Archana Pathak is based in Pune. She has done her Master’s in English Literature and has taught English to senior classes, for almost a decade and a half.
She is a voracious reader and has read a large number of books by authors of various genre, but her preferred genre is mystery fiction. Her favourite authors are Victoria Holt, Daphne du Maurier, Dorothy Eden, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart and present day authors like Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley, Jojo Moyes and so on. Archana Pathak is an ardent traveller and has a keen ear for music.
She has always been passionate about writing. She has been writing blogs on and off. ‘Footsteps in Time’ is her debut novel published by Leadstart publishing. She is already working on her second novel and aims to be a full time writer.
Archana Pathak: The protagonist Aparna, is a psychiatrist and lives in London, England. She comes to India to assist her mother in selling their ancestral house in the village, Shivgarh. As she enters the village, she feels a kind of familiarity but doesn’t attach too much importance to it.
But when she comes to know about the Haveli in the village that is also being sold at the same time, she has this irresistible urge to see this Haveli. The fascination with the Haveli is nothing new as she loves to explore old villas and forts, basically, she has a love for antiquity. But the moment she lays her eyes on the Haveli, she feels a strong connection to it. When she sees the life size portrait of the erstwhile owners of the Haveli, Kailash Mathur and his wife Suchitra Mathur, she feels an onslaught of emotions she finds difficult to explain. And then start the memories and dreams that are puzzling as well as distressing.
She meets Anand, the current owner of the Haveli, who has a striking resemblance with the man in the portrait, and develops an attraction towards him. A series of events take place: she experiences a presence on the beautiful terrace of the Haveli that is suspended over the river and during one of her visits to the Haveli, she comes across an old photograph of some people from the past. As she looks at the sepia photograph, she gets a jolt, as one of the women in the photograph resembles her. Now she embarks on a journey of finding out about these people and her connection with the woman in the photograph.
The story is set in a quaint village of Raebareli in the present and early twentieth century Kanpur and Lucknow. I have tried bringing the nostalgia of a certain old-world charm that is infused with warm feelings. Even the present time line is imbued with the same as the story mainly moves in the village, far from the modernity. The mood of the book has somewhat a dreamlike quality and is in sync with the overall theme.
I have also created two different worlds belonging to two different household cultures: one wealthy and westernized and other rich but highly traditional; both set in the same time period of 1920s.
TBE: How this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?
Archana Pathak: When I got a chance to visit the village to see the house of my great grandmother, only to find the house in the ruins, couldn’t help but notice the beautiful terrace of the neighboring Haveli that went over the river. It mesmerized me. The tranquil and sopheric atmosphere of the quaint village surrounded with lush verdant, the broad and sparkling river and a story about a rebirth were enough to stir my imagination. I guess the concept of the story got etched in my mind and when I sat down to write it, it just flowed.
TBE: What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
Archana Pathak: The theme of the book is love…. love is eternal and infinite. It finds its way crossing the barriers of time.
As for the message of the book, I want to convey how one cannot escape the past. It always stays with us. Isn’t our today going to be a yesterday tomorrow?
TBE: Aparna and Anand’s first meeting is a wink to a classic “damsel in distress” scene, except instead she’s a strong and independent heroine. From the beginning you’ve written your female protagonist in this vein. What inspired you to write Aparna’s character?
Archana Pathak: I did not intend to create a damsel in distress kind of a scenario. Aparna has a fear of water bodies and as she reaches closer to the river, she feels uneasy and a bit giddy. She walks few meters away from the bank of the river and leans against a tree breathing to calm herself down, when Anand spots her.
Coming to the second part of the question; I come from a family of strong and independent women. I don’t use the word ‘independent’ only in financial terms, but in a wider and deeper sense. Being independent for me is to be my own person, to believe in myself. This is what I saw and learnt from my mother, grandmother and the women before them.
The women in my family never shied away from the challenges that life threw at them. They did not cave under the pressure of their circumstances. These women were not highly educated yet they had a deep knowledge of human behavior and were well-versed with the ways of life. So, it was instinctive of me to portray my heroine in the similar lines. Since she is from the present time, she is educated and financially independent but her strength of character is inspired by the strong women of my family.
TBE: How do you find inspiration for each new character, setting, story? And the motivation to tell it?
Archana Pathak: I have this habit of observing people which I inherited from my mother. I never get bored of watching people. I can watch them for hours, observing their body language, their way of speaking and I think that is when the characters take birth in my mind. The minute details and nuances of the personality of a character are very close to the actual people either I have interacted with or just watched from a distance. So basically, I draw my characters mostly from life, though sometimes the imagination too comes into play.
I love visual delights. I notice and absorb a lot habitually. The places I see during my travels, or going about day-to-day life, are etched in my memory forever and I guess that helps me to a great extent while writing the settings. The setting of the story comes to my mind once the premise of a story takes shape. Also, I love creating the atmosphere of the particular era, place, culture etc. Some of the details come from the visual experiences, some from imagination and some of course from the research.
I was brought up in a family that loved to sit after dinner and share stories. Both my parents were great story tellers. I loved to listen to the stories narrated by my mother and simply treasured the atmosphere that was created in them.
Moreover, I love to read. I lived and breathed books ever since I learnt to read. I would rather read sitting in a corner than go out and play. So, all those stories and characters living inside my head were bound to create a story of my own.
I really don’t need a motivation; in fact, I love telling stories. I make very simple anecdotes sound like stories.
TBE: How have your own life changes affected your writing (characters, subjects) throughout the span of your career?
Archana Pathak: Footsteps in Time is my debut novel, so this is where I have started my writing career from. But now I have a clear understanding of the kind of subject/genre I want to write and my characters definitely are more mature and solid owing to the life experiences that I have gathered and learnt from.
TBE:Can you describe your writing process? Do you have any sort of ritual you follow?
Archana Pathak: When I get an idea of a story and decide to write it, I just let it flow. I don’t let the doubts creep during the conception of the story, though it is improved and polished many times later. And I like to keep a diary and jot down the ideas whenever they pop into my head.
I like to be regular with my writing and generally write in the evening for about three to four hours. I like to write on my desk without any kind of disturbance.
TBE: What authors or books have influenced you?
Archana Pathak: Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, M. M. Kaye, Philippa Gregory and Patrick Rothfuss, Jane Austen, E. M. Forster and Louisa May Alcott.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Archana Pathak: I have finished writing my second book. It’s a historical mystery fiction. It is set in the year 1857, a time of a great historical event in the past and year 2019 in the present.