Stories have been part of human history for a long time. They are perhaps instrumental in making us the dominant species, because they have allowed us to imagine unthinkable outcomes, to not be afraid, to empathize. Stories have done all that and more, for me. First as a reader, and now, as an author.
Stories have made me persevere at difficult times in my life and they have allowed me to dream. So here I am, a South-Asian woman sitting in Singapore, having signed a two-book deal with Amazon’s crime imprint, Thomas & Mercer.
It has been an uphill journey–from being agented in the UK, then separating amicably in order to brave the query trenches, this time in the USA. Finding Lucienne Diver from the Knight Agency, who is the sort of business partner I’d only thought possible in my imagination, and then having a very good editor fall in love with THE BLUE BAR, my next literary thriller set in Mumbai.
So many of you have helped me and cheered me along the journey, and as I keep saying, the blogging community and the writers here are some of the best. For more than the decade that I have started publishing, I’ve only received love and support from all of you, including so many from our warriors and the Ninja Cap’n Alex J Cavanaugh‘s Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG).
Which brings me to the IWSG question for today: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?
My answer is, I’ve never thought of such a line–my job as a writer is to portray characters and their actions and certain realities the way I see them, provide trigger warnings where needed, and let readers be the judge. Some of my characters have used bad language in You Beneath Your Skin, and that will be the case in The Blue Bar as well. I write crime novels, stories that portray the dark underbellies of society–and the language reflects that. No topic has been taboo: I’ve not shied away from violence or abuse in my stories. My only criteria have been absolute authenticity and never sensationalizing or glorifying crime or criminals. We humans are imperfect creatures, capable of the greatest acts of compassion as well as cruelty. My role as the author is to respect the characters–their story, and the readers–their time, and ability to make up their own minds.
Stories that do not patronize the reader nor reduce the characters to caricatures are my favorite as a reader, and that’s what I seek to replicate in my writing. Which brings me to an added way I plan to share stories, besides this site, various journals, and my books: my gazettes.
As some of you know, I already send out a Reading Gazette (reading recommendations and hacks) and a Writing Gazette (collated writing resources and industry information). More about them, and how to subscribe, here–-they have received lovely responses, and completely worthwhile to me in terms of the excellent feedback.
Based on feedback, I’m starting off a One-Shot Gazette.
I enjoy writing flash fiction and some of it has been published in excellent magazines, won awards, or been nominated for them. I love prompt-based fiction, and hope to receive writing prompts–pictures and words, from all of you, and then share the results via the One-Shot Gazette.
If you’d like to occasionally receive very short fiction, help fill this in. It will take 2 minutes, and will help me send you the sort of stories you might enjoy.
And once again, thank you for all the support. I try and reciprocate the best I can, and my gazettes are my attempt to give back all the love I’ve received over the past 13 years of this site.
Are you part of the Insecure Writers Support Group? Are you a reader or writer of stories, or both? Would you like to check out the One-Shot Gazette?
Today is the first Wednesday of the month post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
Founded by the Ninja Cap’n Alex J. Cavanaugh, the purpose of the group is to offer a safe space where writers can share their fears and insecurities without being judged. This is a wonderful group–if you aren’t a part of it, I urge you to join in!
The awesome co-hosts for the September 1 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pitt, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!
My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.
It is available in India here.
Reviews are appreciated–please get in touch if you’d like a review copy.
If you’re on Amazon, I’d appreciate it if you gave my Amazon author profile a Follow, here.
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Congratulations on your book turning into a series, Damyanti. You must be thrilled! I’m excited for you. Please let us know how it goes. Happy IWSG day any time.
Congratulations, Damyanti. So exciting! I wish you every success. And how is the option on filming You Beneath Your Skin going?
Congrats on your books. I mostly read PNR these days but I’m sure that readers who like crime novels will have fun with them.
Thank you, Bette!
This is wonderful news!
Thank you, Kerry!
Looking forward to your one shot Gazette.
I would like to ask you: how can I increase the readership of my second blog, Fictionista? I am not on Fb anymore and share my posts only on Twitter. How and where do I find more readers?
Shilpa, thanks for signing up–I appreciate the support.
This is a difficult question to answer because I think the response varies from blogger to blogger. I can only say subjectively that my readership has grown over many years, and I’ve done two things–visited and commented on blogs, and worked on my writing craft.
In the last few years with a professional writing career, my commenting has reduced, but I try and find ways to support my community. And when they come to the blog, I try and ensure they’re hooked, and go away satisfied. Because of this, many have subscribed and subscriptions are always a blessing and a bonus.
You’re a talented writer–I’m very sure that if you stick to it, you’ll develop a loyal following.
Thank you for the advice, D ♡♡
Yes to trigger warnings. It’s an ugly and beautiful world we live in which also gets reflected in books. But that doesn’t mean I want to read, nor do I write gory details (as the event happens) violence against women and children. It can be touched on or mentioned or the readers can connect dots through the physical, mental, emotional trauma the character(s) go through. That’s where I’ll draw the line.
Yes, trigger warnings are important. In my genre, I do often have to depict violence but I try and do it with respect and sensitivity.
So proud of you D. You are rocking your writing world. I look forward to reading your next book. Hugs <3
Thank you, Debby. I appreciate your constant support over the years!
What a great question…I don’t think you can draw the line as each character comes to life in their own way and with their own voice.
Thanks, so much, and yes, I agree.
Thank you for sharing!!.. all the best as you follow your dreams, wish you nothing but success… as far as sharing thoughts, be it a letter, book or whatever, I find if one lets one’s fingers do the walking (typing/writing) and the heart do the talking, one rarely goes wrong…. 🙂
Until we meet again..
