Akhil Sharma: “I don’t want to be called an immigrant novelist”


The author of the year’s first great novel reflects on the 12 long years it took to finish these 200 pages: Salon

akhil_sharmaYou spent 12 and a half years writing the book and produced something like seven thousand pages. Seven thousand pages. How did you cope with that? What was it like?

Awful. I felt crazy. I wrote with a stopwatch. I kept it by my keyboard. My goal was to write for five hours every day. If a phone call came, I would stop the stopwatch. If I checked my email, I would stop the stopwatch. I measured my productivity based on time instead of word count because I could write plenty of pages without them going anywhere. Having the stopwatch read five hours meant I had proof that I was not being lazy, that I was actually working.

When you produce 7,000 pages you have basically written 35 novels. I tried many different points of view. I had many different characters and plot points. All this contributed to the sense of just flailing. About four years ago, there was actually a completed draft that my editor wanted to put into copy editing. I was ready to do it and then backed out at the last moment because I felt that that draft was too dark. It wasn’t full of life the way I wanted the book to be.

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