Saurav Dutt is The Guardian and LA Times short-listed writer of fiction and non-fiction books. His books have been exhibited, showcased and featured at international book fairs in London, Frankfurt, Beijing, Sharjah and India. His latest novel ‘The Butterfly Room’ has thus far attracted critical acclaim and attention from major media outlets such as Zee TV and the BBC as well as the director of ‘India’s Daughter’ Leslee Udwin. He currently resides in the United Kingdom. You can read more about his work at www.sauravdutt.com and connect with him on Twitter.
Tell us a bit more about yourself.
SD: I’m an author and journalist working out of the United Kingdom who has been writing fiction, non-fiction and in newspapers/magazines for about five to six years. After freelance work for The Guardian and The Independent, I wrote non-fiction biographies of Hollywood actors like Mickey Rourke and then turned to fiction.
I like to write about serious topics with a cultural and socio-political context, such as my latest book ‘The Butterfly Room’ which talks about South Asian and India related issues of domestic violence, abuse and homophobia. I was short-listed for Outstanding Contribution to Arts & Culture Awareness at the 2014 British Indian Awards and have been featured on the BBC and Zee TV to name but a few media outlets relating to my work.
Have you always wanted to become an author?
SD: I’ve always needed a creative outlet and writing is by far the one I consider myself to be the most skilled in. I am obsessed with stories, narration and important themes within literature, music and film. I’ve earned audiences in genres like horror but it is in the realm of topical issues that I feel the most compelled to write. I can’t think of anything else except writing and creating, to me it’s like breathing.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
SD: I consider myself very much a work in progress but the adulation of ‘The Butterfly Room’ has been very pleasing. It’s attracted the attention of major TV, radio and online digital outlets as well as actors, producers and directors. It came to the attention of Leslee Udwin, the director of ‘India’s Daughter’, and continues to attract mainstream interest.
I’d like to think the biggest achievements are yet to come.
Do you have any particular writers or pieces of literature that inspire you?
SD: They always say that the truth is stranger than fiction and I’m inclined to agree. I tend to read non-fiction a lot and films and music tend to provide most of the inspiration for my work. In terms of favourite writers or ones that inspire me I’d list Stephen King, Yukio Mishima, Salman Rushdie, J.D. Salinger, Hanif Kureshi as the ones that immediately come to mind as well as books such as ‘Man’s Fate’ and ‘Silence’ as amongst my favourites.
Your latest piece of work, ‘The Butterfly Room,’ has gone down incredibly well on various media platforms and has received some great reviews. Could you tell us a little bit more about it?
SD: I’m overjoyed the book has thus far managed to attract wide audiences and a positive reception. It’s a novel based around the accounts of several victims of domestic violence and abuse as well as homophobia within an Indian and South Asian context. It’s about a British Indian family disintegrating through a complex web of deceit, repression, patriarchal enslavement and in fighting for truth within a family framework.
This came out of my work writing on women’s rights and issues of LGBTI discrimination, many of which are on my website.
What have been some of your biggest challenges to overcome while writing ‘The Butterfly Room?’
SD: Mainly the attitude of some sectors of Indian and South Asian society that felt I was only concentrating on negative elements of culture and socio-economic realities. They felt I was uncovering and fabricating mistruths about the extent to which Indian women and men suffer under these areas of discrimination.
I also received criticism from men’s rights groups that felt that the domestic violence issue is completely conflated by the West and doesn’t realize that they (men) are being victimized too.
The biggest challenge as a writer was in placing these true accounts within the framework of a novel and ensuring it was compelling and moving.
What message do you hope that readers can take from your latest book?
SD: I would hope readers earn a sense of empathy with the characters and the accounts from which they were based. Maybe they will investigate the issues at hand in a deeper context and consider all sides of the debate. The book was mainly written to promote discussion and debate and I would hope a reader would realize that hope can only be achieved through continual and sustained discussion and debate with all sides ensuring they listen.
What has been the best bit of advice ever given to you?
SD: There are a few, the best one is probably “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”. I think that sums up the attitude everybody should take if that is their intention. Otherwise another one – though not strictly advice per se – is that “In shallow waters the dragon becomes the joke of the shrimp.”
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take?
SD: I would need music; music is like oxygen to me so certainly an MP3 player of some kind. I’d need a library too or if isolated to a book the Complete Works of William Shakespeare or Edgar Allan Poe…along with a good Cuban cigar (or coffee machine)