‘I have stopped trying to be relatable’: Durjoy Datta on love, books and Valentine’s Day

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There, perhaps, can be enough love stories. A new book Pocketful O’ Stories, compiled by author Durjoy Datta and Penguin Random House merely reaffirms this. The compilation celebrates the various nuances and facets of one’s unexpected encounter with love. The 250 stories are in the form of micro tales that were submitted through a digital crowd sourcing contest. The response, Datta says, has been overwhelming. Reading those has influenced him as a writer but most, he admits, has made him jealous. “It is absolutely horrible to find that there are so many people who write better than you. Thank god they are not writing novels yet,” he says.

The author was recently in the Capital and spoke to indianexpress.com about his books, the genre of romance that he is almost always associated with, and if Valentine’s Day is overrated.

When I wrote my first book, I wrote whatever was happening around me and was happening to my friends. I actually thought it was a dramatic book. But I had no idea how publishing works so when the book came out, I was labelled as a romance writer. I guess one needs a peg to sell a book and you cannot possibly sell a book that is being written by a “young dramatic writer”.  So, I guess that is how the label stuck.

Every book title of mine suggests that it is a romance. But I use that to tell other stories as well, which might not be necessarily romantic. This is not to say that I don’t write hardcore romantic novels. I do, but I don’t write just that. For instance, the title The Girl of My Dreams, might sound like a romance novel but was a thriller. The title just helps you to categorise yourself.

With each passing day, the idea of romance is changing. What we read in books no longer seems plausible. How do you write books and make them relatable?

I have stopped trying to be relatable. When I started off, people were trying to look for reasons why my books sell. I was told that my books are relatable, which perhaps was true. But now, I don’t try. I write what I want to write and if someone can relate to it, then it works for them. I feel once you try to write something that everybody will relate to, there is a risk of falling into the trap.

What is your idea of love?

My idea of love keeps on changing. When you are a teenager, there is a rush of having someone who likes you. because you don’t like yourself. When you are 18, the idea changes. You know, hormones are raging. Later, you want someone exactly like you, one who has similar friends, goes to the parties you go to. After that, you look for compatibility, who can handle your emotional baggage. Now, I can think of love as someone I can spend 30 years with.

Did reading so many new encounters of love influence your idea?

You know, the fact that the definition of love keeps on changing was further affirmed when I was compiling this book. We received 11,000 entries and we had to choose 250 among them. The way they interpreted their brush of love is unimaginable. Young people read so much in the first glance, while for the older people, it is like we met after 20 years.

How did you choose the stories? Were any there any parameters?

We did not expect so many entries. Earlier I had different parameters. I had thought if a story shocks me only then will I include it. Later, I thought if there is a story that I remember a week after reading, I will include that.

How was it to assume the role of a reader and not the writer, for a change?

It is absolutely horrible to find that there are so many people who write better than you. It will be so hard for me to not pick up one story from here when I write something later. They have given me 11,000 situations of falling in love and anything I write after this will have a parallel with at least one of this stories.