Team Kitaab is in conversation with writer Susheela Menon whose story is soon going to be published in TBASS 2021.
Susheela Menon is a writer based in Singapore. Two of her latest stories appeared in Ether Ore (an anthology that highlights Keralite folklore). All her stories, essays and articles can be found online.
Her story ‘Kintsugi’ is going to be a part of TBASS 2021 (Kitaab, 2021)
Team Kitaab: Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
Susheela Menon: I write stories that I enjoy reading, and I share them so I get to know how others perceive it too. It’s fun.
Team Kitaab: Share a bit about your writing journey so far. How did you start? Any roadblocks? Who were your strongest supporters? Any tips to share with aspiring writers who are just beginning their journey or are about to begin it?
Susheela Menon: I just wrote a story one day and enjoyed the process. Though I could smoothly end the first one, I struggled to find good endings for almost all my stories as I continued to write. Some were shallow, some were chaotic, some were confusing, some clueless.
I then heard an author speak about his writing process and realized that every story has loose ends that we need to tie at the end…it’s almost like wrapping a gift. That sort of made things easier. Hope all aspiring writers pick up the technique of story-wrapping.
My strongest supporters were my friends and cousins. Some of my Facebook friends continue to endure my work. My brother has played a part by letting me steal so many of his books, and my daughter too has politely listened to many of my stories (the clueless ones). My parents love to talk, and some of my stories reflect the little things that annoy or please them. Though my husband doesn’t read, he believes in my passion for stories…and that has been very useful.
Many thanks to all of them, and to everyone I have known and learned from.
Team Kitaab: Tell us about your most recent book or writing/editing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
Susheela Menon: I submitted a short story several days back. It is set in Kashmir and highlights a deep sense of loss.
I usually get tied in knots with my own characters and let them decide for themselves what they need to say. I try to stand aside from the story and see what happens.
Team Kitaab: Describe your writing aesthetic.
Susheela Menon: I think most of what I write is derived from some passing event in any character’s daily life. This leads to my stories being full of dialogue, and intrigue achieved through dialogue. I also keep descriptions to a minimum and like to bring out emotion by focusing on movement (of characters and settings).
Team Kitaab: What/ Who is your writing inspiration?
Susheela Menon : I have loved reading Rohinton Mistry, Murakami, Hemingway, and many other writers who write a story as if they were telling it. I have also learned from and enjoyed reading the work of lesser known writers who write for journals and magazines.
Team Kitaab: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Susheela Menon : I write only when I want to. If there is a block, I wait for it to go away.
Team Kitaab: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Susheela Menon : A pantser for sure.
Team Kitaab: What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
Susheela Menon : I find personal essays challenging. They demand honesty and sensitivity. An essay I wrote about my father proved very tough for me because I didn’t know what I wanted to say, or if I wanted to say what I thought I wanted to say.
Team Kitaab: What’s your idea of bliss?
Susheela Menon : Knowing what you truly are, and being able to accept it.
Team Kitaab: What books would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Susheela Menon: I would take a collection of short stories…and another collection of really short stories. I may also pack some non-fiction.
Team Kitaab: Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
Susheela Menon: My breath.