A Writer with 16 books of different genres under her belt
Tête-à-tête : Tanushree Podder
(Rachna Singh in conversation with Tanushree Podder)
The Wise Owl talks to Tanushree Podder, a well-known travel writer and novelist, who quit the corporate rat race to wield her pen. Born in New Delhi, she is also known for the hundreds of ‘Middles’ that entertained readers of almost all English dailies in the country for over a decade. Tanushree is passionate about travelling and writing. If the lady is not packing her bags to zip around the world, she is sure to be found tapping the keys of her computer. Among her bestselling books in non-fiction genre are Death of a Dictator- The Story of Saddam Hussein, Secrets of Happiness, The Ultimate Food for Body, Mind and Soul and The Power of Relaxation. Her first novel Nurjahan’s Daughter was published in 2005, followed by Boots Belts Berets, The Escape from Harem in 2013 and Solo in Singapore subsequently and the deluge of words continues. Tanushree has penned novels in various genres. She penned thrillers like A Closetful of Skeletons and Before you Breathe. She was incidentally the first Indian novelist to pen a Cli Fi thriller, Decoding the Feronia Files. She has also penned several books in the military genre. The first two books in the military series -Boots Belts Berets and On the Double-are soon to be adapted into web series. Her travel stories can be found at http://tanushreez.wordpress.com. She lives with her husband in Pune.
You are a busy writer with as many as 16 books across several genres. Thank you so much Tanushree for taking time out of a packed schedule to talk to The Wise Owl. We are delighted to feature your interview in The Wise Owl.
Thank you for the opportunity, Rachna. I am delighted to interact with The Wise Owl.
RS: You were in the corporate sector for almost eight years before you took up writing full time. Please tell us how and when you realised that writing was your passion.
TP: I have been a storyteller for a long time. As the eldest child, it was my responsibility to keep the siblings entertained when our parents went to a social gathering. I made up stories and narrated those stories to the younger sisters. Over a period, ambition stirred in my bosom. I wanted to tell stories to a larger number of people. I was about 11 years old when I wrote my first short story. My mother, who was a postgraduate in literature, was amused by my effort, but she encouraged me to write. I continued writing, first in my secret notebook, then in school magazines, and then in other magazines. By the time I reached college, I was writing quite a lot.
I continued writing even when I worked in a demanding job. Writing gave me satisfaction and raised my self-confidence. I was happiest when writing, and so the journey continued. The more I wrote, the more satisfied I felt. One fine day, I realized that the demands of my career were interfering with my passion. I wanted to be unshackled from professional commitments and spend more time doing the thing I liked, so I gave up my job and started writing full time.
RS: You have written novels across several genres- historical, thrillers, military adventure. You have even penned the first Indian Cli fi novel. For the benefit of the readers please tell us what attracted you to these genres.
TP: I write about subjects that make me curious or throw up a challenge. I also write on subjects that make me feel strongly about. I wrote Death of a Dictator – the Story of Saddam Hussein after the US invasion of Iraq because I was so angry about the invasion. Boots Belts Berets is a novel set against the background of the National Defence Academy. It was written as a tribute to the army officers. I wrote the Girls in Green after I watched Tanya Shergill leading a contingent of men in the Republic Day Parade. No Margin for Error was written after the dastardly Mumbai Attacks. It was my homage to the valiant security personnel who gave their lives for the nation. I wrote Decoding the Feronia Files, which is a cli-fi novel because I felt strongly about climate change.
Frankly, I find it quite boring to write in a single genre. Writing in different genres is challenging and I love challenges. They allow me to research, experiment, and learn.
RS: It is perhaps an unfair question to ask a writer but is there any genre or novel or character in your novels which is closer to your heart than others?
TP: I love crime fiction because that genre is really challenging. But I find historical novels equally fascinating. Two characters that are close to my heart are Nurjahan from Nurjahan’s Daughter and Maachh from Boots Belts Berets.
RS: Your military novels are set in the NDA and IMA. How did you manage to recreate the essence of a military training academy with such accuracy? I ask because I’m an Army man’s daughter and interested in anything and everything about the Armed forces.
TP: I am happy to learn you are an army brat. Well, writing about military training in the two books was quite challenging. My husband, Ajoy Podder, a retired army officer who passed out from NDA and IMA, helped me with information. In fact, I lean heavily on him whenever I write books in the military genre. Whether it was Boots Belts Berets, On the Double, No Margin for Error, or The Girls in Green, he has been very forthcoming with suggestions, tips, and information.
RS: You have also written non-fiction books like that on Saddam Hussein and wellness books like Mind and Soul etc. Our readers would be curious to know how you manage to traverse the chasm between fiction and non-fiction with such ease.
TP: When I began writing books, I knew nothing about the publishing industry and the intricacies involved in publishing a book. There was no internet or Google in those days, so it was difficult to look for information. The first few books helped me explore the mechanics of the publishing industry. There were many hurdles and false starts in the beginning. A publishing company took advantage of my ignorance and took me for a ride. I began my writing journey with non-fiction books and it was only after I published 15 books that I ventured into writing fiction. By then, I was confident about my writing and knew a little about what the readers wanted. It is easy to transition between fiction and non-fiction if one is serious about writing. All it requires is serious intent and a tenacious approach.
RS: Our readers would love to know if you have a favourite novelist or writer.
TP: I am a voracious reader, and I read in all genres. I have many favourite writers in various genres. PG Wodehouse is an all-time favourite, as is Agatha Christie. In the classics, I like Dickens, Hardy, Orwell, and Jane Austen. Among the contemporary writers, I like Amitav Ghosh.
RS: you have said in an interview that your favourite character is Scarlett O’Hara of ‘Gone with the Wind.’ We have all devoured this book in our teenage years. Would love to know what it is about this character that appeals to you so much.
TP: Like most of us, I read Gone with the wind during my teenage years, and Scarlet O’Hara’s character left a powerful impression on my mind. Those were the days of Ayn Rand and my favourite characters were the strong and resolute kind. I read all the Ayan Rand books, and re-read Gone with the Wind.
What impressed me about Scarlett was her wilful, passionate, and earthy personality. Scarlett is a survivor who overcomes poverty, danger, and tragic events in her life. She is determined to survive even when starvation comes knocking on her door. She picks cotton, runs her plantation, and becomes a successful businesswoman. And this is a woman who lived a luxurious life with servants at her beck and call. The story is so powerful that you continue to brood over the woman’s trials, tribulations, triumphs, and tears even after you have finished reading the book.
RS: Our readers would love to know if there is any novel you are working on? When is it likely to hit the bookstores?
TP: I have been writing a few books for young adults, and my current book is also for them. It’s a non-fiction book, which I hope will hit the bookstores in the second half of 2023.
RS: You are a prolific writer and have authored several best sellers. Our readers with literary aspirations would be eager for some tips on writing from you, especially writing bestsellers.
TP: There are no recipes for bestsellers, nor are there any shortcuts. As a writer, I try to remain sincere and dedicated to whichever book I write. One thing that has worked for me is my passion and self-belief. These two factors never let down a person. Believe in what you are doing and you will be successful. The most important thing is to read a lot and continue writing, even when you have a pile of rejections on your table. One day, you will write a bestseller.
Thank you, some much Tanushree, for taking time out to talk to The Wise Owl. We would have loved to talk more about your travel writing, middles et al but we understand that you are busy writer, so I have tried to leash in my questions. We wish you the best in all your creative endeavours and look forward to more and more books penned by you.
Thank you, Rachna! It was a pleasure talking to you.