Book Name- Excess Baggage Author- Richa S. Mukherjee Genre- Contemporary Fiction Format- Paper Back / Kindle Edition Publisher- Harper Collins/ Black Ink
About the Author– Richa S. Mukherjee is a poet, ex journalist and has experience in the Advertising Industry. She chose her calling when she took up full time writing and has been able to make a mark in the writing world with her unique writing style. She had published a poetry book titled A penchant for prose after which she published her first Novel “I Didn’t Expect to be Expecting“, a light hearted take on accidental pregnancy, and “Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt. Ltd“, a humorous thriller that has been procured for screen adaptation. She wears many hats and is a blogger, a TOI India writer, a travel writer, author of e-singles, anthologies and audio books. When not travelling or writing she spends time with family , juggling responsibilities and is a doting mother to her adorable daughter. I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to speak with the author and the Q/A is as below. Please scroll below after the review to know the Author better and connect with her ideas and perspectives .
Narration– The writing is in third person narrative and has humor and wit as the bed rock upon which the characters play their role very intricately and portray an interesting story in front of the readers. This book depicts around the life choices of a single woman and is a family drama where in a lot of emphasis is on highlighting pre conceived notions & biases that the society holds about single women and their way of thinking. The story is gripping & keeps the readers engaged till the very last. The author successfully manages to tickle the funny bones through her writing and simultaneously makes the readers ponder over many issues.
Book Cover & Title– If the yellow sunshine is missing in your life then you can just grab this beautiful book which radiates positivity with its glossy vibrant yellow cover and a very funny, yet apt comic picturization of the two central characters with the boarding pass and of course their excess baggage that they carry.
Content– I picked up this book because I really wanted to read something unique , or something that breaks the monotony and this book caught my attention . And I must say, the journey with the book has been very fulfilling. It not only revolves around the relationship of a mother and daughter but also brings in varied hues of societal norms into a reader’s mind. Being a daughter myself and I being very close to my mother wanted to explore this world and see it through the eyes of the author.
The contemporary fiction revolves around the life of Anviksha Punjabi and her mother Smita Punjabi who are in fact Sindhis and share a very unique bitter -sweet relationship. Anviksha constantly tries to navigate through her not- so- perfect life and is trying to untangle the cob webs when her second marriage has already hit rock bottom. Her mother, a 67 years ‘young’ lady is a fun loving & outgoing person who unlike her daughter is full of positivity and can easily befriend strangers . Anviksha has difficulty managing her work amidst broken marriages and has a very hard time handling her exes Rudra and Ranvijay, while Smita Punjabi has successfully been able to master the world of social media to boost her business and carves out a niche for herself. When life has gifted her lemons , Anviksha has finally decided to make a lemonade and take a break from her routine life and plans a solo trip, only to realize later, that she has to tag along her mother as her co-passenger! This trip is inspired by the hit Bollywood movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara! The journey to the foreign land turns out to be so much more than just a vacation, where they have a rendezvous with their convoluted past, revelation of hidden layers of relationships, bursting of myths and rearranging of expectations .
The contrast in the characterization of both the mother & the daughter is so engaging that one can relate to it instantly. The peripheral supporting characters like the ever helpful new found colleague named Akash, the bestie named Nikita, the pets Mutton & Bhindi, all beautifully add to the flavor of the book. The witty and humorous take on many social issues like normalizing divorce, dealing with realistic aspects of live -in relationships, the judgements attached with not so normal occupations, the perspective shift that happens when one sees life patterns that are completely different from one’s own country, keep the reader not only engaged but raise some very pertinent questions. The baggage can resonate with the readers strongly and may be, help them take a mental journey to help have a fresh look towards various aspects.
So, does Anviksha really get answers to all her problems? Does the relationship between the mother & daughter undergo a paradigm shift? What happens to their excess baggage during their journey? To know more and to explore the book yourself please visit the Amazon link of Excess Baggage link to grab your own copy .
