March 24, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

“Gender bias is the reason that dozens of women authors have chosen to write under male pseudonyms.”- Tanushree Podder (Indian Author)

5 min read

Team Kitaab is in conversation with Indian author Tanushree Podder as a part of the South Asian Women Writers Feature.

For the whole of March, we will be featuring South Asian Women Writers on Kitaab for the whole of March. You can read the editor’s note to know more about this.

Today, we are featuring Indian author Tanushree Podder. Born in New Delhi, Tanushree worked in the corporate sector for eight long years before she quit the rat race to write. She is a well-known travel writer and novelist, and climate change and the environment are of special interest to her. She enjoys exploring various subjects, and this has led to her writing across genres, including historical, military, crime and the paranormal. She wrote several non-fiction books before moving to fiction and has now published sixteen novels.

Her books include Nur Jahan’s Daughter, Boots Belts Berets, On the Double, Escape from Harem, Solo in Singapore, A Closetful of Skeletons, Before You Breathe, No Margin for Error, The Teenage Diary of Rani Laxmibai, The Girls in Green, Spooky Stories and An Invitation to Die. Ambapali is her seventeenth novel. Her novel Decoding the Feronia Files is the first Indian cli-fi thriller. Three of her books, Boots Belts Berets, A Closetful of Skeletons, and The Girls in Green, are being adapted into web series. She lives in Pune.

You can find all her works online.

Team Kitaab: How did writing happen to you?

Tanushree Podder: I began as a storyteller when I was just 11. As the eldest of siblings, I was often required to babysit when our parents went out. I told them stories to keep them occupied. The narration grew in dimension as time passed and eventually gave way to writing. But I had not imagined it would, one day, become my vocation. Like most parents in those days, mine wanted me to be a doctor or an engineer.

I went through the process of completing my education and working in the corporate sector before listening to my heart. Writing, in the meantime, had continued as a hobby. I freelanced for various newspapers and magazines before I quit my job and took up writing full-time.

Team Kitaab: If you had to introduce someone to your work/s, which books of yours would you ask them to start with?

Tanushree Podder: I would ask them to start with the latest book, Ambapali, and then read Nurjahan’s Daughter and Boots Belts Berets. 

Team Kitaab: Share five reads you would recommend from your region/ country.

Tanushree Podder: Prothom Pratishruti by Jnanpith award winner, Ashapurna Devi, a feminist writer from Bengal, India. It has also been translated into English as The First Promise.

Hajar Churashir Ma (Bengali) by Mahasweta Devi (India). Translated into English as Mother of 1084.  

That long silence (English) by Shashi Deshpande (India).

Krishnakali (Hindi) by Shivani (India)

Difficult Daughters (English) by Manju Kapoor (India)

Team Kitaab: Your thoughts on Women Writing as a genre. 

Tanushree Podder: I don’t think it is right to categorize the works of women writers in a genre. We don’t have a genre called male writing, so why should there be discrimination based on the writers’ gender? It creates a gender bias in the readers’ minds. Gender bias is the reason that dozens of women authors have chosen to write under male pseudonyms.

The Bronte sisters had done it way back in 1846. Their poems were published under the pseudonyms of Ellis Currer and Acton Bell. Mary Anne Evans repeated the feat by using George Eliot as her pen name. There were several women writers who found acceptability after adopting a male pseudonym.

I have come across readers who are dismissive of women writers. They feel women writers are good at writing romance and they are no good at writing crime and sci-fi. Actresses are now called actors, so why not do away with the word women in women’s writing?

Team Kitaab: Please talk a bit about your publishing journey. The challenges you faced and the hurdles.

Tanushree Podder: I had been writing short stories and travel stories for various magazines and newspapers for several years before I started writing books. We were living in a remote area of the country when I came across an advertisement in the newspaper asking for manuscripts from aspiring writers. There was just a post box number in the advertisement. This was twenty-two years back, when I wrote my first non-fiction book.

My biggest challenge when I began writing was my ignorance of the publishing industry.

tanushree podder

There were no computers or the internet when I began writing, so I used a portable typewriter to type the manuscript of my first book. Thereafter, I took a printout and posted the 300 pages of the manuscript to the post box without knowing the name of the publisher. I was delighted to receive a positive reply from the publisher. They wanted to print my book. That was the beginning of my publishing journey and I never looked back.

My biggest challenge when I began writing was my ignorance of the publishing industry. I knew nothing about publishing agreements and the remuneration one could expect from writing. As a result, I gave away all my rights for a pittance. The books I signed still sell, but I don’t earn from them. I wrote several books for the publishing company, till I realized I was being exploited. It was a learning process from which I learned a few lessons. I wrote 16 nonfiction books before switching to fiction and my 17th novel has just been released.

Writer’s block can be a very real and fearful experience. It diminishes a writer’s confidence and breeds self-doubt.

tanushree podder

Team Kitaab: How do you deal with Writer’s Block?

Tanushree Podder: Writer’s block can be a very real and fearful experience. It diminishes a writer’s confidence and breeds self-doubt. I found the best way to deal with it was to stop trying. It is better to take a break instead of wrestling with the block and feeling frustrated.

I try to get away for a couple of days. If going away is not possible, I give myself some breathing space by watching movies, shopping, or chatting with friends. It refreshes the mind and lifts the block. 

Disclaimer: All pictures are copyright of the author/s unless otherwise.