Smita Bhattacharya is an author and management consultant based in Mumbai. Her work has been published widely in national and international magazines and anthologies. Strong female protagonists and Agatha Christie-style whodunits are her forte. Her psychological thriller novel Dead to Them released to rave reviews in 2018 and was among the top reads on Amazon crime thrillers. Smita thrives on crime and coffee. Though she prefers cafés, she occasionally also hangs as on Twitter and Instagram.
How would you describe your literary endeavour in a nutshell?
I like to read about strong, fun, clever, and resourceful women and thus, I like to write about them too. If you look around, there are not many books with normal female leads in them. The usual female protagonists are tragic, struggling, or simpering women waiting for a glance from a hard-hearted (but rich!) man. I wanted to create a normal female lead, like the kind I hang out with or imagined myself to be. Hence, was born a series with a strong-willed, stumbling-through-life woman—Darya Nandkarni—who is imperfect and gutsy, and lives as she wants. She uses her cleverness and wit to navigate through life and solve the bizarre mysteries that are thrown along her way.
Your writing is an inspiration. Where did you get the idea of writing such beautiful full-length novel?
The Darya Nandkarni series, starting with KISS OF SALT, are atmospheric whodunits that aim to provide all that readers love: an exciting mystery, an escape to unknown lands, and the familiarity of lovable and relatable characters. Darya is an amateur and an accidental detective. She is clever, spirited, resourceful, yet troubled and vulnerable. She is thrown into the most bizarre and seemingly unsolvable mysteries, most involving serial killers. Bumbling, stumbling, and crumbling, she somehow manages to solve all of them. The inspiration is really all the women that are my friends: bold, gutsy, go-getters, none waiting for a man to rescue them. Also, KISS OF SALT is based in Goa which is my favourite place in the world to vacation in. The book wrote itself.
Are there any easter eggs in your book that only a few people will find?
My books are pieces of me. What my heroines do is probably what I would do in my real life. So beware!
There are so many unique characters in your book. What is the most difficult thing about writing characters for the opposite sex?
I think the definitions of gender and sexes are converging, and there is probably no sex that is an exact 'opposite'. We are all somewhere in the spectrum. I'm sure there will be men (for the sake of argument) who will get what I am saying and there will be women who won't. Perhaps, a better lens would be to see if there were individual readers out there who got me. I sure hope some did!
Some instances in the book are thoughtful and very emotional, which could actually leave the readers with an afterthought. What is the first book that made you cry?
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. It was the book which turned me into a feminist when I was about fourteen years old. Would you believe it received mixed reviews when it appeared, because it challenged the sexual morals of late Victorian England? Tess is a gutsy girl who tries to live her best life despite the hardships she has to undergo.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
An interesting question. I am an introvert, I need my space, am sensitive and temperamental too. Much like a cat. Also, I love the sea. Therefore, I am a beach cat!
What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?
That I have solo-travelled to over 40 countries and have worked in a vineyard, in a newsroom, in a school, in a library, in a bank, in a Big 4 consulting firm. Curiosity and experimentation are what I thrive on.
Being the successful writer that you are, you must have experienced peaks and valleys in your writing career. What advice do you have for budding writers?
Tell your story. There will always be one person who will listen with an open heart. It is for that open heart and eager eyes that you are writing. And keep creating. The process of creation is more rewarding than the end result.
Your work would definitely pamper our readers with intricacies of complex relationships and mind numbing thoughts. Any last thoughts for our readers?
In the words of the great mystic poet Rumi:
Don’t be satisfied with stories, of how things have gone for others. Unfold your own myth. You were born with wings, why crawl through life?
How can the readers reach out to you?