This review has been written as part of Blogchatter’s Book Review Program.
My Interview with the beautiful & the Multifaceted Author:
Q1-We all know you, but how would you like to be known to your readers?
As someone who can help them smile and observe the world around them with moderation and hope.
Q2-Please, tell us about your writing journey and your association with Black Ink Publication so that young writers can draw some inspiration.
Before I wrote my first novel, I Didn’t Expect To Be Expecting, I used to write poetry and short articles on topics that would interest me. At the end of my maternity break, a book was ready but I had barely begun looking for publishers when I was besieged with apprehensions. A fortuitous participation in a writing contest led me to Ravinder Singh and his publishing venture Black Ink Books where I gulped my trepidations and pitched my book to him. Then Harper Collins came on board to jointly published my book along with Black Ink. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut platform. I’ve had the same publishers ever since.
Q3- How did the idea of a book based on the mother-daughter duo get conceptualized? Was there any personal experience or any observation that prompted you to take it up?
I clearly remember the moment when the idea came to me. On a flight! We were on our way to Spain and bumped into a friend who spoke to us of her arduous and heartbreaking divorce. It got me thinking about how ridiculous the stigma associated with divorce has always been. Not only does a person have to deal with their own emotions, they have a whole host of people with wagging fingers breathing down their necks. That was the germ of the thought. I didn’t set up expressly intending to write about divorce but I wanted to address the various labels that are placed on women. Whether it is a two time divorcee or an independent hexagenerian who chooses her own path, opinions fly thick and strong. The book ended up becoming a juxtaposition of internal excess baggage that these women carry and the kind that is forced on to them.
Q4- Why humor and any future plans to change the genre?
Humour is the lens that I train onto the world to preserve my sanity. It makes us aware and alive to the idiosyncrcies of people and the absurdities of the world around us without getting emotionally swayed. It makes the world more palatable and is an essential tool to have meaningful dialogue about sensitive issues.
I never strategized to write in a particular genre. I focus on the stories and as a result, meander amongst genres. The commonthread in my work comes through the tonality of my writing which tends to be humorous. So in that sense I don’t feel I need to restrict myself and I can keep experimenting with various genres and formats. IDETBE, a contemporary subject, to Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt ltd, a comedic thriller, to Excess Baggage, a family drama, are all varied in their own way. As long as the world remains as crazy as it has always been, I will have fodder for my stories 😊
Q5- How do you ideate upon the theme and plan your plot of the book?
The story idea comes to me first. This happens as a function of being a good listener, reader and observer. There is enough stimulus in our immediate environment. Once I have an idea, my focus turns to characters. As a writer, I gravitate towars knowing the people who will help me tell my story. Its important for me to understand them, their history, their impulsions and this knowledge helps me texturise my writing. Research is very important at this stage, also to familiarise oneself with the nitty gritties of all the concepts and subject matter being covered in the story. Then I turn to plotting. I try and keep this part simple. I feel I’ve evolved with each book and am more organised in my approach now, but by and large I am an intuitive writer. Its important to set the direction and create a framework for the various sections but then I let myself go while filling those sections. Excessive detailing is detrimental to my creativity and flow.
Q6-Who do you think are your target audience and what can readers expect from your book?
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer that question. It eludes me! I suppose there is nothing homogenous about the kind readers who have reached out to me and told me that my books have made a difference, made them happy. I think there is a universal quality to the way I write about relatable themes, believable characters, people we would meet everyday and stories that can make one laugh and cry, that reaches out to diverse readers. There’s something endearing and memorable in eack book.
Q7-Please share your favorite part of the book or an excerpt that may have been inspired by some fun real life incident, if any.
Many incidents from my life mix into my stories but I’m not sure the people featured in them would take too kindly to the revelation! But here’s an interesting one. There is a section of the book which covers the ‘mating classifieds’ for the doggie character Bhindi and the hilarity that ensues as they go about finding Bhindi a partner. This was something that really happened and I had promised myself at the time that it was too funny to not warrant a mention in one of my future books!
