Archive for the ‘The Writing Life’ Category

An Interview with novelist Amanda Sington-Williams

Sa 3by Susan Abraham


The novelist, poet and short story writer, Amanda Sington-Williams, will have her debut novel, The Eloquence of Desire, released in the UK on June 14 by Sparkling Books.

The exotic romance with its set of English characters, features a setting in 1950’s Colonial Malaysia in the distant Far East, otherwise known  as ‘the tropics’.


An Interview:


You once mentioned in an interview that books and films from the 1950s period greatly influenced the Malaysian setting for your novel. Can you tell us more?

“I read Graham Greene from a very early age and books like The Quiet American and The End of the Affair, gave me an insight into the rules of social behavior during the 1950s which hold a fascination for me. Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Daphne Du Maurier, were amongst other writers which I read.

“Although slightly earlier than 1950, I think the film which stayed with me is Brief Encounter but films like Rebel Without a Cause, also had a great impact on me.”


Do name a few of your favourite memories of Malaysia.

“I really like the mix of different cultures and religions. On the surface, everyone appears to get on really well, though of course I don’t know if the reality is different. But everyone is really friendly and will go out of their way to help.

“There is such a variety of landscape in Malaysia from the tea plantations of the Cameron Mountains to the jungles of Sabah, and the food is tasty. I also recall an impressive tropical storm and fantastic sunsets. I remember one sunset, when everyone, tourists and locals, crowded on a beach and watched the sky change from blue to pink/red to gold.”


What is the one endearing thing you remember about your grandmother?

“She was a very genteel woman who used to sing when she was in the kitchen. She got malaria in Malaysia and I believe this affected her heart. So every afternoon she would, clutching a hot water bottle, trot up to bed for two hours.”

What is the one endearing thing you remember about your grandfather?

“He died when I was ten, so I don’t remember much about him. But I have a clear memory of him sitting in a fold-up chair by Lake Crummock in the Lake District with a big smile of contentment, while he puffed on his pipe. It was a huge family holiday and he was surrounded by family. I must have been about nine.”


Would you visit Malaysia again?

“There is still so much I haven’t seen. Maybe I’ll go back next year.

What is it in particular about Malaysia that fascinates you?

“The mix of people with so many different cultures and religions, in a relatively small geographical area.”

Which regions would you like to look up?

“I’d like to go to Malacca, Port Dickson and the east coast.  And I love visiting temples and mosques.”


Which turned up as your favourite character in The Eloquence of Desire and why?

“I have a soft spot for George because of his enduring love for Emma.”


Did writing your novel bring out the best of your creative nature?

“I think writing any novel or short story brings out the best in me as a creative artist.”


Did your characters offer a satisfying thrill in having observed their eventual development?

“Yes. I don’t think I would want to write if the development of my characters didn’t excite me especially as very  often I don’t always know what they are going to do. I think it is the not-knowing that keeps me writing.”

How did you happen upon the plot?

“That is a very hard question to answer as I would say that the characters happened upon the plot. But I wrote a short story called The Carving which was set in Malaysia and was shortlisted for the Asham Award. The Eloquence of Desire grew from this short story.”

Do these characters still live with you or have you let them go?

“The characters will always be with me, but they take second place to the ones I’m writing now.”

How did you get on with research for The Eloquence of Desire?

“I used my grandparents’ photographs. I visited the British Library and used the Library at Sussex University.  I re-read Somerset Maugham’s short stories set in Malaysia as well as other novels set in South-East Asia. I re-read a project I’d written when I was studying for a Diploma in Health and Social Welfare on women who self-harm.

“I listened to 1950s music. I asked my mother and aunt to recall their time in Colonial Malaya and I used a report on The Emergency, written by Derrick Sington (a cousin) when he worked as a journalist for The Manchester Guardian.

“There was  a more than this – too much to list. But I really like undertaking research, and apart from making my work more accurate and believable, I learn a lot, even if I don’t use all of the research in the novel I’m working on.”

How did you get on with the writing process?

“It took me two years to write The Eloquence of Desire.  Countless drafts and re-writing.  I deleted the first 17,000 words I wrote, and started again at another point in the narrative. I am quite brutal with my writing because I want to get it right.”

