Chat Mode: Interviews

How I Write: the Mumbai Boss interview

How to be a writer: first, get your ducks in a row… (Photograph: Nilanjana S Roy)

“Real procrastination is subtle: allowing chaos, drama, toxic relationships, poverty (material and emotional) into your life is a time-honoured way to avoid writing.

A well-ordered, happy, creative life and the comfort of routine are priceless. That calm foundation sets the ground for both writing and for other things—challenging travel, the ability to exercise your curiosity, to invite new experiences into your life.

The moment you start writing, and you realise how much richer and happier you feel when you’re making up interesting stuff for a living, the need to procrastinate disapparates. The walk to the writing table might be just as long, there might be as many excuses, but you know you’re going to get there because whatever’s simmering on the stove of your imagination is sending out tantalising aromas, and some part of you is happy to be there stirring the pot.”

Read more: How I Write: Nilanjana Roy

Books For Breakfast: Interviewed by Tishani Doshi, The Hindu

“For those of us who grew up in a time when there were only three viaducts for the world to arrive at our doorstep — All India Radio, visiting relatives, and books — Roy’s childhood evocations will resurrect a longing for a time of blue aerogrammes and peeling leather spines. She writes not about the inheritance of loss but the inheritance of bookshelves — how this helped her to connect certain ancestral dots. And she writes about the real magic of reading, how it can alter geography, making it so that Tuntuni, the gossipy Bengali bird, can make her nest in Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree, how Boo Radley can live across the road from you.”

Read more: Books For Breakfast

Interviewed by Parul Sehgal, The Art of the Review (2011):

“I’m increasingly a little wary of the demand that we read a book inside its genre; I loved Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, for instance, but if you’ve read a lot of science fiction or dystopian fiction, what you will respond to in the book is not the stunning originality of the premise—because that premise has been done, extensively, before in science fiction. You will respond to the craft and to the humanity of it, but the slavish adoration of many of the mainstream reviews annoyed those of us who had read SF — we knew that his premise may have been brilliant, but it was not original. To take a slightly different example, why is it not possible to review Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall alongside George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice epic? Because they’re pegged as literary fiction versus fantasy, so they don’t occupy the same mindspace—but they are the same kind of book, and Mantel is just as much a companion to Martin as Tolkien. If you’re really serious about reviewing books by their own criteria, Martin should be reviewed as literary fiction just as much as he is seen as a fantasy writer. Okay, end of rant.”

Read more: Art of the Review


Writers at Work: Interviewed by Somak Ghoshal, Mint Lounge

“Nothing can be more propitious than to have an adorable ginger cat sit in on a conversation about books, some of which are about cats. As critic and novelist Nilanjana Roy and I sit chatting in the drawing room of her house, we are joined by Tiglath, a British shorthair, and Bathsheba, a fidgety little tabby, who walks in, is thrilled and terrified by the strange guest, and runs away.”

Read the rest: Writers at Work

The Missouri Review: Akhond of Swat, and Literature in India

Interviewed by Arnab Chakladhar

“But the idea of the writer as a solitary figure—how realistic is this, anyway? I’ve been questioning it for a while. It’s just not true of women writers through history, who have either had to wage small wars to earn their solitude or who have had to write in between the demands of their households.

It also ignores the importance of literary friendships—and of a community of writers, thinkers, artists, a clan of one’s own—that seems to play such a large part in the lives of so many writers. So solitude—yes, for the office; but the writer as a recluse is counterbalanced by the figure of the writer as the gossip, the writer as the flaneur, the writer as the listener. Think of Sharatchandra; all that eavesdropping that he put to such good use in his novels.”

Read more: On the democratization of English, and the writer as an arsonist


The Unbroken Taar: Interviewed by Urvashi Bahuguna for Helter-Skelter

You say, at more point that one, that words matter more than the paper they are on. At another juncture in the book, you talk of cheap paperbacks published in Kolkata where the pages were so thin you could read two pages at once. Could you tell us more about your relationship with paper?

You don’t have to eat books to know that the first relationship we have with books and writing is tactile. I read on the Kindle as well, and it’s profoundly dislocating. E-reading keeps the writer’s voice intact, just as sharp or as murmuring as it is on the page, but you lose your sense of geography, and I lose my ability to hold a “map” of the book in my head. Briefly: paper matters to me. I don’t fetishise books as objects, but a well-made book is like a well-made meal, and bookfeel can be as pleasurable as mouthfeel.

Read the rest: The Unbroken Taar


Just Books: On The Wildings

Watch: Sunil Sethi asks about cat characters and The Wildings

Kitaabnaama: the Doordarshan interview

Watch: Kitaabnaama: Cat Story


On… film and book adaptations.
Chatting with Rahul Bose at the Kolkata Lit Meet, 2013

Aleph’s teaser for The Wildings (subtitled, Why I Am Not An Actor. Mohit Satyanand does
a much better voice, as you would expect).

On The Wildings and first-time authorishness.
In conversation with Anita Roy, 2012

Narco and the Wild Things: the session at the Kolkata Lit Meet, with Jeet Thayil and Sandip Roy


Talking about Kevin.
Chatting with Lionel Shriver, at the JLF, 2012

On the Delhi gang rape and violence against women in India, on Al Jazeera:

On the Slutwalk debate, 2011

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