Her first book and she wrote it in just 6 days. Not cooped up in a beach house or looking at the inspiring hills, but while minding an active toddler. If that’s not a feat then I don’t know what is.
This dynamite of a lady is none other than Sonia Chatterjee.
An alumnus of Presidency College (Kolkata), Delhi University and XIME (Bangalore), Sonia Chatterjee holds two post graduate degrees in the fields of Chemistry and Management. With eight years of experience in the Banking sector heading branches of ICICI and HDFC Bank, she had taken a sabbatical from the corporate world to enjoy the roller coaster ride of motherhood. A self-confessed bibliophile, Sonia inherited her love of the written words from her Professor father. As a tribute to her late mother and a gift to her son on his second birthday, Sonia started blogging from September 2017.
Tell us the most interesting aspect about your book – Deal of Death?
The most interesting or rather weird aspect of my book will always be the way it was conceived and written. I had participated in the Blogchatter A2Z challenge in April on the nonfiction theme – A dollop of Bengal. When I signed up for the E-book carnival next, I started aligning my posts in a manner that befits an e-book. Halfway through my work, I realised that the blogs might have been a good read but the book felt like half – cooked biryani. It needed more information and time. I didn’t want to come out with a book whose quality stayed questionable in my own eyes. So I decided to inform Blogchatter about bowing out of this carnival.
As the submission date started approaching, most of my fellow bloggers in the Twitter DM group created by Blogchatter updated their submission status. That excitement was so infectious that I went a little berserk and thought of attempting a fiction novella. The noteworthy fact here is that this enthusiasm only showing its effect only 11th May onwards with the submission deadline as 13th May. So, Raya Ray was conceived on the evening of 11th May and without much idea about how I will go about writing it, I ventured onto this exciting (and crazy) journey. But fortune favours the brave (this has become my favourite line recently) and the deadline was extended until 16th May initially and 17th May finally. In 6 days, I managed to churn out a novella of 26k words.
I am sure I was one of the last ones to hit the send button before midnight on 17th May but that childish excitement of finally making it lingers on even today.
It is incredible, isn’t it?
What inspired you to write a mystery thriller?
I will have to credit the idea to my huge obsession with reading books in this genre. I grew up reading and loving the Detective genre (My G post in A2Z challenge was an ode to all those Bengali detectives or goyenda as they call it in the colloquial language). But I have to admit that I am hugely inspired by Satyajit Ray’s Feluda series and Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie. In fact very few people know that the surname of my protagonist was consciously created as a tribute to Satyajit Ray. I idolise him for being a multi talented genius.
My fav detectives too!
Did you outline the entire plot in the beginning itself? Or did you build it as and when you wrote?
I have already narrated how this novella was conceived. When I started writing the only thing that I knew was that her name was to be Raya Ray (I spent almost 2 hours in permutation and combination of names since her surname HAD to be Ray). And then I wanted it to have a historical base in Bengal since I had been visiting a lot of historical towns just before that. Her character started developing as I started writing. I am more of an impulsive writer and hardly stick to plans, so I let the story flow freely taking shape as I wrote. I work at insane hours (12-4 am is the usual time I keep for writing), so I would keep writing at this time and spend the next afternoon thinking if I wanted to continue with the story line I created last night. The exciting part was that I had managed to introduce so many levels of mystery that when it was time for Raya to make revelations and connect the history to the present incidents, I was cursing myself for trying to be extra innovative with the plot.
Raya Ray is not your usual detective – she is overweight and is dealing with child loss issues. How Raya Ray came into being? Who or what inspired you?
When I began the novella, I was sure about the protagonist being a lady. That’s because even though we have so many detectives in our country, there’s only a handful of female sleuths. While etching her character, I wanted her to be relatable. Also there had to be a solid reason for her to get involved in this case and in the story, it is the loss of a child that connected Raya and Sharmila. Often we are made to believe that a smart detective had to be tall and good-looking (more so if it’s a lady), so I wanted to consciously break that stereotypical notion. My Raya is married and overweight (and justifiably so) yet she’s sharper than any other character. Also I had been asked if Raya was similar to me in some ways. I would say it is not very unusual to see a character having few traits of the author.
You have described the quaint little town of Munshiganj in detail along with its history and legend. Is it a real place or fictitious?
Munshiganj is a figment of my imagination. It is an amalgamation of the places I had visited while working on my Bengal diaries. So the picturesque location and legend in the book have been partially inspired from those places. All the pictures used in the book had been clicked by me in various quaint towns in Bengal. When I started writing this plot, I assimilated those that fitted in the plot creating the historical background.
