Spooky success repeated

Each story is set in several different places within India, sometimes even outside, an indicator of the breadth of Tanushree’s travels.
Spooky success repeated

CHENNAI: Tanushree Podder came out with Spooky Stories in 2021 to much success and acclaim. Its framework of 13 ghost stories narrated by 13 different narrators in a railway station’s waiting room made it popular not just among its target audience of children and young adults but also among adult readers. A year later, Tanushree, teaming up with her husband Ajoy Podder, has brought out the second instalment — More Spooky Stories.

As a writer who left the corporate world to pursue her heart’s calling, Tanushree has 19 books to her credit and has straddled several genres ranging from historical books to period novels and thrillers, not to mention the many travel articles she’s contributed to leading publications in the country, avid traveler that she is. More Spooky Stories follows the same formula of several short stories told by different narrators, only here the railway station is replaced by a bungalow, whose dining room serves as the primary setting. And like the previous version, the stories are set not in fantasy land but firmly in the contemporary.

Creative partnership
In some of her previous books, especially the ones dealing with the military, Tanushree frequently consulted Ajoy’s inputs, given his tryst with the Army. Post-retirement from service, he got on board the writing process for the follow-up installment of Spooky Stories. And a clash in style was inevitable. “Being in the Army, my language was based on Army terminologies; also, I don’t read a lot of fiction, and most books I read are non-fiction. We somehow had to iron those things out. But the basic framework of each story we would brainstorm during our daily evening walks,” he recalled.

Each story is set in several different places within India, sometimes even outside, an indicator of the breadth of Tanushree’s travels. “When you travel, you’re exposed to a lot of different cultures, the details of various places and architecture and so on. All of this definitely enriches you and your knowledge. Many of the facts I gleaned from my travels have found their way into these stories,” she adds.

History & contemporaneity
While one of the stories in the first installment took place in Egypt and was set against the backdrop of mummification, the second book features a story whose protagonist is a history professor on a trip to Mexico where he visits the famous Island of the Dolls. Tanushree’s own travels to the island gave her the necessary historical context with which to weave the story. But she’s also particular about bringing home the historicity of a place without making it obvious and jarring.

Prevalent through several of the tales in More Spooky Stories is the element of social injustice. Be it the newly-appointed manager of a tea estate who ruthlessly fires his staff or the construction worker who dies while at work, there is very often a strong social context to each story.

“Our first installment also had a story that dealt with migrant labourers being stranded after a sudden announcement of a nationwide lockdown. We’ve tried, wherever we could, to work in things like these within the ambit of the overall narrative. But bringing in an obvious moral position in every story might bore the reader” she adds.

For her next book, Tanushree hopes to return to the historical fiction genre, something she hasn’t done for at least a decade. “As of now, there’s no clarity as to when it’s going to be out, but it’s sure to be out in 2023,” she said, adding that further writing partnerships with the husband are also in the pipeline.

Book name: More Spooky Stories
Publisher: HarperCollins
No. of pages: 179
Cost: D299

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The New Indian Express