“I started writing after the Nirbhaya incident in December 2012. ” in conversation with Debajani Mohanty

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The Historical
Fiction lover I am, I would be more than happy to 

have a talk with a woman, an
Indian who excelled in the genre. We 

have Debajani Mohanty, author of Curse of
Damini with me.

Hi Debajani

Welcome to
my virtual teté-a-teté

Tell us a little about yourself and
your background?
am just an ordinary human being, with extra-ordinary willpower. I am also an
engineering graduate, a seasoned I.T. professional with 15 years of career, have
widely travelled across the world, happily married with two kids.

Tell us about The Curse of Damini.
Since childhood I have been an avid
admirer of classics. I had once watched “Saheb Biwi Gulam” where the Chhoti
Bahu implores the Gulam to bring her Mohini Sindoor believing it will keep her
unfaithful husband home. In spite of all her attempts to appease her husband
she is abducted, murdered by her brother-in-law and buried somewhere in the
Zamidar mansion, her skeleton to be discovered by people few decades
later. I watched Devdas where the protagonist had no heroic quality and end up
being a lovelorn, self-destructive character. 
For years together I kept on wondering what if these stories had
different endings. What if Chhoti Bahu had to live that life for years and
years together? What if Devdas being a weak character, had married Paro but
still ended up in a courtesan’s arms? And what if they had a savior?
From the hundreds and thousands real
incidents as well as folklores that I heard in my childhood, I beaded my plot. History
and status of women play a central role in the novel “The Curse of Damini”. To
be honest with you, it’s not a story rather a bunch of real-world eventualities
that our women have lived up with since ages. In those 200 pages I have tried
to summarize the lives of women claustrophobically restricted by social,
economic and psychological conditions. In this one story I have covered many
evils of mankind; hunger, forced prostitution, child marriage, Satee,
widowhood, adultery, blind rituals and rape.

Do you believe in ghost?

I believe in some
super-natural power that’s beyond explanation.
 Call me an optimist fool, but I
believe in Karma-Chakra and poetic justice. Sometimes the good or bad deeds
done by a human being is neither rewarded nor punished on an immediate basis,
but that does not mean it’s forgotten. You may refer to the following line in
the novel where I have quoted my beliefs
“You reap what you sow, zamindar. You didn’t
let us live a life, and I curse you. I curse you, so would be your life.” 

Why did you project the book as a horror story?

I wished this novel to
attract readers from all genres. Had I p
rojected it as a historical fiction, it
would have lured a particular group; however thrillers usually have a wider

How much research did you do?

Ahh! A lot. I had to read
more than fifty well-known novels that 
discuss that era, the beliefs as we as
the lifestyle of people. I collected some long forgotten stories from my diary
that I had heard as a little girl. I had to discuss for hours with my
grandmother and I surfed the internet as a fanatic to collect required
materials, old letters, and newspaper articles blah blah. In fact I took almost
two years on and off to write and rewrite the story which involved many rounds
of reviews by my well-wishers.

So, what have you written?
Honestly this is my very first attempt. Long before publishing “The
Curse of Damini” as a novel, I started writing this as a fiction on www.india-forum.com.
The narrative was in a very nascent form at that time. Many readers in that
forum advised me to publish it as a novel, which I did. Usually people hesitate
publishing their maiden works due to the apprehension of acceptance. I didn’t
have that as most of the ladies in the forum were well-educated and from all
over the world. Many of them sent their feedback how to improve certain
characters to make them appear more realistic.  
Which writers inspire you?
like writers who do a lot of research and come up with innovative story-lines. There
was Nobel- laureate German author Hermann Hesse who lived in British-Raj India
for many years before writing Sidhartha, a masterpiece. There is Amish Tripathy
who conceptualized his Shiv series after a lot of fore-thought and research.
Such dedication and unique thoughts make a writer immortal, not the
What made you decide to sit down
and actually start something?
started writing after the Nirbhaya incident in December 2012. In those days I
wrote an article on India forum inviting people to send their comments how to
minimize crimes against women. I summarized them and sent to Prime Minister’s
PMO site some 3 years back. “Souchalay” was one of the programs that I had
suggested. After that I started writing the actual novel. Those suggestions can
be still be seen in the 33rd chapter of the novel.
If this book is part of a series,
tell us a little about it?
writing the novel, I had considered bringing a series out of it. But then I thought
against this idea. “The Curse of Damini” is a multi-character novel spanning
many years of Indian history, it can’t have a sequel.  
What’s your views on social media
for marketing?
have just started and it’s too early to comment on this.
Which social network worked best
for you?
to shortage of time, I have tried only facebook so far and it rocks. I think
everyone whosoever is educated on earth and has access to net, also has a
facebook profile and it’s a one-stop solution for all our promotion.
have also tried goodreads and in limited time got good response there.
you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?

I do have two videos, here are the links.
voiceover – 

voiceover – 

What advice would you give to your
younger self?
the younger writers my advice would be to concentrate on writing than on
marketing or any other distraction. It’s upsetting that the world sometimes
recognizes accomplished people posthumously. Premchand died in immense poverty,
the World War II snatched us of Anne Frank, yet they will keep on living till
eternity through their masterpieces. We need great works and people with the
ideas, craft and dedication to entertain, challenge and inspire us. I wish good
luck to all.
Which famous person, living or dead
would you like to meet and why?
wish to meet few 3 great people of all times; Budha, Jesus, Martin Luther King.
I wish to know how they could influence such a wider mass and transformed hearts
of many.
the living, of course it would be our esteemed Prime Minister Shri Narendra
If you could have been the original
author of any book, what would it have been and why?
think it’s definitely “Anna Karenina”. I remember I read the novel followed by
watching the many different versions of this epic Russian tragedy in Hollywood
movies, especially the final scene when Anna commits suicide by throwing
herself before the train. I lost my appetite and gradually got into depression.
That is the time when I wrote the chapter of Papia. But today with a stable
mind I say, I would have opted for a positive ending for Anna. I may rarely
write such a character where my female protagonist is weak, somehow I can’t;
Papia is an exception though.

What advice would you give to
aspiring writers?
to come up with something new, something unique. More than the language it’s
the theme of the story that matters. I usually inspire people to write on
subjects that fascinate them. It could be anything.   
Where do you see publishing going
in the future?
come from an I.T. background and in comparison wish to see more professionally
streamlined publishing industry. Especially in India if we wish publishing to
come up as an industry, we must have good professionalism in place, which I see
is still lacking. People work without contractual agreements, do not stick to
the delivery timeline and sometimes do not give honest feedback. Though I have
found some extraordinary people here, yet I am telling you what the general
behavior is.
Is there anything else you would
like to add that I haven’t included?
people have sent me the feedback that the suspense is not properly explained or
the story loses momentum on 33rd chapter. Yet I feel that chapter is
the essence of the novel. I request them to read the novel with ample time and
feel the characters and their longing, for they are so real. The suspense is
not overtly explained, but if you read it properly you can feel it yourself.  
I am really pleased with the review of an accomplished blogger as well as
writer like you. Initially when I was asked which genre my story will fall
into, I was puzzled. It could be a romance, a thriller; it could also be just a
fiction with a touch of suspense and horror. But after reading your review, I
realized more than anything else it’s a historical fiction. Thanks for your
feedback again.   

Thanks a lot Debajani. If you have
been following my blog, you can see that my favorite genre is historical
fiction and I was happy to read the same from an Indian author.
So, How can readers discover more
about you and you work?
Twitter: @debimr75
you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in
this interview.

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