“The first thing about this book that stands out is its language. Right from page one, you know this is not going to be one of those commercially successful novels that sells masala plots and sex in the name of literature. Once you realise that, it is impossible to not keep turning the pages until the very end. Siddharth Dasgupta has a very matured and grand sense of language that has the wow factor without feeling heavy. Then there are the two characters of Arjun and Genevieve who are endearing, flawed and very real.” A month old, Siddharth Dasgupta’s debut novel, Letters from an Indian Summer, is on its mission to captivate souls and spread the message of love. But no, this isn’t just another love story. Here’s getting to know the man behind the beautiful work that is Letters from an Indian Summer.
Could you tell us a little about the inspiration behind writing “Letters from an Indian Summer”? How did you pick the topic and title?
The inspiration behind this novel was something as basic and in-your-face as life itself. There were these stories, experiences, memories and encounters floating around impatiently in the air, waiting to be brought together and encapsulated in a somewhat coherent form. Hence, Letters from an Indian Summer. The topic pretty much chose itself, and I think the words above should give you some pointer towards that. It’s a story brimming with wanderlust and a sense of romance that will, hopefully, linger. As for the title, the letters between the two central characters form these vivid focal points in the story, moving back and forth in time, and as such, are a moving window to the characters at different points in their lives. The ‘Indian Summer’ part is touched upon right at the beginning of the novel, hinting at the turmoil and sense of betrayal at play… it’s more an Indian Summer of the mind, really.
You’ve written the book in 5 months. What kept you going? How did you manage your time?
There were struggles of course, as there absolutely should be while writing a book, especially early on. But once I’d weathered those early storms, the words came in a pretty consistent deluge. Another thing to take into consideration is that much of this novel is rooted in things that have happened, in experience that I’ve gone through, which helped decrease that lag-time or the customary writer’s block. Also, I love that crisp early morning vibe for writing, so whether I’d had an all-nighter or simply wasn’t “feeling it”, I started to force myself to at least put in those couple of hours a day, bright and early. As long as I got that in, I was quite happy being random and wayward for the rest of the day.
What was your biggest challenge in writing the book?
Myself, I suppose. There’s always a reason not to do it. There’s always an excuse to go do something else. So you need to have a firm talk with yourself, give yourself a hard mental slap or two, and basically just get on with. Additionally, I think if you just keep yourself open to the world and its many, many mysteries, things gradually begin to fall into place.
If you could meet anyone from history, who would you meet and why?
I think I’ll go with Marlon Brando and Satyajit Ray, simply because enigma can’t be captured within the reels of a film alone, it really needs to be encountered first hand. I also mentioned a young Brigitte Bardot, because perfection can be so fleeting, can’t it? I’d like to retain those three, and add a new entrant to the mix: Dali. We wouldn’t really need to talk, I’d like to watch him paint. I think that would be enough.
Author | I have to go with Jack Kerouac. Since the time I first read him, I’ve never really viewed him as an author, but more this wild shaman of sin, lust, madness and melody. A mystic poet for the best and worst of times.
Book | Kerouac’s On The Road. It introduced me to a throbbing landscape and vivid group of characters I’ve never quite been able to shake.
Movie | The 25th Hour, a dark, a wrenching slow-burner. And if I may be allowed two, Wings of Desire.
Dialogue from a movie | I’m probably getting this wrong, but very early on in American Beauty, one of them goes: “… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain.” That sort of thing just stays with you.
Genre of Music | Lots of hard rock, generous sprinkling of classic rock, a dash of deep lounge, and a smattering of wild southern blues. That has the makings of one very satisfying cocktail.
If you could have been told one thing that you weren’t told when you were a teenager, what would you like to have heard?
I was told a lot of vital things when I was a teenager. I think they’ve served me well.
One trait you have that you would like others to know about?
That I’m sublimely awesome! On a slightly more serious note, I don’t know why your readers would (or should, for that matter) be interested in any trait of mine, unless it was directly influential to their lives. I would like them to know, though, that I’ve designed the cover, the social media branding, and all assorted artwork surrounding the book, if that means anything.
What words of inspiration or advice could you give other people who want to write?
At 23, I’m far too young to be handing out advice. Maybe that number’s slightly off by a decade or so, but still. Okay, I’ll offer my silent mantra for life instead: delete the negative, delete all the news channels, delete the cycles of negativity. Chase after whatever magic this world holds, and it holds a lot. Speak, laugh, love, dream, travel, chase, soar… then come back for more. The words will flow quite naturally.
SiddharthDasgupta’s Author Page can be found at www.facebook.com/leavesfromabook
Letters from an Indian Summer is out now on Amazon, Uread, Flipkart and in leading bookstores.