Interview with Author Kelsey Banerjee – Ramona Portelli Blog

Interview with Author Kelsey Banerjee

Author Kelsey Ray Banerjee developed her love of writing in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Despite being raised in American Mid-South, she grew up fascinated by the world at large and took up studying foreign languages and translation at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Her writing is littered with what she’s picked up after living in Germany and India, her own roots in the Mississippi Delta, and spiritual wanderings. Kelsey currently writes poetry and mystery fiction but also has a love for fantasy and science-fiction.

When not working on poetry or fiction, can find her sipping chai and writing about fintech in India.

Tell me more about your latest book

Shy Anger is a poetry book that is almost two years in the making and yet came into being within three months.

When I first moved to India and on a spouse visa, I wasn’t allowed to work. So I attempted writing poetry, telling myself that I would write one poem a day. But this turned into a rather hit-and-miss routine, and ultimately I wrote very little. Not working has the ability to make everything else seem lackluster.

Fast-forward two years and I started working again. I was so eager to work, I ended up overworking. And by late 2019 I was completely burned out.

Shy Anger came out of an attempt to reconnect with what I loved while digging myself out of a creative and mental slump. I committed myself to write a poem a day and began posting my attempts online as a way to keep myself on track. It worked. And I found support in several poetry-based communities, which really kept me on task and motivated.

This collection deals with a number of topics, but ultimately it is a reflection on anger and how we deal with it. As a woman, anger is often seen as an unsavory emotion, something to be repressed or ignored. But it’s a very logical reaction to injustices both big or small. For that reason, it’s a very important topic, especially when you consider everything going on in the world. From unjustified war to police brutality, there’s a lot out there where being angry is completely logical. And I wanted to investigate that with Shy Anger. It’s a loose narrative of hopelessness to regaining agency, from anger to love.

There are some spiritual elements as well because I think it’s hard to talk about the human condition without mentioning a higher power, in whatever form. And many religions have roots in protests and social justice movements. These aspects aren’t touched on so much in the book, but there’s imagery from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and a touch of Hellenismos, all of which have been very influential in my life.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

When it comes to creating a poetry collection, the most difficult part is the organizational aspect. How do you tie each poem together so that it creates a seamless experience? Is it possible to form a narrative structure? This becomes challenging when you start writing without a roadmap.

Granted, with this collection, only 70 of the poems came from the 100 days of poetry challenge I had given myself. I wrote another 30 poems to fill in the narrative gaps. And that helped solve the problem.

Another issue was how to ground each poem in solid imagery and not become too cerebral. When investigating something that’s very psychological – when we are looking into emotional states, and to some extent, philosophy – it becomes very easy to become too abstract.

What is your normal procedure to get your books published?

I decided to self-publish. This means I had complete freedom when it came to the publishing process.

After writing the initial draft, I created a few variations for a cover while I edited the work. I split it up into three parts and edited the sections separately. Then I did another round of editing as a whole work before sending it off to another editor.

When I received my manuscript back, I did another round of editing before formatting the e-book myself and uploading it. I created some promotional content and sent it off for some pre-release readings and reviews as well.

It took about two months to put together after the initial writing and edits.

What would you like readers to take away from reading your book/s?

I want to leave my readers with the feeling of power and self-awareness. Some of my poems are cynical, sure, but I want readers to feel more optimistic by the end of the book. Not everything needs to be dark and dreary – there are moments of magic and love, too.

How many books have you written so far?

I’ve probably written at least 10 books by now, but I’ve only published one so far. Shy Anger is my poetry collection, and I hope to have another out by early 2021. I’m also working on my first mystery novel, which I plan to release in February 2021. At the moment it’s called Suspicious Minds.

I also publish free weekly short stories and poetry in my newsletter.

As an author, do you prefer the traditional book or online version? Why?

Like most readers, I also love a good paper or hardback book. But after moving to abroad, I focused on limiting my belongings, so I pretty much only read e-books now.

But I also like online versions because they are more accessible globally, and I can price them lower. Which makes them more affordable, which is important to me.

How hard or easy is it to establish and maintain a career in writing?

I would say it’s very difficult – but keep in mind I’ve just published my first work. 

As a freelance writer for businesses, it’s very possible to make a living writing. But fiction and poetry require a much more long-term mindset and you need to understand your market. Of course, regardless of how much you know, there’s a learning curve.

And of course, because fiction and poetry aren’t providing sustainable income yet, it’s something I have to balance with actual bread-and-butter work, as well as other responsibilities. But I love doing it. And it makes my non-fiction brand writing sharper.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

I think it’s very important to focus on the craft – but that’s a give-in. Aspiring writers should also look at their writing as a business if they plan to be published. You really need to crunch numbers, understand the tools available to you for marketing your work, and estimate timelines. Having a focused approach, even if you make mistakes, will keep you from making a lot of other major pitfalls and you’ll be grounded throughout the entire process. It’ll also help keep you from being demotivated, and you’ll find it’s easier to finish what you start.

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