Q8- How have been keeping up your mojo to write amidst this pandemic & what advice would you give to keep the passion of writing alive to aspiring writers?
Writing ends up being as unpredicatable as the vicissitudes of this ghastly pandemic. Last year, when my mind was incapable of getting back to my wip book, which infact was Excess Baggage, I took some time off and wrote 3 e-singles with Ravinder Singh as part of a collaboration with Harper Collins and then Storytel. It was an experiment which I enjoyed and it allowed me to dip into a genre I hadn’t written in, romance. Earlier this year, I focused all my energies on completing Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt Ltd 2 because I had a deadline. Then the second wave hit and my writing routine changes on a daily basis as a result of that. The advice would be to not coerce yourself on days when you don’t feel the flow naturally. Try a mix of formats to keep things fluid and interesting. I write articles, sometimes on my blog, sometimes short stories and a variety of writing stimulus helps. Ofcourse reading helps too.
Q-9- Blogger to Author. How did that shift happen and how easy or difficult was it?
Incidentally it all happened at the same time. When I started my blog, I had simultaneously started writing my first book. What blogging helps you do is gain some much needed confidence and feel a sense of community which is invigorating. It helped me read, research and build an interesting network with other writers. Things that are very important when you are setting out. Whether blogging or writing novels, you’re still writing to an audience, trying to convey an interesting and cohesive story or thought in some way. I personally didn’t feel that the transition was too hard.
Q-10- How important is it to participate in Writing Contests and what are your thoughts on these challenges?
A contest kickstarted my publishing journey. It was through the TOI writing contest that I met Ravinder and that’s how it all started. It’s important to challenge yourself, flex your writing muscle and healthy competition never hurts. Whether its contests, open mikes or any sort of challenge, there’s no harm in trying. You might even end up networking and connecting with others in that eco system. Go for it!
Q-11- Paper Books or E-Books? How do you envision the future of publishing?
Always, always, Paperbacks! Though I have nothing against e books or whatever format books are consumed in. With the advent of self publishing and crowdsourced writing, the industry has already become democratised to some extent. While opportunities will expand, traditional publishing might become even more elusive and hard to crack given the state of the industry and depletion of bookstores even in pre- pandemic times. Shorter formats, more collaborations, experimentation with formats is where we seem to be headed. Let’s hope the tides turn and the future of books, publishers, writers, readers and everyone in the eco system shines bright.
Q-12- Any hint of future work that we can get a sneak peak?
Book 5 is a challenge again. One that I’m thouroughly enjoying. All I can divulge at the moment is that it features some very strong female protagonists that I hope will be loved by readers. Meanwhile, Kanpur Khoofiya Pvt Ltd Part 2 is with my publishers and I’m hoping for a release date sometime this year.
Q 13- It would be great to know more about your favorite books or favorite authors that have made an impact on you or your writing style.
Every author I’ve ever read has impacted me in some way. Considering that I am a voracious reader, the list is endless but here are a few, top of mind titles/ authors. PG Wodehouse, Rabindranath Tagore, Amitava Ghosh, Amitabh Bagchi, Edgar Allan Poe, Georgette Heyer, Ruth Rendell, Chitra B Divakaruni, Jerry Pinto, Erma Bombeck, Howard Jacobson, Satyajit Ray, Jules Vernes, Margaret Atwood, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohington Mistry. I could go on!
Q-14- Who has been your biggest inspiration and supporter in your personal life?
I am blessed to have had support from my entire family, every step of the way. However, a special mention for my husband Anirban who not only egged me on to focus on writing but is also my editor and punching bag all in one!
Q-15-Any message that you want to give to your readers.
Thanks for taking a chance on me. Stay with me and the ink in my pen will forever flow.
Get in touch with the author
I personally , thank the Author for giving me the opportunity to interview her & I wish her all the very best for all her future endeavors !
This review has been written as part of Blogchatter’s Book Review Program.