INDRANI GANGULY

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Hello Indrani, welcome to Incredible Women of India, First of all tell us something about yourself, the real Indrani behind the ever professional and brilliant editor.

Thanks for considering me professional and brilliant! Well, the real Indrani is someone who has always struggled with first lines, be it as a student or as a professional. And that is not only about writing, but metaphorically in life too. I always need that little push or gentle nudge to begin something, but once I do, I realise that I am a natural at it.

I have always been drawn to books since my childhood. Not only did I read most classics in school, I remember reading Sidney Sheldon and Harold Robbins in my seventh grade! My love for the English language developed because of my secondary school where we were encouraged to read and write reviews from a very early age. And my father also made sure that I read the newspapers and periodicals.

I love to read and I am not judgemental about what I am reading. I feel one must lap up whatever information comes one’s way, be it through books, websites, magazines or Whatsapp forwards! So I feel at home whether people are discussing literature or current affairs or television or some weird joke doing the rounds.

Am absolutely passionate about food and that is not limited to only hogging! Reading about culinary history and eating habits interests me a lot. I have recently started taking a lot of interest in mythology – the epics, ancient texts and their interpretation and relevance even in this modern age completely draws me.

Rock and Celtic music are my favourites and I can listen to them all day. And I am passionate about punning! I love to play with words and am a part of many online punning communities and have made some awesome punner friends. This punning habit of mine does become a bit overwhelming for non-punners around me though and I need to check myself!

Tell us about your family. 

I was born to a brilliant and hardworking father and loving and homely mother. I have an elder brother, who is totally chilled out! I had a very protected and happy childhood. My father was and still is extremely ambitious about me. He is like a friend with whom I can discuss anything. Our bond has become stronger since I lost my mother in 2011. I have lived in different cities of India pre and post marriage. I have a wonderful daughter, Aahana, who is eight years old. I am separated from my husband and currently based in Kolkata, West Bengal.

Share some of your daughter’s antics, what are your hopes for her future? 

Aahana is an extremely intelligent child; she is perceptive, loving and if I may use the word, ‘sorted’. Being a single parent, she is the fulcrum of my existence. We are each others’ world. She is capable of giving a lot of love. Aahana has this wonderful habit of writing notes to me – be it a ‘thank-you’ note if she liked something I made or bought for her or a ‘concern’ note if I am unwell – her words simply brighten my day. I love to buy books for her and am happy that she showing a keen interest in reading. She observes me when I am working and has a fair idea of what I do. She tries to edit her books too and more often than not, finds mistakes! She is also extremely witty and is picking up punning, much to my delight! We are a team…all our dreams and aspirations are woven around each other. I do feel bad that she is losing out on having her father around, but I try my best to fill that void.

Like all mothers, I want her to do well in studies and have a successful career. But more than anything else, I want her to be a strong woman who is independent and self-sufficient. I want her to be a good human being who will never hurt anyone. And I really hope she writes a book one day, after all she has an in-house editor!

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Indrani’s Daughter Aahana and her Father

How did you journey as an editor begin?

I did my graduation from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, majoring in English and my post graduation from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, specializing in Print Journalism. I got my first job at Hindustan Times through campus recruitment. Thus began my career as an editor in 2001. After working as a newspaper editor for a few years, I moved on to non-fiction manuscript editing. The transition was smooth, thanks to some wonderful guidance from my superiors. I took an extended maternity break and was nudged back to work by my ex-colleague and now good friend and guide, Ms Kaberi Dutta Chatterjee. She had immigrated to Canada and launched her own publishing house and was looking for a manuscript editor. The first name that came to her mind was me. I was a little apprehensive as I had never done fiction editing before but she showed immense faith in me. I took up the challenge and did some wonderful and critically acclaimed work with her. Simultaneously, I was and am still doing non-fiction editing mainly academic and legal. After some time, Readomania and that genius of a man, Dipankar Mukherjee, happened. He is the best mentor, friend and colleague one can have! Through him, today I am part of this huge literary community and working on some extremely interesting projects.

