Trying to predict the reception to a creative work is a fool’s game: Vikram Chandra

vikram-chandra“I try not to think of anything but the writing while I’m writing,” says Indian novelist Vikram Chandra in his interview with The Hindustan Times.  “The great Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman once wrote that “the single most important fact, perhaps, of the entire movie industry” is “NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING” (all-caps in the original).  That is, trying to predict the reception to a creative work is a fool’s game.  And, during the writing process, the urge to anticipate is hugely distracting.  I do the work for myself and a couple of first readers; what happens after the book’s release, and in the years that follow, is always a surprise.”

On his research techniques, he says, “In the usual way of reading a lot, talking to as many knowledgeable people I could about the milieu I was writing about, and sometimes trying to insert myself – if only for a couple of hours – into the world that my characters live within.  This last part seems to fascinate people the most – “Did you meet any gangsters?” – but I think it’s a mistake to connect fictional authenticity with that kind of on-the-ground ethnographic research.  The novelist’s job is to construct a convincing simulacrum, and good writers can do it even if they’ve gotten the ethnography from a book, or from an expert – in my case, the crime journalist Hussain Zaidi, who I was lucky enough to have as friend, philosopher, and guide.  Finally, the writer’s imagination is what makes the fictional universe live.”

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