Do tell us a little about your writing life.

“I like to write new work in the mornings.  I always switch the Broadband Connection off when I write. On the wall opposite my desk, there is a Salvadore Dali print of  a ‘Woman at Window’ and to my left, I can look out on our garden where I’ll look when I’m thinking.

“Behind me, is an overflowing book shelf. Editing is reserved for the afternoons.  But if I’m away from home, I use my laptop anywhere. Strangely, I don’t need quiet, just no interruptions.”

How did you happen upon a publisher?

“I am a member of New Writing South and an article about Sparkling Books that appeared in The Bookseller, was posted on one of their weekly newsletters.”

What is the one thing you hope readers would take out of your novel?

“That they don’t want my narrative to finish and that my characters live on when they come to the end of the book.”

Could you tell us a little about your second novel?

“It is a contemporary novel, set in the UK and Ethopia.  The main characters are a newly-arrived Ethopian refugee, Solomon, his sister, Hana, an agony aunt, Marianne, and one of her problem page readers, Charlotte.”

Do you nurse an ambition to write a special story, not yet written but one  that you would like to attempt?”

“I’ve been thinking about my third novel which has been on my mind for a while. A story which touches on the psyche on sibling jealousy and its repercussions on other people’s lives.”

What are you currently reading?

“The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.”

What images does an exotic foreign land, conjure up for you?

“I love the smell of the tropics, that wall of humidity that hits, as soon as you step out of the plane.  The bright colours, noise and the general chaos so absent from Western cultures.”

Are there a few famous historical explorers and adventurers who travelled to foreign lands which you admire, and if so, who would these be?

“Ernest Shackleton 1874-1922, the Antartic explorer because I’m amazed that he wanted to explore a part of the world that is so very cold and inhospitable.  Captain James Cook 1728-1779 because he seemed to have an inate desire, to find out what lay beyond.


Amanda Sington-William’s The Eloquence of Desire will be published in Hardback  (£14.99) by Sparkling Books UK on 14th June, 2010. ISBN. 978-1-907230-11-0.

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An interview with the Novelist Chandru Bhojwani

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by Susan Abraham


The prolific Lagos-based Sindhi novelist Chandru Bhojwani who authored the  philosophical novel, The Journey of Om, is also a prize-winning short story writer and a magazine columnist for Beyond Sindh. He is currently working on his next two fiction titles. Bhojwani has lived in London, Mumbai and New York and continues to travel widely. He is represented by the Sherna Khambatta Literary Agency and published by Cedar Books India.

How has public response been towards The Journey of Om?

“Many who have picked up the book haven’t been able to put it down and have read through it in a matter of days, some in hours. Readers have expressed that when they read The Journey of Om, they felt as though they were reading their own words. The overall feedback has been fantastic and knowing that people relate to the characters at some level, leaves me with a warm feeling of satisfaction since that was what I hoped to achieve when I wrote The Journey of Om.”

How has The Journey of Om has a published work changed you as an individual?

“There isn’t any major change but I am eager to get more of my work out there and to continue writing my column for Beyond Sindh magazine, while improving my craft.”

What proved the most enjoyable part about writing The Journey of Om?

“Truth be told, I never set out to write a book. The Journey of Om started as a 12-page story and over time, I kept on with the additions.  After a couple of years, I arrived at the  point where I was about to start writing the final few chapters and I think that was the best part for me. I wasn’t sure just where The Journey of Om would be heading after that but to complete the book was a great accomplishment.”

What turned up as your worst struggle in writing The Journey of Om?

“The worst part was when I had written half of the novel and wasn’t able to add much more to it. I found myself writing chapter after chapter only to delete each one. During that period, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever finish the novel. However, after taking some time away from it, I showed a couple of friends the manuscript and the feedback I received assured me that I had something worth sharing. That was what inspired me to return to writing and to completing The Journey of Om.”

Do you like being a writer and if so, why?

“I still find it somewhat surreal to consider myself a writer and always have. Even when my articles were being published in Beyond Sindh and I received fan mail, I struggled to refer to myself as a writer. But now, when I look at my book sitting on the bookstore shelves and readers send me messages with their thoughts and reviews posted on websites, I feel like I’m living a dream.

