By Farah Ghuznavi

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Writing is my favourite form of self-torture.  Playing with words is pleasurable, fantasizing plotlines from foreplay to climax is enjoyable, but then… getting the words to convey the plot, now there’s the hair-yanking, teeth-grinding, eye-gouging challenge.  Still, the creative process is exhilarating, and in the end it allows me to share thoughts and ideas with others.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I have published two books this summer with Bloomsbury India. Dark Diamond is a historical fantasy set in 1685 about the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, Subedar Shayista Khan, who built the Lal Bagh Fort.  I was looking for a time in history that Bengalis could be proud of and a hero who could inspire our youth.  I wanted to look beyond 1971, to remind our youth of our rich, secular, pluralistic past. On another note, I wanted to portray the outer, inner and secret meanings of Islam that come under threat when radical power structures are in place.

Intentional Smile: A Girl’s Guide to Positive Living is a mind, body, spirit book about staying happy and healthy.  It is based on my experience as a yoga instructor and a social psychologist, and a working mother who has struggled with chronic depression.  My co-author, Merrill Khan, is a school counsellor and a life coach.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

In my first novel, Like a Diamond in the Sky, my protagonist was a young junkie who loved rock ‘n roll. Inspired by the Beatniks and folk musicians of America, I tried to simplify and pare down my sentences and paragraphs as much as possible.

The protagonist of Dark Diamond, on the other hand, is a Sufi warrior and swashbuckling hero.  I allowed my writing to be inspired by Sufi poets, but also kept characters like Indiana Jones in mind.

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

jessica-faleiro-pix

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!

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

hedy habra headshot 11Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because it seems like the most natural thing for me to do. I have always loved writing, whether critical essays, stories, poems, or recording my thoughts in a journal. It is a way of initiating a dialogue with other authors’ work, or paintings, and with other ideas. Writing helps one make sense of obsessions, dreams, emotions, but also helps, as well as reading, to transcend everyday reality, and inhabit a parallel world that can be constantly reshaped by the imagination.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My second collection of poetry, Under Brushstrokes (Press 53, 2015) is, for the most part, inspired by artwork. I have a passion for visual art and I am also an artist. I have painted the cover art, as well as for my first collection, Tea in Heliopolis. In these poems, I try to delve under the artists’ brushstrokes to unravel hidden meanings or create a new version of the artwork, using the music and colors of language as tools.

In Under Brushstrokes, I have tried to use paintings as a point of departure for a flight of the imagination; an attempt at transforming a two-dimensional representation into a three-dimensional, almost cinematic rendition that involves all five senses and explores characters’ interiority. I am currently working on two poetry manuscripts in progress, one of them a bilingual Spanish and English collection, and the other inspired by the fissures caused by displacement, and the contrast between past and present.

By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Pooja NansiLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To quote Janis Joplin, “I’m a victim of my own insides”. But that’s it really. Ever since I was a child I engaged with the world emotionally. I felt grief intensely, I felt joy intensely and as I grew up, heartbreak was paralysing, highs were never enough and at some point, that intensity needs to get out in some way to keep yourself sane. Writing is my method of coping with my insides.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

Love is an Empty Barstoolcame out 6 years after my first collection. What I love about this collection is that it is compact, and captures a precise time in my life when I was questioning if I had the capacity to be as vulnerable as I needed to be in order to let someone in or and as brave as I needed to be to let someone go.  The title encapsulates it for me. If the barstool is empty, you’re drinking alone, maybe because someone has left but there’s also the possibility of the right person sitting down next to you, which is exactly what being in my twenties felt like. So it’s a little time capsule in a sense. It’s a collection that feels bluesy and a little drunk and lonely.

It’s also significant for me because many of those poems are Mango Dollies pieces, and performing with Anjana is always special because she’s my best friend and gets what I might have been feeling when I wrote them better than anyone else could. When she puts a song to them, it’s always a little bit of extra magic. So it’s a songbook, and a snapshot, and I’m pretty happy with it.