By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
To do otherwise would be to deny an integral part of myself. I write because I must, because of my addiction to the feel of an ink pen between my fingers scribbling word-code onto one blank page after another. To me, writing is an aesthetic pleasure that sets every fibre of my being into vibration, when I’m actually doing it. The other reason I write is to be able to make sense of my own thoughts and feelings, and creatively express them onto the page or screen. Sometimes, just the writing process is a form of catharsis for me, even though my scribbles make no sense.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
My last book, Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa, published by Rupa (2012) is a novel that follows the lives of X generations within a Goan family. At a get-together to celebrate the patriarch’s 75th birthday, there is a powercut that leads organically to the family swapping ghost-stories. Through the process or sharing oral histories, the family history and some secrets are revealed. The structure became an important part of telling the story of the family; I used a frame narrative device to interlink the individual stories. It’s more of a commentary about the social mores of South Goan society, diasporic culture and religious aspects among other things. My intention was to create a story that wasn’t just about ‘ghosts’ but about the things that haunt us emotionally and psychologically.
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Excavating words to reveal complex layers of emotion. At least, that’s the aspiration!
Who are your favorite authors/screenwriters?
Maya Angelou, Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds, Emily Dickinson, Tishani Doshi, Pablo Neruda, Vikram Seth, Charles Bukowski and Rumi are a few names that pop into my mind for poetry. For literature, it’s Doris Lessing, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Somerset Maugham, Jeet Thayil, Sarita Mandana, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitav Ghosh, Venita Coelho and many, many others.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
I’ve got two writing projects on the go at the moment. One is a book of short stories that I received a government grant to complete. The other is my first collection of poetry – if I’m able to put it together! Each poem relates to a colour and an associated mood. I’m still a newbie at poetry so although I feel I was off to a good start with my poems, I’ve now reached the stage where the poems I’m writing seem one-dimensional. I’m hoping that once I get the manuscript for the stories out of the way, some much needed change of scenery will infuse more colour into generating the poetry book.
What’s your idea of bliss?
Going on vacation to a tropical island with a good friend and lazing by an infinity pool while munching a continental breakfast, sipping my coffee, reading trashy magazines and ordering mojitos from the bar.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
Heteropatriarchy in all its forms, and the complicity of women in perpetuating it.
What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
The Jeeves’ series by P.G.Wodehouse for humour, The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer for inspiration, Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing for exquisite writing and to be honest, the top shelf of unread fiction that I’ve collected and have yet to get through.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
My backup hard drive.
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create. So think bigger, feel deeper, imagine greater, and dare others to do the same.
Jessica Faleiro is a fiction writer and a poet. She is the author of Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa (Rupa Publications). Her poems, stories and nonfiction have been published in Indian Quarterly, Rockland Lit, Mascara Literary Review, Muse India, IndiaCurrents, TimesCrest, and tambdimati. She gives talks and leads creative writing workshops at colleges, institutions and literary festivals. She lives in Goa. You can find her writings on; https://jessicafaleiro.wordpress.com
Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé is the Poetry Editor of Kitaab