What were the initial challenges?

For someone who has done non-fiction editing for as long as I have, fiction is a totally new ball game. In fiction, you not only edit but also develop and more often than not, even write. Now all authors aren’t open to suggestions and dealing with them becomes a challenge. One has to find the correct approach to make the author understand your point of view. Also, I feel, in the publishing industry, time is the biggest premium. You are constantly working against the clock and to deliver quality work under such pressure always is a talent one can earn only through experience.

There is a sudden surge of new writers on the Indian market, what is your view as an editor about their quality, content, sale-ability? 

With the advent of e-books, self-publishing one’s work has become very easy. With the click of just a button, you are a ‘published author’! Most self-published authors even forgo a professional editor to save money and get a friend to read their manuscript and then publish it. That is a serious breach, according to me. Just like it is not advisable to self medicate, it is not advisable to self-edit! Like a doctor is an expert, an editor is an expert who can ‘cure’ your manuscript and make it near perfect.

Having said that, one cannot undermine the fact that easy publishing has also brought to the fore a lot of untapped talent. Take for example, Readomania.com. Here one can register and submit their writings for free and we pick them up and publish them. Not all submissions are publishing worthy though. In that case, we give tips to the writers on how they can improve their writing and request them to incorporate the changes and resubmit. In doing so and through various competitions, we have discovered some extremely talented writers who have now either written or are in the process of writing a full-fledged novel.

Then again, in today’s age, merely writing a good book won’t do. One has to aggressively market it too through diverse platforms. Publishing houses as well as the writers are constantly thinking of innovative ways to promote their books like through various competitions and festivals  or book-related merchandises, to name a few.

What was your journey like with STREE -The book, which is now named Defiant Dreams? What kind of stories are there in the book? Did you as a reader enjoy the stories?

Defiant Dreams – Tales of the Everyday Divas has been one of the most fruitful endeavours that I have been a part of. Incredible Women of India along with Readomania organised this nationwide contest and we were overwhelmed by the response we got. Reading the plethora of stories and curating the best 25 was a Herculean task. I really applaud Rhiti Bose and Lopamudra Banerjee for their focus and dedication in doing so. After the names of the winners were announced, came the process of developing the stories to make them perfect. With a little bit of my support and mentoring, Lopa did a fine job in offering the authors development suggestions. After that came the copy-editing and proofing of the stories, which was done by Rhiti and me. I still remember the mad brainstorming sessions we had regarding the title of the book, the length and placement of the stories, the cover design, the launch date and venue! Phew! But in the end, I am really kicked about the end product!

Defiant Dreams is a not only a collection of stories about women who triumphed over the challenges that society threw their way. It is a book of experiences that each woman, urban or rural, educated or illiterate, dependent or with a career, has faced at some point in their lives. There is no feminist, male-bashing statement. Our protagonists are not bra-burners; they are ordinary women who have an extraordinary spirit. They are women who have been pulled down in more ways than one by the society, but have emerged as winners through sheer grit and will power.

I not only enjoyed reading these stories, I could identify with most of the characters. I am sure every reader will get inspired by these incredible women who dared to dream, defiantly!

What is that one important advice that you would give to writers out there? What are the do’s and don’ts before they send off their MS to editors and publishers.

The first piece of advice that I would give to writers is that be open to suggestions. Your book is your baby agreed but you need an experienced midwife to deliver it. The job of the editor is to make you good book better, and for that you must cooperate with her.

Also, do not submit your manuscript just after you have finished writing it. After you have finished your first draft, I suggest you wait for a few days and revisit it. It would be better if you can write another draft with a fresh perspective. It is always better to submit the second draft.

Work in tandem with the editor, incorporate the development suggestions and before the proofs go to print, run them through some beta reader for their opinion. And the most valuable advice is – KEEP WRITING!

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Indrani and Aahana

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Interview conducted by Rhiti Bose for IWI

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