By Tanushree Podder:
Many of my books have featured the defence forces because I am an army wife. Having lived and observed the army life closely, I have a special affinity and understanding towards the defence forces. Much of what people know of army officers comes from the movies they watch and there is a lot of misinterpretation. For instance, soldiers are assumed to be fearless superheroes. This is not true. They are human beings and experience the same emotions as anyone else. They also go through joys and fears, experience sorrows, heartbreaks. My books take readers to all those corners of their superhero lives.
My first book, Boots Belts Berets, dealt with the lives of NDA (National Defence Academy) cadets. It is the story of a group of 16-year-old boys, who have just begun their lives at the NDA. The youngsters go through a tough training regime, but it does not take away their exuberance, that pump of adrenaline, which they possess by the virtue of being teens. And like other kids of their age, they, too, indulge in mischief, steal moments of fun, dream about romance and girls. My focus lay in presenting a complete and real picture of young cadets.
The second book on army, On the Double, was the continuation of their adventures and training as GCs (Gentlemen Cadets) in the IMA (Indian Military Academy).
The third one, No Margin for Error is a very special book. In fact, it is one of a kind. It takes readers through a very different experience of an army officer’s life, right from his posting at the first unit, to training in the Himalayas, to joining the Special Forces and being assigned to flush out the terrorists during 26/11 Mumbai attack.
As I mentioned, I come from an army background. Writing on any subject requires an in-depth knowledge of the same, and when it comes to writing on army men, it is doubly important to know the subject very well. One can’t make mistakes, as far as facts are concerned. It is one of the reasons why outsiders find it difficult to write on army life. To that extent, as an army wife, I have an advantage. I have had the opportunity of observing the details at a close range for many years.
Also, most of the books pain a very unrealistic picture of the army life. I wanted to present a realistic view of the same.
Although real life is quite fascinating, writers have to blend fact and fiction to produce a compelling narrative. The challenge lies in the research. One has to be very cautious with the details because readers and critics are notorious for finding faults. Plain facts can become tedious and dry, but putting them together with an exciting story can hold the interest of the readers and that is what I attempt to achieve.
Much of the facts used in my books come from careful research, first-hand accounts and experiences. But, I have a story to tell and stories have to be interesting and varied. A careful balance of facts and fiction can create a fascinating story. According to my way of thinking, extensive research when combined with good writing can result in exceptional fiction.