This is what I call a great combo of research and imagination!
Can your readers expect more murder mysteries or thrillers with Raya Ray as your main character?
I definitely want to write more thrillers in the Raya Ray series because my mind is buzzing with many plots that I want Raya to solve. But I am waiting for the right idea to start writing the next novel. Hopefully I should have that sorted by end of July.
Sonia, I am for one anxiously waiting for a sequel
If you get an option to change one thing about your book, what would it be?
It would have to be the approach to climax. Due to time constraints, I couldn’t add more details in the climax and making it feel a little rushed. There are quite a few layers of mystery in this book whose connecting points have been taken care of as the story unravelled. But I feel that it would be easier and more interesting for the readers to understand the instances that lead to the climax if I could describe them in more details. I am already working on this aspect and this is precisely why I have still not released this book on Amazon or any other platform.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I haven’t yet faced much of writer’s block but normally when I feel stuck, I let it go. I unwind by reading a lot of books in the genre of thriller and humour. I also love reading Bengali novels. But my biggest stress-buster is my 2.9 year old son. His constant chatter and stories help me create better stories.
Share tips on publishing and marketing your ebook.
Since I haven’t taken the publishing route yet (traditional or self –publishing), I don’t think I have the right experience to comment on this parameter.
But I would love to share few tips that really worked well for me while marketing my book. In fact 80 copies of Deal of Death had been downloaded even before it was officially launched by Blogchatter on Twitter and it was also one of the most downloaded books in the carnival.
- Create an initial hype through constant updates on social media much before the launch date of the book. It could be through an initial announcement of the book, cover launch, releasing a video of the book or a video of dramatic reading. The idea is to create curiosity.
- Use Facebook effectively because it lets you write more details about the book. As a new author, I would recommend using personal profile for posts related to the book until the author page garners enough number of followers. Tweet out bits and pieces of the book daily using the right hashtags. The hashtags are important in Instagram as well but honestly I am yet to figure out the working dynamics of Instagram and Pinterest, so can’t say much about them.
- Please don’t keep tagging people unnecessarily and continuously. It really gets annoying especially if the only interaction you have with those tagged is about your book.
- Use personal connects and groups on Whatsapp. Send a message to a contact individually and in groups as well but please don’t keep bombarding them with the same details every day.
- Seek feedback. This is the most critical aspect. As an author, it is very important to let the reader know that their inputs are valuable.
Whoa!! Those are some neat tips!
Throw some light on how you research while writing.
I had already picked up few relevant historical facts while working on my travel diaries. My reference material came from the tourist guides I met at each of these places, the books about the local folklores and few history books on the subject. The internet has managed to bring all these information in one place today. So I do get on Google and other relevant websites often to research on my topic and verify the information before putting them in the plot. Also most of the medical details in my story come from my Doctor husband. I am sure that he is soon going to start charging me a consultation fee for the unbelievable volume of questions I keep throwing at him.
Thank you for putting together such an amazing bunch of questions. I had real fun answering them.
I had fun asking them, and readers will have fun reading them, Sonia!
About Sonia’s book – Deal of Death
Munshiganj is a quaint town with a rich historical background. Its biggest attraction has been a temple and mosque co-existing within the same premises along with the tomb of Nawab Rehamat Khan. Recently though, the peace of this little town has been affected by the paranormal – the temple bell rings by itself daily at midnight.
Raya Ray, an ex-marketing honcho had been dealing with loss when a chance to help her Banker husband, Krishanu, marked her debut as a private investigator. Detective Raya Ray lands in Munshiganj in response to a call for help from Sharmila – the sister of her house- help Sutapa. Sharmila suspects foul play when the doctors at the town hospital tell her she delivered a stillborn child and detective Ray steps in to assist.
Raya steps into a field of landmines after the body of Dr. Sonam Misra from the same hospital is discovered on the deck of a steamer and she chances upon a secret safeguarded for ages inside the temple. With the help of local rickshaw puller Habul, Raya starts unraveling the mystery, unaware of the danger lurking over her as a pair of blue eyes trail her every move.
As she puts the pieces together, detective Ray realizes that nothing and no one are what they appear to be.
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A cute little video by Sonia reading her book Deal of Death
Sonia’s work can be found at soniasmusings.com. She currently works hard to realise her dream of becoming a best-selling author while secretly wishing harder for twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep.
All the best to you, Sonia!
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