After eighteen years of corporate experience in Finance, Strategy and later education, Debleena Majumdar has published her first novel “A Marketplace for Murder” with Vishwakarma Publications. I asked her about the intriguing characters that she has created, the genre of suspense fiction, the title of her book and much more. Read the full interview to find out her responses.
- Your protagonist lurches from crisis to crisis till matters come to head. Was it inspired by the experience of an urban middle-class woman or did you have someone more specific in mind?
My protagonist is an inspiration from multiple people I have seen around me and read about. When I started writing this book, I wanted to bring back the idea of the citizen detective, such as Ms. Marple, in Agatha Christie’s novels. But my character, in my imagination, would not be knitting or drawing brilliant deductions from her seemingly placid and yet richly diverse village life. She would be a working mother, busy, flawed, argumentative and yet curious enough to ask questions. And sometimes, those questions would answer more than what she had asked for. That’s how I had imagined my character. And she is today’s everywoman, I feel.
- Disappearance is an old prop in suspense fiction, drawing in part from gothic tradition. How is your treatment of this trope different?
I love the question. And yes, disappearance is intriguing, precisely because it can lead to so many different outcomes, each one a potential storyline for an author. Has the person been kidnapped or met with a more violent end, or is some other game playing out as we saw in “Gone Girl?” Has she just walked away and found a new life? Or is there a temporary loss in memory as what was shared publicly when Agatha Christie disappeared for a few days? And will there ever be closure for the ones left behind?
In my case, I have treated disappearance slightly differently. I feel today, with technology, this world is shifting fast and our digital footprints are casting long shadows online. Sometimes, those identities are as fragile as our egos. What happens when our very identity disappears? Identity theft today is real and urgent. That’s a key question I ask in this novel, along with the traditional idea of physical disappearance.
- There have been few female detective characters or even female characters in amateur investigative roles. What do you attribute it to? Could it be because suspense has largely been a male domain?
While there are many crime novels that conveniently feature women as just the victims, or as eternally evil villains with nothing to redeem them, or cardboard cutout characters of damsels in eternal distress even in the 21st century, with men in the key investigative roles, I do think there have been some authors who have portrayed women as interesting characters in crime and suspense novels. Not just in key investigative roles, but also as characters that keep you guessing about their motives till the very end.
For example, characters such as Grace Marks, in Alias Grace, written by Margaret Atwood; Kay Scarpetta’s character as written by Patricia Cornwell; Kya Clark, in the novel “When the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens; the character of the little girl named Josephine in Agatha Christie’s “Crooked House;” “Gone Girl” and its subversive view of victimhood by Gillian Flynn, are just a few.
I do feel that investigation has nothing to do with gender and I want to continue writing characters that reflect our changing society, irrespective of gender.
The other thing I feel is often missing from crime novels, is humor. I love the sneaky humor that shows up in films like “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” or in the writing of Muriel Spark or the “highly suspicious” exclamations of Lalmohan Babu, as written by Satyajit Ray in his Feluda series. Real-life, is a lot like that I believe with moments of utter incongruity peeking into searingly sad situations. As in “A Marketplace for Murder,” humor is another ingredient I want to keep exploring in my novels, even the crime related ones.
- The title of the novel is quite intriguing. How did you come to choose it and what does it signify?
When I was writing this novel, the voice of the criminal is what came to me first. And my criminal’s playing field is the digital marketplace. Unlike a marketplace of old, where you would have busy streets lined up with wares and buyers and sellers arguing and interacting with each other, in today’s technology-enabled digital marketplace, a lot of our interactions, are anonymous. And while that has many benefits, for my protagonist, that’s an opportunity. An opportunity with fatal consequences. Consequences that can lead to murder. Hence, “A Marketplace for Murder.” For more, though, you must read my book.
- How was your experience of publishing with Vishwakarma Publications?
My journey and experience with Vishwakarma Publications have been brilliant. As a first-time author, I am still learning a lot of things about the publishing side of the world. Vishal Soni and Sneha Makharia have been amazingly helpful and encouraging. And the team at Vishwakarma has been outstanding. Stanley, Chaitali, Meenakshi, Richa, and all the other members of the team I have interacted with so far, have made me feel completely at home. They have been patient, down-to-earth, helpful and guided me at every step from finalizing the manuscript to planning for the launch and helping with the promotions. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to bring this book to life. I can’t thank you enough for believing in my story.
And I must thank my literary agent, Suhail Mathur, and Team BookBakers who not only helped me understand the value of my story, but also finalized the details with Vishwakarma, guided and helped with each small query, and designed the beautiful cover.
- What is on your current reading list?
I just finished reading “When the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens and “The Testament” by Margaret Atwood. I am a compulsive reader and need to have enough unread books on my table, like a true bookaholic. On my reading list now are all the books from fellow authors I managed to get from the Pune International Literature Festival. Its an amazing feeling to get signed copies from authors and I am relishing and reading each one of them, in between life and laughter.