Saturday, June 4, 2016

Interview with author Rheea Mukherjee

Author Interviews, to me, are always interesting but what adds life to them are the candid answers given by the authors and below is one such amazing interview with Rheea Mukherjee, author of the book Transit For Beginners stories. To read the complete review of the book please visit Book Review : Transit For Beginners stories - Rheea Mukherjee.

-- Interview with author Rheea Mukherjee --

Q: “Transit For Beginners stories”, made you a published author, how does it feel holding the book?

A: Really weird. Really surreal. It’s like something I’ve been day dreaming about for years. And then it happens. And then it’s like, ok now the book is out. And there is a normalcy about it. That’s bizarre. I don’t know, but I am pretty excited.

Q: Every book is an experience, both for the writer and the reader, tell us something about your experience of writing the book?

A: Well the thing is it didn’t start out as a book. It wasn’t like a novel, which I think is a completely different beast. This book was literally a journey (gosh, that sounds so cheesy, but it’s true). I wrote the first story in the book (Cigarettes for Maya) when I as 22, because I wanted to really get serious about writing. I then wrote a version of A Good Hostess (that story however changed over the years), and then I realized I really loved writing short fiction. I finished college in Colorado and was working as a social worker in Denver, I was really disillusioned by the system, my heart told me to ditch what I was doing and take time off to write. I was ecstatic when I got accepted into grad school, and doing my MFA in creative writing let me explore my craft, my voice, and most importantly have the time to read a bunch of different work from all over the world. My thesis ended up being a collection of short stories. When I moved back to India I wrote a lot more, my stories were much more confident and daring at that point. In 2013 I knew I had a book ready. But let me tell you, the amount of editing and restructuring I did with my stories - that’s where the blood and sweat is. It’s not the story you first write, it’s going back to it and seeing if each word adds up to each sentence, and then figuring out if that sentence really belongs there in the first place.

Q: Other than being a published author, what else do you do?

A: I co-run a design and content laboratory called Write Leela Write with Kalabati Majumdar. I am the writer; Kalabati is the designer. We’re a small team, we have one fantastic writer and one tremendous designer on our team, and we’re up to all sorts of adventures that usually involve branding, visual identity, creative copy, blogs, digital marketing and script writing. We founded WLW in 2014, in fact we celebrated our second anniversary on the 27th of May. Entrepreneurship has worked well with my life as a writer.

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer, what inspired you to take it up?

A: Well the world never made sense to me, it still doesn’t, and I find that humans have to acknowledge the irony of life by resolving things in the moment. Resolving an internal or external crises might never have final closure, but we create band aids and keep walking. I am inspired by the internal crises and external circumstances. I truly write to make sense of life, it’s therapy.
Interview with Rheea Mukherjee author of the book Transit For Beginners
Interview with Rheea Mukherjee author of the book Transit For Beginners
Q: Tell us something about your experience of getting the book published? Is it easier these days for Indian Authors to get their books published?
A: Jesus, let me tell you getting published is a marathon. If you want to be a writer you really have to make rejection your lover. You have to understand her, accept her, walk with her, and feed her. You feed Rejection by writing, by editing, by sending out your work. You measure your craft when the rejections start to get personal. For example, literary magazines have a form rejection they send out to writers, but sometimes an editor will write you a note or even explain that they almost took your story, but in the end it wasn’t working for X reason. That’s when you know you’re resonating with your reader- your words have had an impact in some fashion. I wrote, I got rejections, at some point I started getting acceptances, and then I got a lot of acceptances, it took 5 years but by that point I had managed to get more than 10 publications in literary magazines.  I then started getting my non-fiction published as well. But I still get rejections, you can’t be a writer and only get acceptances, you just can’t. In fact, if you aren’t getting rejected you aren’t trying. As for the book, short stories are really hard to publish in the market - doesn’t matter if you are Indian or not. I think an Indian author can publish a novel with more ease, however there has to be a certain quality and perspective to break into the literary fiction market. I think there is a ton of pulp fiction being published these days, and they have a places, but it's a very different process being a literary writer, where you audience is smaller to begin with. My publishers Kitaab (Based in Singapore) are committed to finding new talent in Asia and actually celebrate the short story, but it took a while before I found out about them, sent it to them, and then 8 months of waiting before they finally accepted it. Yeah, the other thing is you need a lot of patience to be a writer, something I wasn’t blessed with.

Q: Other than “Transit For Beginners stories”, have you written anything else? What can we expect from you in the near future?

A: I write articles for magazines and online publications here and there. I am also working on a novel but being really lazy with it. I need to start kicking my butt on that.

Q: Tell us something about the cover of the book, how did you finalize it?
A: I was very lucky with my cover. Since Kitaab is boutique publisher they allowed me to pick my own cover. Kalabati Majumdar, my very close friend and co-founder of WLW designed my cover. She actually had like 5 concepts for me based on her interpretation of the stories. I  actually liked another concept at first, but the image of the face gulping down the hot dog lingered. It was disturbing, but it was honest. I felt it represented our urban lives in a brutal way. Guzzling without pausing to think.  There were subtler options (Which Kala thought I should choose) but in the end I went with this one because it haunted me.

Q: Are the short stories in the book inspired from real life events or are they completely fictional?

A: Let’s say there are many circumstances in that book that I have either witnessed or been a part of. But for the most part they are fiction. I am inspired by a statement, a person, or even a circumstance and then I reimagine and extend that person/statement/circumstance into a story which is then completely fictional.

Q: Did you ever face a writer’s block? How did you come out of it? How much time did you take to come out of it?

A: I have Writer laziness. I think that block thing is a myth. You’re being lazy or you aren’t. However, I do believe there are times you can be much more inspired, and that you should sit down at write at those moments. Forcing myself to write everyday doesn’t work for me, but I do know some other writers swear by it.

Q: Do you read as much as you write? Which are your favorite books and authors?
A: Yeah. More so before than now. But I do love to read. Junot Diaz, Joyce Carol Oats, Jhumpa Lahiri, Manto, Pamuk are some of my favorites. I like to read thrillers too; I am a big fan of Gillian Flynn.  I like reading short fiction too, some new contemporary writers in literary magazines always impress me, but I can’t recall names. Oh and I used to be a big fan of  V.C Andrews who used to write weird cultish novels, she is famous for Flowers in the Attic, totally my guilty pleasure.

Q: You prefer reading e-books or the traditional paper/hard back book?

A: Traditional all the way.

Q: Two things that you like and dislike about “Short stories”?

A: YAY: 1. It’s fast, and I can read them in chunks in savor them. 2. I am always reminded of the power of economy when I read a good short story. 

NAY: I don’t think I dislike anything about short stories. I do dislike a genre of short story writing and that is the gimmicky ‘surprise” in the end kind of shorts.

Q: If you have to give one reason to our readers to get hold of your book, what would that reason be?
A: To see if you find a part of your heart or head in it. I think my stories have been diverse in terms of people and I have been pretty unabashed with the darker parts of our existence.

Q: Any message you would want to share with our readers?

A: I could give you propaganda about how we need to read more. But that would be hypocritical. I have become an internet junkie too.

Q: How can our readers connect with you?

A: Two ways. Write to me at or find me on Facebook where I incite many (mostly unnecessary) FB debates.  I also write a vegan cooking blog, If you’re into that, stop by.

-- End of Interview with author Rheea Mukherjee --

You can order a copy of the book, Transit For Beginners stories, from Flipkart.
8:19:00 PM / by / 2 Comments


  1. Pretty Awesome! Loved the interview...

  2. Thank you, glad that you liked the interview.


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