ravisubIn writing about gun rights and academic malpractice, Ravi Subramanian strays from his usual subject to decidedly mixed results: Tehelka

It’s one of the most clichéd pieces of advice given to new authors of fiction, both literary and commercial. Write what you know. It’s good advice; one of the worst things a new author can do is seem inauthentic. Indian commercial writers certainly follow it to the T, with a conveyor belt of engineers writing about being engineers, bankers writing about being bankers, college students writing about being college students.

balli kaur jaswal

Balli Kaur Jaswal grew up in Singapore, Japan, Russia and the Philippines. She attended the creative writing programs in Hollins University and George Mason University in the US. In 2007, she won the David TK Wong Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, where she wrote Inheritance, her first novel, published by Sleepers Publishing in February 2013.

Currently, Jaswal teaches VCE English in a secondary school in Melbourne.

Inheritance is a story about a traditional family grappling with their rapidly modernising surroundings.  It is a nation’s coming-of-age story, seen through the sharp lens of a traditional Punjabi family as it gradually unravels.  Set in Singapore between the 1970’s and 1990’s, Inheritance follows the familial fissures that develop after teenaged Amrit disappears in the middle of the night. Although her absence is brief, she returns as a different person.

In this interview with Kitaab’s editor Zafar Anjum, Jaswal discusses the journey of her first novel from its genesis to its publication.

Inheritance is your debut novel. How did the idea of this multi-generational saga come to you?

The characters came to me before the story did. When they started interacting with each other and conflicts began to arise, the story was born. In rising Asia, there is a palpable tension between tradition and modernity. The characters from different generations play out these tensions – they’re living proof of one country’s uneasy balancing act of past and present. As the landscape of Singapore changes, the characters have to decide between adjusting to them or completely retreating.

AneesSalimIn our times of overwriting and over-publishing, literary legends are difficult to come by. Yet, once in a blue moon, we do come across a rare story of literary struggles that surprises us. The story of Kochi, India-based novelist Anees Salim is one such story.

Anees is a college dropout turned ace advertising professional. He wrote four novels but none of them got accepted by mainstream publishers in India. “After being disappointed by the agents abroad, I also started to submit it to Indian publishers, but heard nothing from them,” he said in an interview. “Then I submitted my manuscript to Kanishka Gupta of Writer’s Side Literary Agency, and within 15 days my novel was sold in an auction. Ironically, among the bidders was a publisher on whose table the same manuscript had been languishing for last six months. ”

Once his first novel was sold, the rest also got picked up, all in the span of a single year. The Vicks Mango Tree and Tales From A Vending Machine have been published by Harper Collins; The Blind Lady’s Descendants by Amaryllis, and Vanity Bagh by Picador.

His debut novel, The Vicks Mango Tree, is set in the Emergency period. The Blind Lady’s Descendants tells the story of a Muslim family living in a little known town. Tales from A Vending Machine is the story of Hasina Mansoor, a young Muslim girl employed at an airport vending machine, and her string of adventures. Vanity Bagh sketches the picture of a tiny Pakistan inside a big Indian city, against the backdrop of a serial bomb blast.

He talks about his trials and tribulations as a writer in this interview with Kitaab’s editor Zafar Anjum:

ruth-prawer-jhabvala-booker-prizewinning-au-001

The writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who has died aged 85, achieved her greatest fame late in life, and for work she had once dismissed as a hobby – listing “writing film scripts” as a recreation in Who’s Who. Her original screenplays and adaptations of literary classics for the film producer Ismail Merchant and the director James Ivory were met with box-office and critical success. The trio met in 1961, and almost immediately became collaborators, as well as close and lifelong friends.

Soon after Merchant and Ivory themselves met (in New York), Merchant proposed that they make a film of Jhabvala’s early novel The Householder (1960). The pair then went to Delhi and asked her to sell them the book and write a screenplay of it in eight days flat. Over the next five decades, she wrote 23 screenplays. The collaborations included adaptations of EM Forster’s A Room with a View (1985) and Howards End (1992), for both of which Jhabvala won Academy Awards; and Henry James’s The Bostonians (1984) and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1993). Jhabvala’s two Oscars put her in the incongruous company of Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor – journalists reported how odd the gilt statuettes looked in her plain New York flat.

Suhayl_smallSuhayl Saadi was born in Yorkshire in 1961 of Afghan-Pakistani parents, and grew up in Glasgow, becoming a medical doctor. He is a widely published novelist, dramatist and poet, and the author of a short story collection, The Burning Mirror (2001), shortlisted for the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. His radio and stage plays include The Dark Island, broadcast on Radio 4 in 2004, Saame Sita (2003), The White Cliffs (2004), and The Garden of the Fourteenth Moon (2006).

He has written articles and essays for several national newspapers, and song lyrics for classical and folk-rock combos. He has co-edited three anthologies, and is co-director of an arts production company, Heer Productions Ltd., which established the Pakistani Film, Media and Arts Festival in the UK. (Suhayl Saadi above, photo by Basharat Khan)

crastaAmong the bunch of famous Indian novelists and writers, Richard Crasta‘s name might not be as widely recognized as that of a Seth or a Rushdie, but few would come close to him in being funny, witty, satirical and daring–all at the same time. If you don’t believe me, I can get American legendary novelist Kurt Vonnegut to  vouch for him who found his first novel, The Revised Kama Sutra, “very funny”.  After Khushwant Singh (who is 90 plus old but still active as a below the belt heavy hitter), if any Indian writer has pushed the boundaries of satirical writing, with dollops of sexual humour (and satirical writing on a lot of other serious stuff) in his own distinctive style, it’s Richard. But, in fairness, his writing is more than that, and multifaceted, covering areas as wide as, in his own words, “autobiography, humor, satire, political critique, sexual critique, and literary criticism.”