Author Debashish Irengbam’s new book Charlie Next Door is a novel love story. A 42-year-old Anupama Arora struggles every day with the memory of her late husband even as she battles the two hormonal time-bombs that are her children. In search of a companion Anupama surfs on a ‘adult friendship’ website until Charlie moves into her neighbourhood. Their twisted story takes the readers through a roller coaster of love and friendship. We talk to Debashish about the book, genres he likes to explore and more...
When did the idea for the book germinate?
It originated as a movie screenplay around nine years back. I had joined FTII Pune, for their feature film screenplay writing course in 2009. During our first month, we had to develop an idea into a full feature length film screenplay. I went with this story. There was just something about this whole notion of two people dealing with loneliness in their own ways in a big, crowded city like Mumbai that got to me. The fact that one was a 42-year-old single mother of two, and the other a 24-year-old happy-go-lucky guy was incidental. I knew it was going to be a realistic, slice-of-life love story, and I knew they were going to be neighbours.
The genre that draws you the most?
I love works of dark and quirky humour. Black comedy is an eternal favourite. Anything with dysfunctional characters, quirky plots, seemingly innocuous settings — and I am in.
Best opening line in a book you have read?
“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.” — The Outsider, by Albert Camus. Can’t think of a better example of brevity and preciseness. The very opening line sets the tone of not just the narrative, but the character’s psychological profile as well.
A fictional character close to your heart?
I loved the characterisation of Virginia Woolf in The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Her inner angst, creative struggles, disconnect with the world outside, and that raging, uncontrollable darkness within her — all had a haunting effect on me.
Who among the pantheon of writers would you like to have coffee with?
J.K. Rowling — I would like to know each and every aspect of her creative process. Stephen King comes a close second — maestro extraordinaire of the horror and psychological thriller genre.
Your antidote for writer’s block?
I sit down, and I write crap over and over again until it fades into something beautiful, or at least satisfactory. I know it’s tempting to take a prolonged break or get distracted with something far more pleasant (hint: Netflix), but one crucial aspect of writing for me is persistence combined with the right amount of discipline. Coffee helps too.
Tips for aspiring writers?
Read and write as much as you can. Treat your creativity and imagination like a muscle. The more you train it and try to push its limits, the stronger it will become. The same goes for your writing skills as well.