May the sun shine all day long
Everything go right, nothing go wrong
May those you love bring love back to you
And may all the wishes you wish come true
“if one lets one’s fingers do the walking (typing/writing) and the heart do the talking, one rarely goes wrong”–so true, Larry.
Hi Damyanti – this post enticed me … and I need to come back to re-read. I congratulate you along the path you’re taking – I so enjoyed your book ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ – take care and all the very best with your publishing and more career – cheers Hilary
Thanks so much for reading and reviewing You Beneath Your Skin, Hialry. I appreciate the support and would love your opinion on the one-shots in my newest gazette.
I love this line: “My role as the author is to respect the characters–their story, and the readers–their time, and ability to make up their own minds.”
If the language fits the story, then you’ve done well.
Thanks, Gwen, and thank you for visiting!
Genre and age categories define so many of the lines for me.
Huge congrats on your new book deal! So exciting!!!
Thanks so much, Jemi!
When the world you’re writing about is a tough & dirty one, you cannot be coy about the language or it becomes unbelievable. And clearly you have found a successful line with the news of your new contract. Many congratulations to you – upwards & onwards.
Visiting today from https://fictioncanbefun.wordpress.com/2021/10/06/iwsg-drawing-the-line/
Thanks so much, and well said.
Well done with the book deal and I like your approach to marketing the short stories. Great idea.
And thanks for visiting me on the IWSG this month 🙂
Thanks, Jemima. It is less marketing and more an excuse for playing around in my writing Universe. At the very least, it will be much fun.
Congrats on the book deal.
Thank you, Juneta!
I always enjoy reading your short stories Damyanti.
Thanks so much for reading, Ian.
Here’s a quick P.S. Congrats on your recent publication. I just ordered your novel on Amazon. I am hoping to complete my memoir soon and would love some guidance on which houses typically look at or publish memoirs. Keep on writing.
Thank you, Steve, for your kind words and for buying the novel. The proceeds go to two charities, so I appreciate the support.
I’m can’t think of publishing houses that accept memoirs off the top of my head, but I’ve seen agents who represent them–#MSWL hashtag on twitter and manuscriptwishlist.com is a great place to look for them. I’d also recommend a subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace. A month costs 25 USD but that is worthwhile for a thorough research on which houses and editors acquire memoirs.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan has been a huge impact on my life as a man, as a sojourner, and as a Christian.
I have heard so much of it, but never read it. Maybe some day–now that I have a recommendation.
There are many and hard to pick, but keigo higashino’s novels are addictive in my opinion because his writing is logical and stimulating. Same applies to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and so on.
I love Keigo Higashino!
I totally think the genre will lean in or away from topics and language.
Congrats on your success. 🙂
Thanks so much!
Once again Damyanti, many congratulations for your book deal. I am looking forward to your next. Filled up the form for the short story as well. I liked your answer to the question. As writers we must present the world as it is, while still showing hope for a better tomorrow.
Thank you so much, Sonia. Grateful, as ever, for your constant support.
Very well done Damyanti; congratulations!
Thanks so much, Graham!
Congratulations on your next book, Damyanti. Not surprised at all. You have a wonderful voice. I’m looking forward to reading it.
Thanks for always being so supportive, Jacqui!
Congratulations on the book deal and projects! ^_^ Sounds exciting.
As for the question, the advice I’ve hung onto over the years, though I don’t know where it came from, is you have to write as if your mother wasn’t looking over your shoulder. I was raised in a very conservative background, so this was something that I struggled with at first. “What if someone I know reads this and sees (insert stuff here that I myself might not say or do).” And the point made with this advice is that your characters are not you. Yes, every writer puts some part of oneself in the character design, but the characters act, think, and speak according to their design, not according to the author’s morality or values. If that was the case, there would be no murder mysteries … because most authors don’t go around killing people just because their characters do. And this is true of every character, major or minor. I’ve worried about this in related ways, too, such as fretting over a surgery scene and asking my emergency room nurse neighbour to review it. But here again, she gave similar advice. “Just write what you want to write. Readers know it’s fiction. Doctors know lasers don’t work the way they do in Star Wars, but they still love it.” The story is a self-contained universe. So, as long as what you write is credible within the boundaries of the story, that’s what matters.
Authors can’t be *everything* that *all* of their characters are. And if the reader doesn’t understand that, recognizing the boundary between fiction and reality falls on the reader. So, if someone reads my stories and thinks, “She’s a horrible person to write a character like this,” or, “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about because I’m a quantum physicist and this is wrong,” then they’ve missed the whole point of fiction and imaginative story-telling. As writers, we have to do what’s necessary to tell the story, but beyond a certain point, what the reader makes of it becomes their ball on their side of the court. And at that point, not every story or characters is for everyone. This is also why I often say that the protagonist doesn’t even need to be likeable. He just needs to be relatable. Those different points of view from different types of people are what keep it real.
Thanks, Melody! I need all the good wishes I can get.
And very well said: As writers, we have to do what’s necessary to tell the story, but beyond a certain point, what the reader makes of it becomes their ball on their side of the court.
Another book – awesome!
Your genre means you have to write realistic which isn’t always pretty.
Thanks, Alex! The next one will go into edits soon, and I hope to write its sequel this November. Wish me luck 🙂
Congrats on your book deal! Depending on the genre, some things can be hard to avoid, but adding the proper content warnings go a long way in helping the reader decide if they want to proceed or not.
Thank you, Meka. Yes, I think it is fine as long as the audience knows what they’re signing up for.