Richa Gupta lives in New Delhi, India. She has been a senior teacher of English in reputed schools for 19 years and an Instructional Designer for training and e-learning in the corporate sector for nine years. After an academic and professional career, she has devoted herself to creative writing since 2017. Her book, Slices of Life, is a collection of short stories or vignettes that provide an immersive and entertaining experience of diverse scenarios of life in motion. In the book, the universal themes and enduring images of commonplace individuals in the swirl of life are embedded in a mixed bag of genres ranging from bathos and futuristic Sci-Fi, to grim realistic fiction and a suspenseful whodunit.
I chat with her about her book Slices of Life, the creative process behind the short stories in the book, and much more.
Hello, Richa! Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hello! I belong to Delhi and except for my early childhood years in Kolkata, have largely lived in this city. My father was a business entrepreneur while my mother belonged to a literary family since my maternal grandfather, Mr. Jainendra Kumar Jain, was a famous author who wrote philosophical novels in Hindi. So, my thought process has been influenced and moulded by both the worlds of business and literature. I have a flair for English and taught English in Senior School for a long time and was also in language-related professions such as editing and instructional design.
Which authors and books were your early formative influences?
I have always been an avid reader. As a child, I was addicted to the books of Enid Blyton, and the time-honoured classics by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Emile Bronte, Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain. Later, I graduated to Agatha Christie followed by a variety of authors. I loved how the murder mystery was unravelled in the books of Agatha Christie and my last story in Slices of Life titled ‘Knots’ shows her influence.
If you could only describe your book Slices of Life in five words, what would they be?
Vignettes of life in motion.
Now tell us a little more about the book! What can readers expect?
They can expect an immersive experience of a variety of real-life scenarios and characters embedded in various sub-genres of fiction such as grim realism, social satire, first-person narrative, Sci-Fi and crime thrillers.
What was your creative process like behind writing the short stories in this book?
I wrote these twelve stories from October, 2018 to April, 2020. Writing each of the stories has been a distinct process based on the people, events and incidents I have experienced, witnessed or heard about. Sometimes, an idea or an issue I feel passionately about acted as the trigger, and I developed the characters and events subsequently. For example, while the initial episodes described in ‘The Young Visitor’ are inspired by my own experiences while searching for a suitable cook; ‘Dusk’, written in April, 2020, is based on the tribulations of migrant workers during the lockdown due to the pandemic in India. My stories are also influenced by the genres of fiction I have read. So, while ‘Future Love Story’, in the tradition of Sci-Fi, depicts a future dystopian society in the year 2090; ‘Knots’ is a whodunit, in the genre of detective fiction, in which the murderer’s identity is revealed at the end.
Which short story is a personal favourite? Why?
It’s like asking a mother who is her favourite child. I am deeply invested in each story and want my readers now to tell me which story appeals to them most. Each reader gives me a different answer. So, I would like to believe that there’s something in it for everyone.
Slices of Life is your debut short story collection. You have written two novels before. What steered you towards the short story form versus the novel form for this book?
I first started writing ‘Knots’ intending it to be a novel. Since I got busy with my son’s engagement and marriage from November, 2018 to June, 2019, I gave ‘Knots’ an early conclusion and changed it from a novel into a short story. I grew to love this medium of creative writing as the gestation and maturation of a story is a shorter process and I can write it on the go.
How have you been coping with the current pandemic and what will be the new normal for you post it?
This pandemic has imposed on us the constant dread of contracting the virus and an unnatural isolation. I think we need to enhance our physical and mental strength to combat its effect. I have been busy authoring more stories since I feel there is an audience for them. Post the pandemic, I want to resume the face-to-face encounters and social activities that are an intrinsic part of our nature.
Lastly, are you currently reading anything and do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
Recently, I have been going through some health issues, so I have been preoccupied with working out and developing muscle strength. I have recommended several books and authors in my earlier interviews.
The book ‘Slices of Life’ is available online and at your nearest bookstore.