The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Shashi Warrier
It runs in the family. Four uncles were writers and poets, and my father translated a few books from Malayalam to English. I started late, at the age of 35, and wished I’d got to it earlier.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I’m currently working on Swami, a novel about an alcoholic but committed journalist investigating the possible misdeeds of a godman based in southern India. The investigation leads him in unexpected directions, and changes his life.
My last published book is The Girl Who Didn’t Give Up, which was released earlier this year by Westland, and is about paedophile rings in Goa and the influence they have.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
I don’t really understand this question, but I just follow my instinct on writing.
Who are your favorite authors?
John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Cruz Smith, John le Carre, Stephen Hunter, Lee Child.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
The book I’m writing now, Swami, is the hardest book I’ve tried yet. It involves a large amount of introspection, and has been leading me to insights on my own thought and behaviour that are sometimes painful and usually startling!
What’s your idea of bliss?
A beach where you can swim, a few friends, plenty of food and drink, and some music.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Unfairness on a large scale, or even on a small scale when practiced by a government.
What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway.
East of Eden, Steinbeck.
The Naive and Sentimental Lover, John le Carre.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig.
Ashtavakra Gita, translated by Radhakamal Mukherjee.
A selection of thrillers by Smith, Child, and Hunter.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
People in the house. Then my pet animals. Maybe my computer, for work not backed up.
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
Be cool, because whatever will happen will happen.
I got down to writing books only a decade and a half of working at other things, which included writing ad copy, consulting, business journalism, computer programming, software project management, writing software manuals, and so on. I started with writing for children, and found that it was harder than I’d thought. After that I wrote some thrillers, and then some literary fiction, more thrillers, and then a satirical novel, and now I’m back to literary fiction. Some years ago I took six weeks to cover some 11,000km, all over India, on a motorcycle. I’ve been working on a book based on that journey, and will complete it one of these days, but don’t know when.
My education in economics and the analytical work in consulting and other things I’ve done in the past are a great help with the research required for my books. I try to make every book authentic, so there’s a great deal of research involved.
Other interests include motorcycles, yoga, and Hindustani music. I like animals, particularly dogs and cats, and we have quite a few pets. I’ve also been learning to cook, with mixed results.