1) Have you always been comfortable with the idea that you were a writer? If not when did you accept yourself to be one?
I started writing poems when I was six and my first publications were in school magazines from the age of eight and then in my teens I had humorous articles published in local newspapers. So I was comfortable with writing as being an aspect of my personality. However, I had a long period of not writing for publication. It just turned out that way, between the demands of work and a variety of family commitments. During that time I never referred to myself as a writer, and only friends who had known me from years before knew I’d published a collection of poetry. So, for most of my acquaintances it was a surprise when I stepped out of the closet as a poet in 2004, which is when Raincheck Renewed was published.
2) What do you hope to achieve through the process of writing?
Also, I like the thought of taking my concepts (some of them new and original, to me) to like-minded sensibilities. And I like the thought that it just might be possible to change a person’s viewpoint.
What I do achieve is Pleasure. My work is fun.
3) What’s your writing ritual, and does it affect your ability to write well?
Aha – this is a trick question isn’t it? I don’t have a writing ritual and that’s why I don’t write as much as I should. I have black coffee on the go when I write and I need to be alone in utter silence; but I don’t have fixed writing timings. I have to remain flexible about that.
I keep a notebook and a pen, which has a built-in light, by my bed and I often wake up in the middle of the night to write a complete poem or notes for the next chapter of my novel.
4) Which books feature at your bedside table? What is your favourite book of all time?
On my bedside table is a neat pile of books that have been presented to me recently and which I mean to read soon. Having just checked, it turns out they are all translations: Duino Elegies, poems by Rainer Maria Rilke; The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann and Kusamakura by Natsume Soseki. Atop of these is the brand new publication, ‘Not A Muse’ an anthology of poetry from women all over the world. It includes a couple of my poems but I’m dipping into it for a few minutes each day to read all the poems in it.
As for books that I like, some of my old favourites are: Hawaii by James Michener; The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.
5) Which author do you most admire?
I admire too many authors to mention – what they have in common is that they are not afraid to fill their novels with a large cast of characters and they deem the reader intelligent enough to keep up with it all or relaxed enough to keep going with the story even if they can’t remember exactly whose second cousin so-and-so is.
6) In a recent survey, it was found that many people lie about the books they read, have you ever lied to say you have read a particular book, and why?
No. I wouldn’t lie. Why would I care what anyone thinks?
I had an interesting experience a few years ago when an academic insisted that I couldn’t claim to know much about English-language Literature, much less be a graduate in the subject, because I hadn’t read Ulysses by James Joyce. He was upset because I’d just explained that I had no intention of reading Ulysses in the near future as I had amassed a great pile of reading from a range of authors, originating in several countries, including some English translations of authors from my own country of origin, and I was keen to read all those novels first.
I know that Ulysses is a marvel and an inspiration to scores of writers, but I don’t think I need to read it immediately.
So, here’s the truth: I haven’t read Ulysses. Shoot me.
7) What drives you to write? Are you being driven by the writing, or does the writing drive you?
Once I’m immersed in a story, the characters have a habit of taking over and telling me what they want to do. My characters have a tendency to stray away from the nice, neat ending I was going to give them into something else entirely.
8 ) Do you feel liberated by writing or do you feel isolated? Or both?
I like my own company and I like my work. That’s freedom.
I receive notes from people I don’t know, with kind remarks about my stories and poems, so writing has in no way isolated me.
9) What do you like writing about? and what experiences have influence your writing style?
My writing style has definitely evolved and changed over the years and may continue to do so. I think I have to attribute this to my experiences, but I’ve not made a conscious connection before. What I do know is that I draw on the influence of several cultures and languages, among them Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Chinese, in addition to English. With ‘Raincheck Renewed’ I was exploring the idea of ‘hiding’ the influences of all literary traditions, including set forms, and attempting to create imagery that could be recognizably mine.
In fiction I like writing about a really wide range of subjects: relationships, society, politics, religion, the role of women, and the environment. Leafing through my recently published or podcast work (and those to be published later this year) I’ve noticed that the short stories are set in London; the novel I’m writing is set in north India; and the poems are set in London and north and south India. Wherever I roam is a sort of home and that’s what I write about.
10) Do you think writers can blame their tools for bad writing? What tools should all writers possess?
First of all, I’m against categorisation, in general, be it of people, books or writing. Like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, writing is judged by the psyche of the reader. What I think of as boring writing may really appeal to someone else.
We writers are an insecure bunch, knowing that what we strive to describe never quite makes it in perfect form to the page, but we can’t blame our tools.
Tools, writers would do well to possess: notebook and pen (or the electronic version of that); imagination; flair; interest in humanity; time; a patron.
Kavita was born in India and has lived in both Hong Kong and England for several years, shuttling between the two. She currently lives in London. Her work is fuelled by observations made in three distinct landscapes and societies. Her poetry collection, Raincheck Renewed, was published by Chameleon Press in 2004 to critical acclaim. Kavita’s poems, short stories, essays and articles on the Arts have been published in literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, including The Independent, The South China Morning Post, Dimsum, The Mechanics Institute Review, Asian Cha and In Our Own Words. A selection of her work can be read on www.kavitajindal.com