Friday, January 5, 2018

Interview with suspense author Sangeeta Mahapatra

My special author guest to wrap up the week is Sangeeta Mahapatra. We’re chatting about her new suspense and psychological horror anthology, Wreath and Other Stories: Tales of Horror and Suspense.

Sangeeta Mahapatra is the executive editor of Business Economics magazine. She has a doctoral degree in International Relations and has worked as a business journalist as well as a research scholar in institutes in Geneva, Australia, and the United States specializing in Security and Terrorism Studies. She was a Fulbright Research Fellow at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, Ohio State University, USA. She is currently based in Kolkata, India, working on a book on the counter-terrorism strategies of India, Israel, and the United States of America.

In 1999, her first book of fiction, Miasma, an anthology of suspense and mystery stories, was published by Chowringhee Prakashini Press, Kolkata. Wreath and Other Stories: Tales of Horror and Suspense is her second collection of short stories.

Welcome, Sangeeta. Please tell us about your current release.
Wreath and Other Stories is a collection of ten stories that shade over to the dark realms of psychological horror and suspense. To annex a phrase of Arendt, the stories deal with the ‘banality of evil’. As a storyteller, it gives me immense pleasure to scare my readers. The challenge is to entertain them as well.

I hope to do this with Wreath and Other Stories. Each story is different, but all have a strong sense of atmosphere, have relatable characters, and if I may say so, a pretty neat twist in the tale. Stories like ‘Red Moon’, ‘Captive’, ‘The Wait’ and ‘Wreath’ are supernatural thrillers. ‘Malevolent’ is a psychological science-fiction having, what a reviewer (bless him) described as “a strong human core”. ‘Fey’, ‘Tick Tock’ and ‘‘Déjà vu’ are a bit gothic, borrowing on traits of the noir thriller while ‘Artistic Spirit’ and ‘Snapshot’ are comparatively lighter in tone with an undercurrent of humour and irony.

So, welcome to my world- it’s dark, slightly unhinged, but nevertheless thrilling. I hope you enjoy your stay.

May I invite you to know more about the world of Wreath at my blog.

What inspired you to write this book?
For me, there is no greater fear than the chilling sense of self-dissolution. The Dostoyevskian ethical dilemma fascinates me: what would suborn a decent person to commit a crime? You might be able to escape an external monster but how you do escape yourself? I would look to create such plots out of images that affected me, moved me. A cackling laugh, a crow perched on a pole against gathering clouds, a couple in earnest conversation- any image could trigger a story if the mood felt right. Usually, a haunting ambience would set the mood. I wrote these stories over a period of time but what inspired me to publish them together in one book was the modest assumption that they were too much of a good thing to be kept to oneself.

Book Blurb:
“What is it that we fear? An evil presence around us, watching and waiting for a small slip, or the realisation that the malevolence is within us and has already made its move?

Wreath and Other Stories will take you into a world that is slightly off its hinges- a bizarre, eerie realm. In short, a world much like our own, if only we would notice it.

A dangerous obsession of an artist, a broken childhood promise, a birthday gift gone horribly wrong, a soldier trapped in a nightmare, a warning from beyond the grave, a writer’s new lease of life in a “suicide central”, a patient’s struggle with insanity, a terrible crime in an idyllic artists’ town, a man’s record of his last moments, a bride haunted by her past...

With grey characters, a creeping sense of dread, and a twist at the end, it will ensure that you go to bed satisfied, having had your fill of a world of wickedness and terror...until that world engulfs you in your dreams. 

This book will enthrall lovers of horror and suspense.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I was challenged by my mother and brother to write a romance. I tried doing this but after a few pages, I found I had murdered a character. Allowing nature to take its course, I decided to blend romance with a murder mystery. So, my next novel is called The Man-Haters’ Club. It’s about four spirited young women who are best friends. They get embroiled in a series of murders (yes, why stop at one murder when the more is the merrier) in their seaside town. Enter four men who need to be good enough for my fab four heroines.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I never thought about this. I just wrote whatever I felt like, whenever I wanted. I know that whenever I couldn’t write, I felt hollow and depressed, and would look like the ghouls missing from my stories but probably haunting your basements.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
As a journalist and an academic, I write full-time. But the style of writing is different. I have had to school myself here so that the academic and journalistic styles don’t blend. I have to be measured in my tone and mindful of the facts. But there is a precious sense of freedom in writing fiction- you can be whoever you want, speak like different people (especially the kind of people you don’t like- role-playing becomes much more enjoyable), and give full rein to your imagination. The pen flows freely whenever I write fiction. I try to eke out a few hours each week to write my novel. I am like a sloth and a beaver here. It takes me time to start a story but once I start, I can’t stop until I have written ‘The End’.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to play with idioms and indulge in a bit of guessing game with my readers.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was unambitious as a child. I enjoyed storing up information. I used to pester my parents and teachers with questions and read everything from cabbages to kings. The problem was that if one is interested in many things, it is difficult to focus on one thing. I never planned my life and just went with the flow. I guess, the bloodhound instinct reared up and took a different shape. Since I don’t like violence in real life, the powers up there decided to make me a journalist and an academic researcher instead of a detective.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I like writing political satires. If you are interested in my non-fiction writing, please drop by this site.


Print: Amazon | Amazon UK |

No comments: