Damyanti Visits the Bar—SoCS

It’s the first Saturday in February and the coldest morning we in Connecticut have woken up to in more than a year. It’s -9°f (-23°c). The weatherfolk are all atwitter about the freezing cold spell we’re having, but it’s only going to last a day. We’ve lived through ten-day periods of sub-zero lows and single-digit highs, many times since I moved here. But, as we all know, weather is infotainment and the goal is hype, not perfection. Perfection is important today, though, as Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt would indicate?

“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is ‘perfection.’’ Use it any way you like. Enjoy!”

As you’ve probably guessed by the fact that I handled the SoCS prompt in the opening, the remainder of this post veers slightly from the rules. Damyanti Biswas is our guest today. Damyanti and I spoke via Zoom and did so in a SoC manner, but substantial planning and some editing was involved.

If you’ve read any of my books, you know that Damyanti Biswas is mentioned in the Acknowledgements of each one. Before there was an “If We Were Having a Beer” series on this blog, before I was participating in “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” I was following Damyanti’s blog and I was amazed by her fiction. I won’t repeat what is written in those acknowledgements, but I will say this is kind of a meta post. I was ready to stop my blogging experiment eleven years ago. Damyanti is the reason I didn’t—yeah, it’s her fault.

If we were having a beer, you’d be invited to join us.

“Dan, what time is Damyanti going to be here?”

“She’ll be here soon, David. She’s traveling back in time.”


“She’s thirteen hours and about eighty degrees ahead of us, so I think we can cut her some slack.”

“I think she’s here Dan. I just saw her cab pull up.”

“Welcome, Damyanti. It’s so good to see you.”

“I am so happy to be here, Dan. David, it’s good to see you again, and Cheryl, wow, it’s so good to see you!”

“Thanks! I’m going to move us over to that table. Skippy will take over the bar, but I don’t want to miss this conversation.”

“Damyanti, the last time you were here was October two-thousand nineteen. I was still working for a living and ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ was fresh off the press. It’s been over three years; I have retired, and I am holding a copy of ‘The Blue Bar.’ Let’s explore what happened in between those dates.”

“Well, Dan. We can dispense with twenty-twenty—the year that didn’t happen. I began twenty-twenty-one looking for a new agent.”

“A new agent? I thought ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ was self-published.”

“No, David, it was published by Simon & Schuster India. I had an agent in the UK, but he wasn’t interested in the U.S. market, and I wanted to explore this market.”

“I’m assuming you found one because The Blue Bar has been published in the U.S. It seems like things came together quickly.”

“Things did move faster than I thought they would, but luck and timing played a big part. But you’re right, I found a new agent in June, two-thousand twenty-one, and I landed a two-book deal with Thomas and Mercer in August.”

“Excuse me, Cheryl.”

“Yes, Skippy.”

“Are you guys having something to drink?”

“Yes. I’m sure Dan and David will have their usual. I would like an Old Fashioned and Damyanti?”

“I’ll have a glass of Pinot Grigio.”

“And Skippy.”

“Yes, David.”

“Don’t forget the cherries. Damyanti, did you have The Blue Bar written before you had this deal?”

“I had a draft. I actually wrote ninety-thousand words in one month.”

“One month? Dan, it took you a year to write that many words.”

“David’s snark aside, that is remarkable, Damyanti.”

“I was fortunate. I was able to get away. I shut everything down. No blog. No social media. No family. I wrote in isolation and at the end of a month, I had a first draft.”

“How closely does the book that was published last month resemble that first draft?”

“The story is the same, the telling of it changed. And the ending is different. My agent wanted a different ending. I had four agents offer for the book; they all wanted a different ending.”

“What was the issue?”

“The original ending was very dark.”

“I just finished The Blue Bar. I can see where you could have a dark ending.”

“I hope you liked the ending as it was changed, David.”

“I did. I really enjoyed the story. The more I read, the more I wanted to read.”

“OK, here we go, a cold beer, a John Howell’s Special, an Old Fashioned and a Pinot Grigio”


“Yes David?”

“You forgot the cherries.”

“Oh, I got confused with Cheryl’s drink. I mean, your drinks are both bourbons.”

“Here, David. You can have mine. Damyanti, you say you had a draft written in a month. Did you start from scratch, or did the book evolve from an idea or an outline?”

“The first chapter came from a workshop in two-thousand seventeen. We were given an exercise ‘Write about a character who’s being watched but doesn’t know it.’ That vignette became Tara. I have lots of flash fiction vignettes in the drawer.”

“Did you reach into the drawer to start your next book?”

“I would have, Dan. I had proposed a second book, but my editor said they wanted a sequel, not the one I had proposed. I worked through two more drafts with my editor moving things around. The sequel has the same cast of characters, with a focus on religion, caste, castration, and violence against men.”

“Did she say castration, Dan?”

“Yes, David, I think she did.”


“Violence against men is a change for you. You Beneath Your Skin is certainly about violence against women. Was that something you wanted to write about?”

“Not exactly. When I was writing ‘You Beneath Your Skin,’ I had to learn how to write a novel. I was a short story writer—writing a novel requires a different skill set. The first draft of ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ started with violence against women. I wanted something to use as a plot point, but if you looked at the survivor after a month or so, you wouldn’t know the violence had occurred. I wanted something visible, but I didn’t want to exploit survivors.”

“I understand that dilemma. How did you get past that, Damyanti?”

“I went to India and met with the group ‘Stop Acid Attacts,’ Cheryl. I visited with survivors.”

“That had to be hard.”

“It was. It was scary at first, but they are still normal people. Once I talked to them, heard their stories, and got to know them, I couldn’t reduce them to a plot point. When I came back, the acid attack took over the novel.”

“Do you still keep in touch with any of those survivors?”

“Yes, Cheryl. We became friends. We shared stories. I still keep in touch with some of them.”

“Did you conduct a similar kind of firsthand research when writing The Blue Bar?”

“I did, David. I wanted the police work to sound authentic. I am lucky to have some contacts who could share the way things work in Mumbai. I shared the plot and worked to understand the training they get and talk about interpersonal connections. They helped me understand how organized crime works. I walked the streets. I even visited a Bollywood set. I am very lucky to have those connections, but I needed to work to get that firsthand experience.”

“Damyanti, when you invited me to read a pre-release copy of The Blue Bar, you mentioned that it was being marketed to women. I really liked the book. Is there something wrong with me?”

“No, Dan. I think there’s something right with you. In some markets, publishers think men like thrillers with lots of action, but not much change in character. The Blue Bar has a lot of action, but a lot of things happen to the character. That’s why the publisher felt it catered to women’s tastes.”

“I’m with Dan on this one. I like how authentic your characters feel to me. There were places I wanted to shake them and say, ‘why would you do that?’ Then there were places where what they were doing made perfect sense even though, in the context of the story, other characters thought they were making a mistake. I wanted to correct them, and explain that it’s what the character has to do.”

“Thank you, David. I want my characters to seem real. Not just people to whom the action is happening.”

“You said earlier that you had to learn how to write a novel.  When did you get comfortable being a writer, in general?”

“I think it might have been that April A-to-Z blogging challenge in two-thousand thirteen when I wrote a story a day for twenty-six days. I was dealing with a major personal crisis—multiple  deaths in family. I was in India, writing my stories each day close to midnight. I wrote those stories fast, gave them one proofread and then published them. People liked them, and that’s when it struck me that I could do this.”

“I remember going to work early so I could read those stories. You published them, correct? I think I own the book.”

“I did. ‘A-to-Z Stories of Life and Death.’ It’s available on Kobo.

“Damyanti, I’m not a writer. I have a hard time being a prolific reader. I know you’re working hard to promote The Blue Bar and I gather from some of your social media posts that you’re busy editing The Blue Monsoon. How do you do it?”

“It doesn’t always balance, David. It’s hard to find time to write/edit/etc. Sometimes I have to cut back on promotion to continue writing. The Blue Monsoon has been harder to write because of marketing The Blue Bar at the same time, and working on my author brand.”

“Do you guys want another round? Do you want any food?”

“Another round for sure, Skippy. Damyanti, are you hungry? We can get something to snack on.”

“Oh, Cheryl, I’m a sucker for French fries though I’m trying to cut down on calories!”

“Skippy, have the kitchen make some fries but hold the calories.”

“Damyanti, I want to ask about what might be a difficult subject. While most of the responses to The Blue Bar are positive, you have experienced some pushback from readers who seem to object solely on the basis that you are an Indian female author. I’ve read some of the comments. They make me angry, but you seem to be dealing with them well.”

“It was painful at first, Dan, but I treat this like a martial arts exercise where they hit you in the stomach to test you. The less ego I have as a writer, the better I can be the person who is in the world and see the world from the point of view of others.”

“In The Blue Bar, you’re asking us to make a journey, Damyanti, but I don’t see how it’s all that different from a science fiction novel or a fantasy novel. They’re all asking us to make a journey.”

“That’s true, David, but I’m asking a predominantly white audience to journey to Mumbai and experience a story that centers the lives of non-white characters. The reader has to be open to that experience. Some of the comments focus on Indian names being problematic.”

“That’s not really criticism. Again, we deal with foreign names all the time in literature set in different countries, different eras, and, if we move into fantasy and sci-fi, different worlds.”

“True again, David. I don’t understand it, but I have to draw strength from my roots. Eastern roots are not power of self but obligation as self. It’s about focusing on truth and compassion, not fear of the other.”

“So, this experience has made you stronger?”

“Yes, absolutely. Racism and negativity have shown me a different side of our shared world—given me practice as to what this world is like—it’s taught me to raise my voice. I have to be the most myself I can be.”

“David mentioned earlier that your characters feel authentic. I would point out that you are also authentic. I formed my opinion of you over ten years ago. I was sure that I knew who you were. Now, we meet, we talk and you seem just like the person I imagined. The character Damyanti is the real Damyanti.”

“Not pretending is important to me, Dan. Writers fall into a trap of ‘I need to sound like a writer,’ but I feel like I want to be me. I don’t want to sound different if you meet me.”

“I have mentioned many times that you have helped me move along on my writing journey. In addition to your books and stories, I think people associate you with the help you provide to other writers. Is that just one of the things that it is to be Damyanti?”

“So many people have been helpful to me, Dan. I sometimes feel bad that I don’t help others enough. The writing community is generous and makes writing not a lonely profession. When we’re sitting in front of a blank page, it’s lonely. I understand that, but I have those connections and they keep me going.”

“Do those connections filter into your writing?”

“Writing is a strange beast. I have to have empathy. I become the character. It’s like method acting for me. I have to understand their desires, weakness, flaws, etc. It’s not about the outline or the proposal—it’s about the people. Always has been. A chat like this, with wonderful company, feeds into my work, so thank you for that. I enjoyed this evening—here’s to many more at your fabulous bar!”

I’m going to add a few warm weather images from my archives to the gallery to help Damyanti forget the 80-degree drop in temperature. But first, in case you haven’t bought The Blue Bar or You Beneath Your Skin, lets have some links.

And, if you already own Damyanti’s books but still want to buy something…

If you like magical realism with suspense, action and a bit of family sarcasm, you will enjoy these books:

The Evil You Choose
When Evil Chooses You

Series page on Amazon

My profile page (and books) on Lulu

All available on Kindle Unlimited!


  1. “Not power of self but obligation as self.” There’s an enormous statement, especially significant for a writer, I’d think. As always, most interesting to hear what a writer says about writing. Congratulations to you, Damyanti!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for introducing me to Damyanti Dan. In addition to being an accomplished author, someone who has worked incredibly hard to educate herself, facing racism and negativity, she is generous when it comes to helping others. And if that isn’t enough, Damyanti is a strikingly beautiful woman, which clearly starts from within.

    “Not pretending is important to me.” I think this probably sums Damyanti up perfectly. I wish her all good things as she continues her journey as an author.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Ginger. I wanted to share more about Damyanti than her latest book (which is wonderful). I wanted people to know the Damyanti I know. She’s never pretended to be something she isn’t, and in the years in which I’ve known her, that has become an increasingly rare quality. It doesn’t surprise me that you find that important, too. There’s no pretending about Ginger ;-)


      • Lol! For better or worse, what you see (read) is what you get! I’d rather be disliked for who I am than liked for who I’m pretending to be.


  3. It was a pleasure to join you guys today. I wish you much success with your newest book, Damyanti. If not for you inviting me from G+ to join your FB group, I would never have met the wonderful writers there, most of all our host, Dan. It seems so long ago now. While I found it necessary to leave FB behind I am still in contact with a few of those writers today. I don’t get to reading much because I am still in my own project of going on ten years but soon…
    I have kept up with your work and the sources of your inspiration. The acid attacks have appalled me for years and since India was a long time dream destination for me I can easily immerse myself in the people, places and events. It is a beautifully diverse landscape with authentically tragic histories. I understand about the names in your books issue. I am using names from several origins in mine and that is the primary complaint I get when someone says they can’t follow. 🤷‍♀️Being from the US I am always amazed that so many cannot fathom life outside of their own counties let alone another country. It was so good to see your lovely face and hear about your project. Cheers to success!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Dan, this is a perfect post for today. Thanks for inviting Damyanti to the bar for a chat.

    Damyanti, I love what you said about ego and just being yourself. It applies to everyone, not only writers. That is how we form acceptance of others and a more tolerant society. I am excited about your next novel, it will be an excellent read, I am sure.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary, you’re so right–that’s how my life works, not just my writing. Thanks so much for reading and supporting my work. It really means more than you know. The Blue Monsoon should be out this October, unless I mess up the deadlines!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Great interview, Dan and Damyanti. I enjoyed learning about Damyanti’s publishing journey as her the thoughts that led to her latest novel. I enjoyed “You Beneath Your Skin,” but haven’t started “The Blue Bar” yet. It was great to get the inside scoop. I love hearing about the inspiration behind books. :-D

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Damyanti, I appreciated reading about your writing process and how you deal with criticism. Thank you for writing about important issues and being helpful. I’m glad you changed the ending to be less dark. I figure there’s enough darkness in the real world, so a fictional ending should have at least some light and hope. Take care!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Damyanti–it is so good to see you at the bar today. One of the interesting things about your book was about changing the ending. I watched a movie last night that so disappointed me with the ending, I had to Google it to see if I was the only one. Nope. The director even explained why he ended the movie as he did (the movie was LaLa Land), so your conversation about having four different endings made so much sense to me. That has to be its own frustration, though.
    Dan–you do have the best people at the bar. Each writer has their own unique skill sets that floor me every time. I so enjoy when you have guests.
    Wishing you both a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you enjoy these posts, Lois. Damyanti is special to me, but her story would be worth sharing, even if all I knew was from her books. As for changing the ending, I can’t imagine the work involved. I usually know the ending first. Everything I write is working toward that ending. Change it? Yikes!

      Liked by 1 person

      • One of the things I remember from crafting a speech in Toastmasters was to always have a good beginning and a good ending. But having to change the ending?! Yikes is right.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading, Lois. Endings are tricky beasts, especially in a crime novel. I wouldn’t want to give spoilers, but in The Blue Bar, the ending was the one thing that remained the same in all the drafts before it reached agents.

      They ALL said I needed a different one, and though it was a very long and hard internal process, and I howled about it, I still considered changing it because I wanted the book to find a wider audience. A dark ending in the middle of a pandemic just wouldn’t fly.

      Then, during the editorial meeting, my editor proposed buying a sequel. So the ending HAD to change, so to speak, if I wanted a book deal. In some ways I still feel conflicted about having changed the ending, but in others, it makes me think about how I see endings, my own perspective of how stories in life and fiction should end.

      An ending is a comma in time, not a period, because life is a sentence that goes on and on an on. The question then becomes: which is the comma I’d like to stop speaking at and let the reader go away satisfied?

      Also, how do I see life? Am I willing to admit that sometimes some stories can find a happy-for-now note? Having had a bleak childhood, my view of life has been a little grim. In some ways, The Blue Bar has begun to change that, and for that I’m thankful.

      Sorry if I rambled on, Lois. We writers tend to be verbose, agh

      Liked by 2 people

      • Damyanti–not rambling at all, but chock full of information I would not have realized a writer had to go through. Wow.
        ‘An ending is a comma in time, not a period, because life is a sentence that goes on and on and on.’–this is one exquisite line.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Your pictures made me feel just a little bit warmer. We are experiencing the same weather you are, I hate it. But I loved hearing Damyanti speak about her process and her concerns. Sounds to me like her writing is universal. And that’s a pretty special gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It was a treat to read how Damyanti goes about researching her books. Also, it would distress me no end to have to change an ending. I always write what will probably be the last three lines of a book before I even start. This gives me a target to work towards. Congratulations to her, and thanks, Dan, for having her at the bar today.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this line… the weather is infotainment and the goal is hype! Yes, it is!!
    I enjoy the conversations you have with Damyanti here at the bar. So authentic. The first time I ‘met’ Damyanti was here on your blog when you talked about her first book. I read it and loved her writing style so I’m excited to get The Blue Bar book (ordered and due to arrive this week). I had to wait to order it AFTER I finished your book 3.
    I’m envious of your Fort Myers photos. I stayed near there in April 2021 and would love to go back. I know it looks different now, but seeing the sunset never gets old. Thanks for the warm conversation, photos, and another book to be read to keep me from staring at the cold snow!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad you enjoyed both our books. It’s 100% true to say that my books wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Damyanti. The fact that you’re finishing my book and moving on to her new one makes me feel very good.

