For Debarshi Kanjilal, the author of 4 distinct works of writing, the journey from consuming stories to penning them was not a spontaneous one.
It started way back when he was just a quiet little boy of eight, trying to express on paper, what his introverted self couldn’t convey to the real world.
Like many kids of his generation, Debarshi was dissuaded from pursuing writing as a career for a lack of better prospects.
Luckily for him, that didn’t spell the death of his desires, nor did it entail a ‘career suicide’ as was prophesied by many. He resumed his writing a couple of years ago, with his mind-boggling psychological thriller, “Based on Lies”.
Based out of Bangalore, today, Debarshi Kanjilal is a seasoned learning experience designer who continuously strives to find that perfect balance between a promising career, a writer’s passion, and contented family life.
Debarshi is a lover of all things dogs, and watching funny dog videos on the internet is his guilty pleasure.
An avid reader himself, he is a voracious consumer of stories in all mediums – be it physical books, movies, podcasts, or audiobooks.
In “Based on Lies: The Whole Story”, he tells us the dark and morbid tale of a social psychopath, Anurag Sanyal.
Anurag is a husband, a lover, a cheater, a child abuser, and a murderer who writes a dairy to confess the crimes of his past. But, just like everything else in his life, whatever he writes is also entirely based on lies.
We at bookGeeks got a lucky chance to have a tête-à-tête with the author.
Here’s what he has to say about his love for books, his favorite authors, his likes and dislikes, and most importantly, his latest book “Based on Lies: The Whole Story”.
|Tell us something about yourself. What are your likes and dislikes, your passions and interests?
|Well, I’ve grown up enjoying writing so that’s something I enjoy. 🙂 I also enjoy consuming other forms of stories – movies, shows, podcasts, and more recently, audiobooks. I wonder if audiobooks are popular in India yet.
I am a dog lover and want to build a shelter for stray animals one day. I enjoy playing cricket, football, and badminton, although I’m horrid at them all.
Often described as lazy, I frequently function solely on coffee.
And I dislike doing the same things over a long period of time; variety is essential in my life.
|What got you into writing? Was it a spur of the moment decision or one that was planned years ahead?
|I started writing when I was eight. Like many introvert kids, it was my preferred form of expression. I used to write juvenile little poems at the time. In fact, I put out a small collection of those old poems on Kindle several years ago. It’s still out there, I think.
But, as in most middle-class families, I was told that pursuing writing as a profession would be career suicide.
So, I stopped writing for a while until I started writing "Based on Lies" a couple of years ago.
Now I’m back at it again, trying my best to get a little better at it every day.
|Tell us about your book, “Based on Lies: The Whole Story”. Who or what was the inspiration behind the book?
|It’s funny, really.
“Based on Lies” didn’t start out destined to be a book. For a brief period of time, I was obsessed with the story of the notorious American serial killer – Ted Bundy. I was reading about his history, expert opinions about him, and a whole bunch of his interviews.
One night, I wondered, 'what if a character as messed up in the head as that lived an everyday life like the rest of us?’
That made me want to write a short story with that premise.
I did. It was the first chapter of the book. Once I was done, I shared it with some friends who had myriad questions and opinions. That’s when I realized that I had more to say about these characters. And it became a story of its own, completely unrelated to Bundy or his life.
|How different is the process of writing a psychological thriller from writing a regular fiction like a romance or drama? Is there any kind of research that you do or any regimen that you follow?
|To be fair, I didn’t know that I was setting out to write a psychological thriller when I started out.
If I had to put a label, I’m primarily an urban fiction writer.
Based on Lies was going to be a story about this character in an urban setting, who has extreme psychological issues. But that naturally flows into the psychological thriller genre.
And as I started thinking about the plot and the characterization, I had some basic ideas that I wanted to stay true to, like making almost all the characters unlikeable, making simple environments seem eerie, and adding a touch of surrealism to everything.
As far as research goes, the reading up I did on Bundy really helped.
But beyond that, it was crucial to learn about the various symptoms of different mental illnesses to make things fit in the story.
|Have you ever suffered from a writer’s block? If yes, then what your tips and tricks to overcome it?
|Yes and no.
I had initially wanted to write the second part of the novella from Aditi's perspective. It was to be a first-person telling of her side of the story.
When I started writing that, I soon realized that I wasn’t equipped to provide the female perspective completely and honestly. It would have come out inauthentic.
And I experienced writer’s block while I was trying to fight through that.
Once I realized that I can only tell a story if I can fully experience it, I made the adjustments to the narrative and the writing flowed.
And that’s the tip I’d share. Don’t force yourself to write something that you cannot truly feel or experience.
An authentic story is more enjoyable, I think, than an important story told without authenticity.
|Maintaining a full-time job, a writing career and commitment to family takes a lot of balance. How do you manage it?
|It’s hard, I won’t lie. Currently, I’m taking a little break from my day job to focus on writing my next book.
The one thing that has helped so far is compartmentalising.
Even before I took this break, I would try to take two-week vacations once a year to just write. Those were my personal vacations. From work as well as from family.
|How often do you read Indian authors? Who are your favourites?
|Barring a couple, I’ve enjoyed almost all Indian authors I’ve read.
Currently, my favourite Indian author is Vivek Shanbhag. But I’ve grown up loving Ruskin Bond and Anita Desai.
|Which is your favourite psychological thriller book?
|Ghachar Ghochar has to be one, from a contemporary Indian literature standpoint. I just picked up The Silent Patient with very high expectations. 🙂
|Does writing dark, twisted tales impact your positive vibes? How do you keep up with the stark contrast between your daily life and your diabolical tales?
|We all have some dark thoughts in our heads. Writing is the best way I know to channel those thoughts productively.
And all my social media is filled with dog videos, it’s my guilty pleasure. It’s hard to keep harbouring dark thoughts after watching a few of those.
Again, I think the trick really is compartmentalising.
|Any new projects that you are currently working on?
|My next novella is currently in its first round of edits. This is the first in a series called Adventures of SuperBu. You can even read the unedited draft of the first chapter if you sign up on my website.
May seem like a complete 180 in terms of genre, this one is about a dog in a middle-class Indian family. But there will be a clear focus on the messed up middle-class relationships within that family. Perhaps a given, it takes some inspiration from my experiences with a dog that my family once had.
Among other things, I’m working on a graphic novella called Government. Too early to share more details. 🙂
I’m hoping that both these can come out before the end of the year.
|Would you like to share a few words about bookGeeks?
|BookGeeks is the best Indian book blog that I know.
When I read or listen to a BookGeeks review, I know that I’m getting fully formed opinions of a reader I can trust, and as an Indian author, it’s the place I’d want any of my books to feature.
I’m a fan, both as a reader and as an author.