Nikita Singh and Durjoy Datta on their new book “Someone Like You”and the pains and perks of co-authoring a work of fiction

A joint effort in fiction might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The narratives are more personal than research-based, and every thought, sentence and curve in plot might become a bone of contention. Back in 2011 Nikita Singh and Durjoy Datta co-authored If It’s Not Forever… The experience couldn’t have been bad; the two now return with their second co-authored book, Someone Like You (Penguin Metro Reads), a campus fiction narrated through the voice of Niharika, an Engineering college fresher, and dealing with the circle she develops in a new environment.

Nikita and Durjoy aren’t two books old. Engineering graduate Durjoy, along with friend Sachin Garg, started publishing company Grapevine India and is the author of six books — Of Course I Love You! ...Till I Find Someone Better! (2008), Now That You’re Rich... Let’s Fall In Love! (2009), She Broke Up, I Didn’t... I Just Kissed Someone Else! (2010), Ohh Yes, I Am Single... And So Is My Girlfriend! (2011), You Were My Crush... Till You Said You Love Me! (2011), and Till the Last Breath (2012) — besides the two written with Nikita.

Nikita studied Pharmacy. Her solo ventures in fiction are Love @ Facebook (2011), Accidentally in Love (2011), and The Promise (2012). She’s also an editor at Grapevine India.

At a Barista outlet in Connaught Place — their publishers have a promotional tie-up with the coffee chain — the two talk about their new book. Excerpts:

How did you get acquainted?

Nikita: I used to stalk him on Facebook. He had been writing way before I started; by the time I added him on Facebook his fourth book was already out. When I wrote my first book I told him about it. He read it, and things took off from there.

Durjoy: She told me she was writing her first book. A lot of people then were doing that, so I would try not to reply; it becomes a huge conversation and then I’m responsible for their book. She used to tell me, “I’m going to start,” so I used to ignore that. Finally, when she got it published, I picked up the book.

How did you start working together?

Durjoy: We started working when I started editing her books and she started editing mine. Not really editing, but we started putting in stuff. We used to write in comments. She used to send me back my documents and I would be like, “Word count toh badh gaya hai”, but I couldn’t place where she had added stuff. That’s when we got the idea that we should write a book together.

Nikita: We didn’t know each other that well during the first book, so we never used to fight. Now we draw daggers, criticise each other every time.

Points of disagreement…

Nikita: We don’t disagree on the basic plot; that’s what we decide in advance. But while writing many things come up, and it’s frustrating. Someone Like You was especially frustrating.

Durjoy: It’s different ideologies. She’s more of a fantasy person...

Nikita: Especially as this book was from a girl’s point of view; he had a lot of trouble adjusting with that.

Durjoy: Because I wanted her to like how I pictured girls to be. She’s like, “Girls don’t behave like that!”, and I would say, “They should!” She’s a little into everything being perfect, very ridiculous coincidences, everything falling into place, and I’m very realistic and I’d say, “That can’t happen.” She’s all about sitcoms — perfect lives, perfect manners. And no guy says the perfect line in front of the girl the first time he meets her… Many, many points of contention. The next book we write is going to be in third-person.

Favourite books and authors

Durjoy: Just finished with The Taliban Cricket Club, and now I’m onto Stringer.

Nikita: Just competed reading The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks. Also reading Stringer.

Durjoy: I really like John Green. I think I’ll cry if I see him. The way he is as a person, as an author, the way he conducts himself, the whole package, is so overwhelming… I’m a huge fan.

Nikita: I like Sophie Kinsella. I like her style of writing, her sense of humour. I want to write a book like that. Carefree.

The idea of a good book…

Nikita: I think after you’ve read a book, closed it, it should make you think. It might be a light book, but it should leave a message. That’s what we tried to do with this book, I think. It starts off as a light campus fiction, but it gets intense.

Durjoy: I don’t want to leave a message, as such. But I want to put things with a different perspective, that you can think about something in a certain way. Earlier I used to glorify bad characters and show them in good light. If somebody was bad, he’s very bad, if good, very good. I don’t want to fall into that trap again. I want to write something people read and talk about, and not just because it was fun.

The next book I’m writing is about a psychopath — not a psychopath exactly, but that’s the closest he can get to. He cannot feel emotions. What I want to do again with this book is understand why emotions are important and why we give importance to certain emotions that shouldn’t be given such importance.

At the end of the day, a good book is something I can feel proud of and not be embarrassed about… I’ve written those books in the past. Most writers start late in life. They’ve already reached a stage in life where they’re like, “We’ll not fall below this level.” I got published when I was 22. That somebody was publishing my book was a big enough deal. But when I turn 35 I shouldn’t be turning back and saying, “Why did I write like this?”

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