Would you write outside your comfort zone? This is one of my curiosities with all fiction writers I meet. I ask that and other questions to Sucharita Dutta-Asane, one of my co-writers on the African-Asian short story anthology Behind The Shadows, and now a blog-and-writer-buddy.
1. What has your writing journey been like?
It’s too early to speak of this, but yes, it has been a meandering road. With all the ups and downs involved in a between-two-pressure-cooker-whistles kind of writing. It has also been a journey that has brought me my greatest wealth—two fantastic mentor-writers and a strong support group of writers who’ve believed in me.
2. Tell us about the genre you write in, and what inspired you to choose it. What is a genre that you find intriguing enough to try which is currently outside your comfort zone?
I have been writing short stories for a long time and am currently working on a novel and a short story collection. So the short story is a comfort zone. I like the brevity and terseness this genre necessitates. In a lighter vein, it is also the genre that is possible in the kind of time crunch one deals with around two young kids.
Drama is completely outside of my comfort zone right now but a genre I look forward to in the future, what I long to do.
3. How important has your online presence been in the publication and sales of your work?
I used to write for online magazines—short stories, articles, book reviews—and the readership these brought me proved to be fulfilling and fruitful in the long run. They gave me a reader base I could always go to without having to prove myself over and over again.
4. What are your views on self-publishing vs traditional publishing?
That’s a conundrum for our times. While self publishing has its merits in terms of time taken and control over the finished manuscript, I still root for traditional publishing. As a writer, I’d rather concentrate on writing than on the kind of energy required for self publishing. There’s also some satisfaction in knowing that a respected publishing house has liked and accepted my effort and finds it publishing-worthy. At this point of time, in traditional reading societies like ours, books seem to acquire much more credibility and respect when published this way. Of course, that says nothing about future possibilities.
5. What is the last book you loved reading? Why?
It’s difficult to pinpoint any one book, but yes, I loved Jerry Pinto’s ‘Em and the Big Hoom’ and Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s wonderfully restrained novel ‘Between Clay and Dust,’** Ambai’s ‘Fish in a Dwindling Lake,’ Julian Barnes’ ‘The Sense of an Ending,’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘The Thing around my Neck,’ and many more.
Pinto and Barnes’ books deal with memory in different ways, and this is a recurrent theme for me too, something of an obsession that I frequently explore.
6. If you had the chance to speak directly to your ideal reader, what would you say to them?
Read me. What else would a writer want?
7. Tell us about the books you have published, and anything you have forthcoming.
For a long time I published my short stories and a novella on a now defunct site called www.4indianwomen.com. I also write book reviews for various sites including Open Space and Asian Cha. My print publications include:
- ‘Deliverance’ in Vanilla Desires, from Unisun Publications, Bangalore (2012).
- ‘Sine Die’ and ‘Balance of Love’ in Ripples: An Anthology of Short Stories by Indian Women Writers, APK Publishers, Pune (2010).
- ‘From Sita to Vaidehi—Another Journey,’ a magic realist story in ‘Breaking the Bow,’ an anthology of speculative fiction based on the Ramayana, Zubaan, New Delhi. Editors: Anil Menon and Vandana Singh (2012).
- ‘Cast Out’ in ‘Behind the Shadows,’ an anthology of short stories from Asia and Africa. Editors: Rohini Chowdhury and Zukiswa Wanner (2012).
Sucharita Dutta-Asane juggles writing and editing with motherhood, 24 hour profiles that interrupt, facilitate, and balance one another in ways she had never imagined. With online and print publications to her credit, she is forever excited about writing and getting published, but burning the midnight oil is never enough; in between changing diapers, feeding, and managing homework and house help, writing often takes the backseat. When writing seeps through the cracks and dreams to predominate, the supportive family is kept at bay while she pounds the keyboard and lets imagination and language take care of the rest.
Having heard Sucharita and learned about her writing, would you like to talk about yours? What is your comfort zone? Would you write outside of it?
I used to write horror flash fiction as much as reading them. Just recently I’ve decided to endeavour into new territories. It was hard at first, trying to think out of my norms, but now I’m really enjoying it. Being able to write in different genres is a reward indeed. My current wordpress blog is my proof. 🙂
I’ll have to come back and take a longer look. First impressions are very good…. 😉
The fun being writer is to explore outside the comfort zone…why be a writer if one’s doesn’t love exploring…better be a editor then.
Kumar, I agree, but that is just our subjective opinion. Many writers have built perfect careers based on one genre.
Read my blog 😉
I have written outside my comfort zone in the past, but have little interest in doing so again. My comfort zone is multiple third POV, in the genre of fantasy. I’ve dabbled in first, but quite frankly I suck. Sure, I could force myself and get better, but since the standard for my genre is to have multiple POV characters written in third limited or omniscient, why bother? I think my time would be better spent perfecting the skills that serve me genre. Also, I could write outside my genre, but I just simply don’t want to. I don’t read much outside my genre, and this is where my heart lie.
Ciara, to each their own, I guess. If your heart lies in fantasy and you don’t want to leave that comfort zone, be the best you can be at it 🙂
On the collaborative fiction mailing list that I used to run, most of the writers were either horror or sci-fi/fantasy writers, and they often explored gay themes (e.g. gay vampires), all of which is outside my comfort zone. Still, I wanted to write with them, so I generally played the person who was not gay and neither a vampire nor an extraterrestrial. I made some of my best friends that way (two of which, sadly, have passed on, and I miss them terribly). With my latest story, I returned to the world where the husband of one of my characters (I seem to have no trouble writing female characters) lives, through the eyes of his daughter. I had forgotten how much fun that was. I doubt that I would write a vampire story or one that involved people with magical powers; nevertheless, I learned to appreciate those genres.
I find genres can feed off each other, John, and thank you so much for sharing your writing experience.I came to fantasy later in my life, and though it is not my fave genre, I can appreciate stories set in those worlds. Appreciation and reading across genres is important for a writer, imho.
And yes, in fact I just released a book that’s far outside of my comfort zone. I think to grow as writers we have to occasionally push ourselves into new and sometimes scary territories.
Scary territories is exactly it. I need to push the limits of my comfort to figure exactly how far I can go.
Read me – hilarious!!! Good luck, Sucharita. And not sure how far from my comfort zone I’d go.
I always experiment outside my comfort zone, Alex, and feel it is a good way to flex my writing muscles 🙂