I like being a woman! - Interview with author Shoba Narayan
We recently interviewed author Shoba Narayan about her inspirations, thoughts on a career as an author and about why she is Glad2bawoman. She gives us important insights into a writer's mind.
Read her interview below:
1. What drew you to writing?
I was one of those corny kids who wrote from a very young age. I wrote poetry, kept a journal, a dairy, wrote plays, pretty much anything anyone would read. My father was my first guinea pig-- I think because he was an English professor. He gave me the great gift of largely ignoring my efforts. Filmmaker Mira Nair once said that her parents largely let her be; and that was a gift. It was the same for me. I was allowed to develop my writing without pressure.
2. Tell us about your books.
Food at first-- for my book, Monsoon Diary. And identity, which is what my second book, Return to India, is about.
3. How different is 'food writing' from usual writing? Was there a reason behind including recipes in your book - Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes?
Describing food is an exercise in sadism because the whole point is to describe the food so lovingly and beautifully that the poor souls who read it must be in the throes of hunger and agony (at best), or at least salivate. The inclusion of recipes was a suggestion by my editor.
4. If someone wants to write a book, how should they go about it?
Open computer screen. Stare at it for a long while. Put down one word. Then another. Once you get a few hundred words down, stop. Read in the evening. Realize that it is nonsense. Start again next day. Follow same process till you get about 30 pages. Show to someone you trust. If they don't flush your pages down the toilet. Continue writing.
Jokes apart, I wrote five books that were terrible before I wrote Monsoon Diary. I rewrote Return to India over the course of ten years before it was published. I am working on another book and have a horrible time with it. Haven't been able to get to 30 pages and it's been several months. I wish there were a formula, but if there is one, I don't know it.
5. Is solitude necessary if you want to be a writer? Is it easier to put words to paper, translate images into writing, when there are no people around to disturb you?
Solitude is a nice-to-have, although some writers write in cafes and in public. Others write to loud music. But most do need some alone-time, yes, to get the words out.
6. Where do you get your ideas from? You write from personal experience - so how much does that go into building a foundation for a story for any author?
Good ideas usually involve three elements: surprise which comes from unusual connections, which comes from perception. So first you have to "see." You need great input-- with rich detail. Then you need to manipulate what you see in a unique way. In "your" way. This provides the writer's voice. Lastly, you need to write the stuff down with some element of freshness, ergo the surprise factor.
7. What is your advice to the budding authors out there?
If you want to be a commercial writer, figure out publishing trends and write the kind of stuff that you think a lot of people will read. If you want to be a literary writer, hone your craft. Learn to use simile and metaphor. Learn how to pare words down to form perfect descriptions. Learn to write lyrical sentences. Find your voice. Keep writing.
8. If someone took away your ability to write, to create characters, what would you do?
Study acupuncture and become a healer. That is something I fantasize about.
9. Any new book(s) you are working on which you can talk about at this stage?"
Trying to write fiction but finding it very hard. Frustrated beyond words. So no, I have nothing to show and therefore, I have nothing to say about what I am working on now, which seems to be precisely nothing.
10. How do you think women can empower themselves better?
By claiming it. By not blaming others for the voices in their heads telling them to behave in a certain way. By silencing those voices.
11. Please tell us why you are Glad2bawoman?
I am glad to be a woman for so many reasons. The experience of childbirth which is amazing and powerful. The bonds that women create and nurture are very comforting. It's also the small things. I like dressing up, wearing jewellery, applying scents, and all the paraphernalia-- bangles, flowers, the works. I like being a woman.