. So much change and progress, I think, has been created by literature, much like any other form of art and creativity, and it’s quite clear how reading and writing and writing and reading are so important these days, regardless of a potential role of a writer.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I have been very, very fortunate and lucky to have nothing but amazing experiences with previous editors—whether it’s for a journal or a publisher, there’s so much insight to learn from what they can offer for their writers. I find it engaging and the various perspectives provided, I always take into consideration. I think that anything I’ve written which has gone through the expertise of an editor is stronger because of it.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

About writing? Or life in general? I guess for either one or both—be happy with what you’re doing. I say this coming from a privileged way of living, though there was a large part of my life, even though I had all the necessities for a life, when I was nowhere near feeling any kind of joy, whether it was related to writing or pretty much anything else. I think self-care has much to do with it, and finding a way to love yourself and others and sharing your experiences and emphasizing and sympathizing with others and encouraging each other to keep going. These are bits and pieces of advice, whether directly or indirectly over the recent years, and I always keep that in mind day to day.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction to creative nonfiction)? What do you see as the appeal?

I feel like it’s generally a smooth transition because it only happens when an idea pops up, whether it’s for a poem or fiction or nonfiction—I think the trickiest part is writing in one form, and an idea for another form comes to mind, and trying to make the decision of diving right into the new idea or stay with the original one, mainly because of impatience on my part, but I’m also worried about losing momentum if I were to move from one piece to another without having completed the current work-in-progress. If I’ve finished one form, though, it seems to be a nice switch if there’s something else I’d like to write in another form.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

Oh the writing routine definitely changes—I guess it changes with whatever works best with what’s going on at the time. Some days, I like to write in the mornings or afternoon, other times—at night, or ideally, at all times of the day. It all just kind of depends on what’s going on in my life. In the summer though, as I have the time do so, I try to write every day—it doesn’t matter what time of day, but at some point, every day, though I don’t think it’s necessary.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I don’t think I turn to anything for inspiration, at least not intentionally, but rather, I just wait it out or just force myself to put words down even though they aren’t the words I want, and hopefully, I’ll find a way out of it.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Oh gosh—any kind of Indian cooking.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

Oh definitely—all those mentioned: music, art, science, nature, movies, TV, sports—I try to soak it all in from anywhere I can.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

All of it, to be honest. I try to read as much as possible—whether it’s books, journals, social media, brochures, manuals, anything and everything that can be read. There are a million writers, too—but I guess I don’t want to only mention a few of them because I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

I would love to ride a horse, or at least be friends with one.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

Writing is always a side gig for me—meaning, it’s not my way of living so I think no matter what I would be doing as a profession, I’d still be writing. Any occupation to attempt? Perhaps being a farmer or a mechanic, or maybe a computer programmer even though I have no clue how to perform in any these realms.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I think because I was always surrounded by it—I was very lucky to have access to books, and everyone I knew, especially in my family, were always reading.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I recently read Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s American Daughters, and I was mesmerized by it, and I’ve still been thinking a lot about Katy Simpson Smith’s The Weeds. It was on TV the other day, and I really enjoyed Unstoppable.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I’m working on some shorter pieces, whether it’s fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction, but it looks like I’m focusing a bit more on poetry right now, while somewhere in the back of mind, and I’m letting some possible ideas for a novel simmer.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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