“In addition, knowing that my work has touched and entertained so many, feels me with an indescribable sense of joy and pride.”

What singular message do you aspire to send out to readers through your writings?

“I don’t compartmentalize myself as a writer since I feel that will only serve to restrict my art. My portfolio so far includes a variety of genres from topical articles and film reviews to short stories and spiritual reflections.

“There isn’t a solitary message I hope to convey as each piece serves its own purpose. It could be to entertain, inform, leave the reader either pondering or simply smiling.”

Could you name your pastimes?

“One is playing and watching basketball. It’s been the most enjoyable sport since my teens, hence the reference to the scene in the book. I’m also a movie buff. I thoroughly enjoy sitting in the theatre with my bucket of butter popcorn and root beer and thus, escaping to the magic of the silver screen. When I get the time, I enjoy winding with a video game and I always need music, especially when I’m driving.”

How about favourite authors?

“Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. I also quite enjoyed Conn Iggulden’s Wolf of the Plains,  John Burdett’s Bangkok 8 and most of Michael Crichton’s work.  On the spiritual side, there is Dr Brian Weiss’ Many Lives Many Masters and Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People which changed my perspective on life.

What are you reading now?

“Unfortunately, I haven’t had time of late to read much but I’m hoping to read Bangkok Tattoo, Lords of the Bow and Human Trace.

Do you like being a writer in Nigeria?

“If in the right frame of mind and with an uninterrupted focus, I could write almost anywhere. Nigeria has its own stories to tell, most of which I find amusing and hope to insert into a future piece.”


How about a Nigerian tale?

“There is one that makes me chuckle all the time I relate it which is often. It loses its charm without the Nigerian accent but here goes:

I was driving to work when I received a phone call on my mobile.

Upon answering I noted there was a Nigerian on the other end of the line.

With a loud, deep and gruff voice he said.

ELLO!’

‘Hello?’ I responded.

‘ELLO! I want to speak to Mista Ademola’

Who?’

‘ELLO! I want to speak to Mista Ademola!’


‘Sorry you have the wrong number.’


‘THE WRONG NUMBA?’ he seemed shocked at the notion.


‘Yes. There is nobody by that name at this number.’

‘Mista Ademola No de?’ he felt he had to confirm.

No, this is the wrong number!’ I stressed.

A moment of silence passed as he pondered what I was saying and then he responded with.

‘Ahhhh, ok.

So, what is the right numba?’

You travel widely and could relocate anywhere. Why choose Nigeria?

“I moved back to Lagos from New York to be closer to my parents. My education in the UK meant growing up away from them and I felt I needed to spend time with them especially that they’re now getting older.”

Has Nigerian literature influenced your writing?

“Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any Nigerian literature yet but hopefully, that will change in the coming years.”

Where in Lagos do you live?

“Victoria Island. It was once a serene and pleasant residential neighbourhood until the banks moved there and now the rush hour traffic rivals that of Bangkok! Lagos has its charms but I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite place. I’m more inclined to the US and Bombay.”

Do you enjoy Nigerian cinema?

“I haven’t watched any local films but I do enjoy the posters plastered around the city. The one that sticks in my mind is The Virgin Prostitute 2. I wondered what could have happened in the first half of the film that caused her to be a virgin prostitute in the sequel. However, I wasn’t tempted to watch it.”

Nollywood posters

What inner gifts imbue your life as a writer in Nigeria?

“I do believe that my experience has equipped me with the tools to provide a new style and vision as a writer but I don’t attribute that solely to my time in Nigeria. I feel that my exposure to different cities, cultures and people everywhere has been instrumental in moulding me into the writer I am today. These experiences have birthed my spiritual side and allowed it to evolve. Like others, I learn and grow.

“I credit my family and good friends that have helped me become the person I am.”

Are you protective about The Journey of Om?

“Currently, the title is available only in India and on Amazon Kindle. I look forward to the day that it’s available globally. I don’t have additional attachments but I look forward to reader opinions.”

When is your best writing time?

“I write when I’m in The Zone. That said, I think it happens more frequently in the evenings.”

How did you approach the process of novel writing?

“Once I was halfway through, I shared it with my agent, Sherna Khambatta and a dear friend. I completed it with feedback and assistance. It was created ‘on the go’ I suppose.  After that, I made changed as when it was deemed necessary. I guess you could look at it as drafts or as I do, which is a foundation that was built on and detailed.”

Do you write by longhand or on the computer?

“I write on a laptop. I guess The Journey of Om has seen several over the years.”

Are you a cafe-watching writer?

“I don’t consider myself one but The Journey of Om does imitate life and the experiences of many.  I guess you could call it ‘fiction based on reality.’  As opposed to sitting in a cafe and watching people, I travel the globe, watch and interact with many and use those stories as inspiration. I suppose the world is my cafe.”


Do you carry a notebook for ideas?

“I don’t carry notebooks but if I stumble on an idea, I make a note of it in my laptop and refer to it at a later date. Often times, the idea of a good short story such as The Love Letter and The Darkness have turned up in the shower.

How long did it take you to finish The Journey of Om?

“The truth is I sort of stumbled into my writing profession. My novel was originally to have been a short story for a friend. But I was moved by the spirit and added to it and two years later, I had a stack of pages.

“It was then that I started to push forward and once I overcame a few obstacles and mental blocks, it was done. All in all, I’d say four years.”

How did you find a publisher?

“A friend connected me to my agent, Sherna Khambatta who read the manuscript and provided a lot of positive feedback. She did the legwork and contacted publishers. If it wasn’t for Sherna, I think The Journey of Om would still be an unfinished story languishing on the hard drive and read only by a handful of friends.”

Who is your favourite character in The Journey of Om?

“A lot of readers loved Mona for the connection. Mine would probably be Jim. His character is layered with subtleties and a balanced attitude that is as simple as it is genius. His life is practically problem free as he chooses to live it on his own terms for enjoyment. He also provides a much needed, brash, comic release for Om and the readers which I found quite entertaining.”

Being newly-married, do you still find time to write your second novel?

“I think I’ll have to wake up in the early hours while my wife sleeps and type away in the shadows.  All joking aside, my wife is aware of my passion for writing and has been very supportive. Once the dust settles, I hope to set time aside to write. I am presently about 30 pages into Bombay Pure, my second manuscript.”

Do you have a favourite writing place?

“A large chunk of the manuscript for my novel was written while in bed in Mumbai. I would type away into the late hours.”

How did you settle for the themes & plots as regards the two writing projects you’re working on?

Bombay Pure was an idea that seemed interesting and I discussed it with Sherna. It revolves around the story of a 30-year old Non Indian Resident who becomes an overnight dot.com millionaire in New York. He visits his home in Bombai hoping to reconnect with lost childhood roots only to be taken back into the reality of the city.

Whereas Bollywood Hero spawned out of a conversation with a producer and we thought it a good idea for a tv show. I find the idea amusing but am still just two chapters into the story. “

How about a favourite writing genre?

“I’m still experimenting with different genres from the paranoramal with my short story Saya to a romance with The Love Letter, both of which are available on my website. That said, I’d like to dabble a little more in the comedy/drama niche since I enjoy writing about subjects that people can relate to.

A Few Thoughts from Amanda Sington-Williams

by Susan Abraham

Well…I flew into Singapore early this morning and will fly out once more tonight as I leave this weekend for Australia. To follow those famous lyrics from Leaving on a Jetplane, it’s a case of  ‘All my bags are packed and I’m ready to go…”

I’m off to explore Arab & Bagdad Streets and Singapore’s Chinatown for the moment.  I am engulfed now only with vague memories at the most of  these particular locations; it’s been a few good years and way too long for Singapore to once more reach out her hand to me, while armed with her breathy  hint of seduction for an assortment of quaint nooks and alleys, not often seen to the eye.

However, I have heard from Amanda Sington-Williams (pictured here) this morning – she authors an exciting  historical novel,  The Eloquence of Desire  – so will not go off without leaving you a few poignant thoughts on how she views her new book  to be published shortly by Sparkling Books  in the UK.  Her romantic plot focusses on a slice of old Malaya and you may read much more from my first blog post on the subject over Here. – susan abraham

Below, Amanda Sington-Williams (AMS) explains why she  set The Eloquence of Desire in old Malaysia.

“Before I embarked on my novel, I wrote a short story called ‘The Carving’ which was set in Malaysia during the 1930s. This was shortlisted for The Asham Award and I thought I would take the three central characters and transform them into a novel. But I decided to move them on a bit time-wise as I’ve always had a fascination for the 1950s, the fashions and how the nuclear family were presented as perfect, how any flaws were concealed during that period. Books and films set during that period also influenced my decision to set it then. Also I wanted to set the novel before independence but during the Emergency which lasted twelve years.” – AMS

…and on her connections with Malaysia…

“My grandparents lived in Malaysia for twenty two years and my mother and aunt both spent their childhoods there. I grew up with anecdotes of life there and I’ve spent long periods of time in Malaysia. This was a huge influence on my decision to set the novel there. I found old family photographs of my grandparent’s colonial house as well as pictures of the landscape and I was able to see the clothes people wore. My characters live in the houses that my family occupied, though my imagination played a large part too. When I was researching for the novel I came across a journal that a relative called Derrick Sington had written when he was a foreign correspondent for The Manchester Guardian in 1955. It had lots of information about the Emergency and that settled the date in which to set the novel – 1955, the year before independence.” – AMS

Amanda’s book, The Eloquence of Desire will be published by Sparkling Books on June 14th 2010.

For more information on Amanda Sington-Williams, you may click on her Website.
For added information on The Eloquence of Desire, you may click on Sparkling Books.

 

The Novelist Leela Soma on her Writing Life after Twice Born

Here’s to catching up with Indo-Scot novelist, Leela Soma after the publication of her first novel Twice Born.

by Susan Abraham

How has 2010 been treating you  so far?


LS: “Its been wonderful. The end of 2009 represented a downer as I had to attend a funeral of a friend on Christmas Eve. The sudden death was caused by a brain haemorrhage and it was my first Christmas without my only child who is in the USA. I missed her terribly. The icy, snowy weather didn’t help either. The free phone calls to the US and Skype helped a lot though. New technology is a real boon. I relaxed and enjoyed the break, then set myself new challenges for 2010. I registered with two new classes at Glasgow University and kept working at the next novel so keeping busy has proved the best way forward.”

How have you been spending February?


LS:  “February has been like any other month.  The writing goes well on some days and I indulge in other things when the mood takes me. All in all, it’s shaping up well. The bright sunlight in recent days has made me feel spring is just round the corner.”

What are your plans for spring?


LS:  “Good question. I am not a great planner. I go with the flow. The great thing to look forward to is my daughter’s graduation in May in New York so I ‘ll be jetting off to America.  Glasgow gets busy in March with the ‘Aye Write Festival’  that takes place from 5 th to 13th March.  A great literary Festival with a superb line up of writers.”

Do tell us how you are getting on with your second novel?


LS:   “To be honest, I wrote the rough draft in a huge ‘glued to my seat ‘ schedule.  These were hardworking months of diligent work. Now the editing bit has started I can see that a lot of work still needs to be done. But as my friend says once you have the basic work done,  you can polish it several times to get it just right.”

How far have you come with the writing of your second novel?


LS:  “As I said in the last answer,  the basic work is done but a lot of redrafting has to be done. I am good at working at a crazy pace to get the rough draft down as I must get the story in my head down on paper. Then comes the harder part of making sure everything ties up and sounds right. I can’t put a time scale on it as I want to get it just right.”

Any chance that you may divulge a little of the theme or plot for us?


LS: “A little bit maybe. The novel is set in Mumbai and Glasgow. Here is a bit. “Tina is brown her parents are white, people are puzzled that she is not adopted.” Is that intriguing enough to make you want to find out?”

Did you feel that Twice Born changed your life and if so, in what way/s? Please feel free to elaborate.


LS: “What a lovely question! I am totally bowled over by the experience of writing ‘Twice Born.’ I wouldn’t say it has changed my life as I wanted to write that book always. I often talked about the theme to my family. I never found the time to actually sit down and tackle a whole novel.”

“Novel writing when you feel passionate about the subject, becomes almost an obsession. I enjoyed the meditation of writing all the words down that were streaming in my mind. The unexpecetd bonus of ‘Twice Born’ is the kind, wonderful feedback I got and still get from readers, some of whom I have never met.

Recently a friend wrote: (do you know, it’s funny, I am back in the room with the red sofa in my mind right now-they say that if something sticks in your mind from a book then it was worth writing. The scene with auntie and all the goings on where she finds out about her daughter too is still vivid in my head!) Yes, Twice Born has enriched my life in reaching out to people I would have never known otherwise. I also hope that the next generation of Indo-Scots/ Asian/Scots would want to contribute to the mainstream literature.”

What was one of the richest blessings in life in a broad sense, that becoming a novelist has brought to you up to this present time?


LS: “Reading and writing have been constant pleasures throughout my life. My parents opened my eyes to the world of books, music and the arts. Growing up while being surrounded by books and music are life’s biggest blessings. They were and are my guiding lights still.

“I am not sure I can lay claim to being a novelist though I am taking tentative steps to be one. I still feel strange when people introduce me as a writer. I feel blessed that I am around in an age when there are computers that can let you cut and paste and edit your work so easily. Life is good that I can indulge in a passion that was dormant for years.”

Which authors are you currently influenced by? Would you like to give a few examples and tell us why?


LS: “As you know I am busy reading Indo- English fiction at the moment, so the rich heritage of writers like Rushdie, Narayan and  Adiga are some of  the authors I am re-reading with a critical eye. I don’t want to be influenced by any author when I am writing my own novel so I write with my own voice. I love poetry so dip into a varied collection, Ruth Padell being one. I must get Carol Anne Duffy’s work too. In ‘Valentine’ her words  are so powerful when you read the whole poem:

Not a red rose or a satin heart.I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love. … – Carol Anne Duffy


Would you treat the writing/publication of your second novel differently from what you did with Twice Born?


LS:  “Yes, It has been a steep learning curve. Like anything you attempt for the first time there are so many things that you are unaware of.  Regarding  the writing itself,  I need to treat it more as work and not  an indulgence. I am still to get into that frame of mind. Sometimes life gets in the way that is understandable. But I also get distracted easily and that discipline of working consistently is still something I must try harder to do.

“Regarding the publication of Twice Born, I am very happy with YouWriteOn (YWO)  my publisher of ‘Twice Born’. I am still not sure whether I would continue with them or switch to  mainstream  publishing.  With traditional methods getting even harder and self-publishing being offered by all the big publishers it is a confusing scene. I have not yet made up my mind about this aspect as Iam still in the throes of getting the book , the synopsis etc right first.”

Are you seeking to widen your audience?

LS: “I am sure every writer would like to reach more readers so I would be lying if I say no thanks to that. However as my answer to the last question tells you that it all depends on how it is published. So if you or your readers have any ideas I am open to them Susan.”

Are there any other genres you aspire currently to write on?


LS: “My next project is a very personal one that involves writing my family memoir. It will  not be slated for publication but held as a tribute to my parents and grandparents as their lives were amazing. Lots of black and white photos and anecdotes will grace the pages. I hope it will be treasured by my daughter, her cousins and perhaps some of my large extended family. So that will be a new challenge. I want it to be an interesting read and not just a chronological record of their lives.”

How has Twice Born changed your outlook on day to day life?


LS:  “An intriguing question Susan. I am not sure if it has changed my outlook on day to day life but it has certainly made me aware that more readers in Scotland are reaching out for books written by all sections of our society. Just yesterday an author was relating her Travellers/Romany ancestry to me and how this has evoked interest in her books.”

What is it about a writer’s life in a deep personal sense that fills you with excitement currently?


LS: “Being in a nine to five job before and leading a busy life as a full time career woman, mother, homemaker before had its joys and its restrictions. As an individual I have been lucky to have always had a free and liberated life from childhood onwards. But the life of a writer is a great responsibilty and joyous in its own way. As an optimist I always count my blessings and feel excited about today, the present so in a deep personal way writing fulfills a need that gives me great satisfaction.”

