Award winning and best selling author Sutapa Basu , who has wowed all with highly acclaimed books with historical fiction been the genre like – Padmavati, The Queen Tells Her Own Story (2017), The Legend of Genghis Khan (2018) and The Curse of Nader Shah (2019). She is in the limelight yet again with her latest book The Cursed Inheritance (2021) which was released recently and earning rave reviews.
A multi- talented persona – A poet, author, publishing professional, Sutapa’s short stories have appeared in anthologies, Crossed & Knotted, Defiant Dreams, When They Spoke and Write India Stories. Her poems have been published in Kaafiyana and The Dawn Beyond Waste. Here in a candid interview, she speaks about her new book, her writings, the genre that interests her and much more :
Q : Tell us about the decision to go for the rather intriguing Book title Cursed Inheritance?
A : Well, I have always been interested in mystery, thrillers, and history. In fact, my first book is a psychological thriller. Besides, all my historical fictions have the thriller element. There is either a mystery or intrigue unfurling alongside the historical tale. In Padmavati, The Queen Tells Her Own Story a plot is hatched in the royal family to subdue and kill her but she is able to overcome her enemies. That is what she reveals when she writes her story. In The Legend of Genghis Khan, a mystery surrounds the relationship of the Conqueror and a captive Indian princess. In The Curse of Nader Shah, an intrigue to dethrone and assassinate him runs from the beginning till the end of the story. Basically, the difference between the mysteries in my historical fiction and The Cursed Inheritance, is that the latter is set in modern times and context. It has been some time that I have been thinking of writing a cozy mystery. I have always loved reading mysteries by Agatha Christie, Satyajit Ray and even Tagore. I have dreamed of writing similar stories, too. The main protagonist of The Cursed Inheritance, the heritage mansion, has been growing gradually in my imagination for a long time. In fact, ever since I saw the grand, zamindari mansions and havelis that dot the lanes of North Kolkata, I have tried to imagine all the tales that they would tell me if they could. Therefore, weaving this tale around my fantasy mansion was an obvious outcome.
Q : What made you choose Kolkata to base the story and what Is the book all about ?
A : I have used the city of Kolkata as a setting to infuse regional elements typical to this city into the mystery. The mansion in the story is easily identifiable as one of the similar buildings that pepper Kolkata and most of them have intriguing tales and histories attached to them. The main trigger for The Cursed Inheritance has been my abiding fascination with old mansions of Kolkata. Whenever I saw one, I would try to imagine the people who had lived in it over the years maybe centuries ago. I would wonder what secrets it held. Invariably, it led me to think about treasures hidden in it. For a long time, I wanted to weave a story about an imaginary mansion that appeared in my fantasies. Now here it is; in The Cursed Inheritance, the mansion with all its magic. The Cursed Inheritance, is a cozy mystery set in a heritage mansion. The protagonist, Anahita Sarkar, born and bought up in London inherits a mansion in Kolkata. At first, she decides to sell it. But after a few days of living in the mansion, she changes her mind. She is utterly charmed by its elegance and beguiled by the aura of her family’s history that permeates the mansion. Each day, she finds the residence becoming more and more a part of her.
However, she soon discovers that the mansion holds deep secrets. She is visited by a mysterious person who seems to know too much about her. She encounters a friendly foe who leaves cryptic riddles that are clues leading to a bewitching curse. The enigmas pursue her and threaten her values and her family’s reputation. Anahita wants to overcome all the obstacles to dig out the truth; not for personal gain but because truth must be revealed. Is she able to succeed in her mission? Will she be able to turn her inheritance from a curse into a blessing? That is what The Cursed Inheritance is about.
Q : How has been the journey so far from acclaimed historical fictions like – Padmavati, The Queen Tells Her Own Story (2017, The Legend of Genghis Khan (2018, The Curse of Nader Shah (2019) to a story based on a mansion in Kolkata?
A : Historical fiction is a genre I enjoy reading very much. So it was natural for me to veer towards it when I began to write. Historical Fiction makes the past come alive. Historical icons whose deeds we read about fleetingly in a history class become living, breathing people who have likes, dislikes, virtues and vices. Besides historical fiction gives me an opportunity to compare the past and present times. It tells me the causes of modern events, shows me how similar the past and present is and sadly reveals how humanity continues to commit the same mistakes over and over.
My other favourite genre are thrillers and mysteries. I have always enjoyed reading thrillers that have amateur detectives. As a young person when I read them, I would imagine myself solving similar mysteries. I have been wanting to write something on similar lines for a long time.
Q : Which book did you enjoy writing the most and why ?
A : Each book is a part of who I am. Each book gives a platform to my voice. As an author and a poet, I speak through my words and recreate new worlds of fantasy for my readers. My historical fiction brings history and historical figures alive to my readers. My thrillers and mysteries bring intrigue to my readers. My anthologies are short, suspenseful, enjoyable reads. My poetry evokes images, thoughts and ideas for its readers. I have enjoyed creating each one of my books. Besides each book is a writing challenge that I fling to myself. Whatever I have written before I must try in some way to surpass that milestone. Consequently, each book has something special about it; some kind of experimentation or some innovation. With each book I grow as a writer as I enhance my skill further.
Q : Any inspirational writers whom you looked up to while writing and wished to write like them.
A : I am inspired by great authors from the past and the present. Books have always been my getaway vacations from the real world. There are too many authors who have inspired me to give a list. Starting from Hans Anderson to Enid Blyton to O Henry to Harper Lee and Amitav Ghosh, how many should I mention? All I can say is when I read stories by authors such as Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, O Henry, Maupassant, Nevil Shute and so many more my imagination soared to parallel universes. I have wished and I dreamed intensely that one day, I would also write like them and create new worlds for my readers.
Q : What next after cursed Inheritance. Any topics you thought of or would like to write on in the future.
A : Given a chance, I want to write books in as many genres as I can. I have been doing historical fiction, thrillers and children’s tales simultaneously. Not only these, I want to foray into other genres too. This is how I see it. Writing a variety of different genres, each with its parameters and requirements, will make me grow as a writer. I like to constantly challenge myself. Each time, I begin a book, I want to do something new and different from what I have done before. I want to hone and enhance my skills. Each time I try out a new technique, I learn so much more.
Q : We are presently in challenging times. Do you think there is freedom for creative expression or they are curbed with the threat of being dubbed as dissent.
A : I believe that freedom for creative expression begins in the mind of an individual. Nobody; no government, no organisation, no people can stop a person from thinking creatively. Dissent will always be there because various people have various opinions but that should not stop individual expression. So be bold to express yourself and create your own identity. Challenge yourself to be more creative. Do not be challenged by opposition. Ignore them and forge ahead.