Working with NGOs inspires author Damyanti Biswas to pen a crime thriller

Chennai: When Damyanti Biswas started working with non-profit organisations, little did she know that she would soon be penning down characters based on people she came across. The stories soon weaved and became You Beneath Your Skin, her debut novel.

“I didn’t know I was writing a crime novel until I finished the first draft,” she says to News Today via email. “It took six years, 15 rewrites and endless rejections to complete.”

Damyanti read an article on ‘Project WHY’ about a decade ago. This organisation aims for a world where all children have quality education and are able to finish their schooling years.

“I was very impressed by their work. I reached out to the founder Anouradha Bakshi, and met the incredible team at ‘Project WHY’ who face very challenging situations to make a difference. Working along with them taught me how to live in grace under duress, inspired me to share joy and sorrow, and stand for what they believed in,” she says.

Damyanti then started working with ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ five years ago when she began researching for her novel. “The violence made visible on the faces of acid attack survivors. But they taught me to see them for who they really are and made me to admire their incredible resilience against odds and camaraderie they strike up with each other’,” she says.

Her experience with these NGOs shifted her perspective to life and naturally her writing. “They have changed me in ways I do not understand, and hopefully shown me a way to see with my heart, and look beneath the skin,” says Damyanti.

To pen a novel based on personal encounters and people calls for seamless writing. How did Damyanti stitch twists and turns to her story? “They came from following my characters. Each has a motive, a background, and a journey. Their journeys intersected to create the plot. It is a whydunit as well as a whodunit. So the novel raises questions around crime; why it occurs, how it affects those in its surroundings, be it the survivors, victims, investigators, and their families.”

The conversation then shifted towards the craft of creating a world of ‘make-believe’. Damyanti isn’t new to fiction. In fact, she started by diving into short stories. “It taught me to be economical in my writing,” she says.

Having her work published by many leading international magazines, it was natural to ask her tips for getting published. “Keep writing and submitting. Sounds like a cliche, but it is very hard to do in face of constant rejection,” she advices and says to follow submission guidelines.

She ends the conversation with, “If you aspire to be an author, you must be very honestly aware of the reason why. There are three kinds of success: self-satisfaction, recognition from peers, and of course, money and fame. Very few authors achieve all three. A clear-headed understanding of what you want from writing life might save you a lot of misery in future.”

Mohammed Rayaan