Meet Sohini Dutt, author of The Ghastly Secret

What inspires you to write?

The answer would be almost everything! I believe one of the most interesting skills of a writer is that he/she takes note of every detail of human life. At times, it can simply be the curiosity about something that leads one to sit down with a pen and paper. At other times, it might be a real-life experience or recent research about something that intrigues you so much that you decide to develop the idea further. In my case, it’s an amalgamation of everything!

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

Well, I won’t say I have a fixed genre to cater to, because I’ve always loved reading, researching, exploring, and experimenting. So there might come a day when I decide to shift to science fiction or simply a romantic comedy! It depends on how I build up the knowledge base by means of research and study. Having said that, the reason why I chose to write on thrillers and horror is that I like working with genres that require one to delve deeper into the ideas and be able to make the story as engrossing as possible through fine wordplay. One small hint and your entire plot would go down the drain, it’s that difficult! That is the very essence of thrillers. And perhaps I like undertaking difficult tasks and writing these, were on my to-do list! 

What is the one thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre that they need to know?

I’ve heard many people say that writing horror is something unusual. One thing that most need to understand is that a story can never depend entirely on horror or spooky events, there is always something to add up to it. For instance, if you’re talking of a haunted place or some paranormal events you’ve encountered, there must be some crime or a history of betrayal attached to that, because of which the restless spirits decide to communicate with you. Therefore, building up that part of the story is another challenge to behold. Hence, it can never be “simply horror” all through.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’m glad you asked me that! I am a staunch believer in the fact that learning is a never-ending process. Every successful writer today perhaps works a hundred times harder than we are, only to develop a best-seller that can hit success at one go! And that hard work is not research and building up characters. That hard work is fieldwork, gathering real-life experiences, seeing things for real, understanding the cause and effect relationship, and a lot more. Persistent effort in this line, therefore, helps one better herself/himself. Similarly with consistent efforts; I’ve developed and evolved creatively in the sense that I’ve learned how to give life to my characters, how to carry a story forward without breaking the intrigue for a second, how to engross my readers, etc. It is all about consistency and sincerity.

How did you decide how to publish your books?

Ah, that brings back memories! Long story short, I knew I wasn’t in a position to invest and the very fact that self-publishing companies demand exorbitant rates at the expense of the author is something that was surely depressing. At the same time, most well-known traditional publishing houses are currently not accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Therefore the struggle for getting the manuscripts edited, proof-read and formatted, effective marketing strategies so as to reach the right audience, building up a website, launching video trailers and participating in sessions, and requesting reviews and interviews was something that fell completely upon me. And considering that I am a graduate myself, you can imagine the struggle I’ve undergone. That’s when after tremendous research, I decided to compare the self-publishing houses in India and submit my manuscripts for the right one. Even though the work on your part is extremely overwhelming, you need to keep in mind that it’s the book that turns the tables and so the quality should be maintained at all times.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, if you’re sincere and dedicated towards your passion without letting the contemporary trends bog you down, then no one can stop you from earning success. Also, success comes slowly but is extremely gratifying when it embraces you! So never let the zeal fade away.

Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?

Yes! This story that I’ve written is my very first novella, titled The Ghastly Secret. It is set in the time frame of the 1980s in San Antonio, Texas. This is perhaps the very first book I’ve written, which has a careful amalgamation of the most intriguing genres including crime, romance, horror, and suspense! The protagonist Dylan Johnson is described as a man in his late twenties working as an assistant professor at The University of Texas, in the Department of Geology. He lives with Blake Walker, who was initially just a colleague but eventually becomes his roommate and a bosom buddy. It is after Blake gets an offer for a job in Arizona that he decides to move out and Dylan finds himself, alone. It is during this time that he comes across a newspaper article that mentions an abandoned house at Alamo Farmsteads available for sale. The story takes off from here, Dylan starts experiencing bizarre things after he moves in and there’s a lot more that you’ll get to read in the book. Surely an engrossing plot (at least that’s been my attempt) and I hope it gets all the love.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

I’d say it was difficult to contextualize the story and put in the right details because the 1980s was surely not when I was born! And so my research had to be appropriate so as to make my readers connect with the situations and the characters.

If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast?

That’s an interesting question! Perhaps Ryan Reynolds would play the protagonist Dylan Johnson, Leonardo DiCaprio would be suiting Blake Walker (I’m already excited to watch this movie ha-ha!) and the female character can be played by Emma Watson! Imagine Ryan romancing Emma, wouldn’t that look great?

What is the one thing you’ve learned as a writer?

That the road to recognition isn’t a cakewalk and it takes years of persistent struggle to convince people of your credibility as a writer. But having said that, I’ll also say that the more the dedication, the better the quality of your work and therefore it’s more of a motivating lesson!

Learn more about Sohini and get the book!

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