What is it about a writer’s life that fills you with excitement in a social sense of the word?


LS: “Its been an absolute eye opener. There is a world outside the ‘normal’ friends. Writers Groups, Festivals, readings are a vibrant part of society that is a wonderful club to belong to. I have met people from all parts of the world.”

Do you network with other writers in a social realm? How do you do this and why is social networking important to you as a novelist?


LS: “Networking is the buzz word in every walk of life. I do enjoy the time I spend with my fellow writers. Social networking has always been important from time immemorial. Whether it was at the Kings courts during the Chera, Chola Pandya Kings when poets and scholars discussed their work or the Bloomsbury set in England,  it has been important. Now with technology FB, Twitter we have even more access, sometimes too much to even get time to keep up with. Yes for any new writer this is an important fact of life now.”

Is there any specific character that you are currently passionate about in your second novel?


LS: “The main protagonist Tina is someone I feel very close to as she has been living in my head for so long now. There are two other characters who have made me laugh and rant against as they have been quite real in my mind. Like Aunty BB in the last book who many readers said that they had ‘met some one like her’, these two characters rise out of the page and ‘poke’ me.”

What books are you currently reading for pleasure and for writing courses?


LS: “I think I have covered this in question 9. Sometimes for pleasure I love browsing magazines  the more glitzy & the less intellectually challenging the better.  These are usually found in supermarkets. A friend hands them in sometimes and I have a laugh  not recognising the ‘celebrities’ but enjoying their bizarre life styles. ‘The Gita’ is something I keep reading and rereading it’s a kind of solace to go back to.”

Could you tell us more about the classes you currently attend?


LS: “I’ll be doing little justice to them with brief answers but both are fantastic because of the superb lecturers. The Indo- English Fiction is looking at authors after Post-Independence and their fascinating work. From Devasani, Mulk Raj Anand to Adiga the 2008 winner of Man Booker Prize, we also look at the earliest writers in English … a wonderful study.

“The Idea of Religion’ is a study of major religions first in their historical context (absolutely what I need ) then a discussion on how the concept of religion is continuing to the present day including fundamentalism. The classes are so good with a group of like-minded, diligent students that it is a pleasure to go to.”

If you had the good fortune to someday see your novel Twice Born being devoured by a reader in an unlikely place, where you most like this setting to be?


LS: “What a sweet question! I’d be happy wherever that is as long as they are happy to finish it and not put it on their TBR pile and never look at it again. Under a tree on a warm afternoon would be great, dreaming of an Indian summer!”

Have you already had a similiar experience before?


LS: “Reading ‘Celestine Prophecy’ on a train trip in India. No James Redfield did not jump onto the train but it is a book I remember reading and swaying to the rhythym of the train.”

Did you in an ironical way, feel reborn yourself after the publication of Twice Born?


LS: “Great question. You’ve made me think now. Yes is the short answer at least in the new career as a writer because to hold the first book in your hand and feel that you have achieved a goal is good.”

Are you still passionate or affectionate about your past characters in your first novel? Do they still live with you or have they melted into the distance?


LS: I think there will always be a space for them from Twice Born. No they’ll not melt away. I felt the anguish of Sita as I was writing the awful scenes of BB attacking her or the choices that she had to make. Ram was always endearing in so many ways and his dad is a powerful character who dominated the page during his brief appearances.”

Currently, how do you spend your writing days with your second novel? Are you writing it very much with the routine you employed for the first one?


LS: “I think my routine is simple. I get up and go to the gym or the class whichever is on. I need to get out first thing in the morning. I may have scribbled thoughts on a piece of paper the night before but that’s for later. Come home and have lunch,  catch the news,  then sit at the computer from 2 till 4.30 or 5. Sometimes if the work flows I go with it. If   I am not able to do so I don’t beat myself about it. Lunches or days out are important too.  So no , I have not changed my writing methods but I hope to spend a lot more time redrafting this novel and take my time with  this second novel as the plot is more complex than the last one.”

Further Reading:
An interview with Asians in Media magazine.