      Ft Myers is in tough shape, but I’ll always remember those sunsets.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, I’m glad that Damyanti encouraged you to stick with blogging and writing! What a gift you both have to be able to use your words to motivate others as well as entertain others in the form of books!

        Yeah…my friend has a place near there and she had been going to Fort Myers for over 30 years, it’s so sad to see what happened to it. Thank goodness the sunsets keep the vibes alive.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Shelley, so lovely to meet you, and all my gratitude for picking up my books! Moved that you liked You Beneath Your Skin enough to pick up The Blue Bar. I’m now (painfully) working on The Blue Monsoon.

      I’ve read all of Dan’s books, and am going to post reviews of all of them just as soon as I’m done with my deadline–he’s been such a good friend and a great support down the decade we’ve known each other via our blogs.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I feel like such a slacker, here, Damyanti. I’m sitting here – not writing – although I have to finish Book-4 and do massive edits. I’m glad I don’t have a deadline.


      • You’re welcome, I’m happy to support you and your efforts. I’m also happy you encouraged Dan to keep on with his efforts.
        I’m sending you positive thoughts to help you persevere to the final copy of The Blue Monsoon!

        That’s great, I’m sure you’ll give great reviews of Dan’s books. It’s truly inspiring how your friendship has lasted and helped encourage each other to keep writing!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. As I often do when I’m excited about a book, I accidentally ordered more than one copy! I’m going to donate the spare one to the local library. I want to encourage EVERYBODY to know and read Damyanti Biswas, one of the best writers working.

    I sympathize with you over people who obsess about odd-to-them names, rather than engaging with the characters and story. As Dan pointed out, fantasy naming is often inconsistent with white, middle-class-21st-Century America, and you just have to feel kinda sorry for people who can’t get past that.

    Looking forward to The Blue Monsoon. And just for the record, I would read and accept — however reluctantly — any shade of ending YOU wrote.

    Liked by 1 person

        • Haha – I think you read the post in email. I posted the pre-order link along with the other links. Hopefully, when go to order it again, Amazon will tell you you already own it.


      • Dan, THANK YOU! Now that I have 2 preorders there’s no reason to slack off–off to edits I go.

        I’d love to have a more traditional book launch!

        You know I was thinking how moving it was to see you, and then Marian and Jacqui (at an event), and wondered how it would be if we could hang out on video chat for a while. Maybe for my book launch, with real drinks in our hands? Those of us who don’t want to appear on video can be appropriately behind their mysterious back screens— all very crime-y and intriguing.

        Just a thought, and to say that I really enjoyed my time here. Your site is amazing, as is its community. Long may both thrive, and here’s hoping we continue to chat over the years to come.


    • Marian. You’re the best, you know that. We’ve known each other for over a decade now, and I was in tears the other day when I saw you for the first time at Hank Ryan’s virtual event. Your kindness, right along with Dan’s, kept me going during some really hard times.

      Thank you for reading and reviewing both my books, and for being such a generous and kind friend. You, alongwith so many other of my blog friends, have shown me that the the racists are a vocal minority. They shout the loudest, but their numbers remain small. Openness, love, and understanding wins each time.

      Thank you for buying The Blue Monsoon already!! Now I really need to get a rush on those edits! And you know I love you, Marian, even if we’ve never met. Hugs, my kind friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Dan and Damyanti – this was a delightful read – full of insightful thoughts … so appropriate to today’s world. I admire you for aiming for publication in the US – while somehow ensuring people will be drawn into the world of Mumbai – when they’ve probably never visited the Indian continent – nor have I. We need to open our eyes – and certainly bloggers seem to be able to do that … I’ve learnt so much from all sides of life.

    I so agree with everyone’s comments … so good to read – cheers to you both and good luck with your books – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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