Radhika has a post graduate degree from Madurai University and is a history aficionado. She says writing forces her to think and re-examine a point of view or preconceived notion. She is currently working on her second novel that is contemporary but with links to history.
What inspired you to start writing?
I can’t remember a particular trigger, like an event or a specific idea that inspired me to start writing. My writing is more of an extension of my love for stories and language. I believe each of us has a unique way of connecting with the world around us, way of expressing oneself. For me that is writing.
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
I liked to read a wide variety of books; it was dependent on my mood really. On rainy days a historical or a romance, on a long Sunday afternoon a classic or non-fiction. During summer holidays deep works on psychology or philosophy. Reading gave me a specific identity that has stayed with me through many changes in life.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
Knowing when to declare it finished, the Goldilocks problem.
Too soon and you have a superficial, shoddy book that hasn’t allowed you to grow as a person, that has failed to make an impact, both on the reader and the writer. Or too late when you are striving for perfection, unable to let go, but are not really making any impactful changes.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
For ‘The Mute Anklet‘ I did a lot of research. For a historical, it was inevitable I suppose, but I did more than what was needed mainly because I liked reading about that period. I like history in general.
What I have come to realize though is to craft a tight narrative, you don’t and in fact sometimes can’t load it up with all the fun facts and trivia you learnt as part of your research. The research has to show unobtrusively in the flow. For example, I learnt a lot about the introduction of Violin in south India during the eighteenth century and how it has come to become an integral part of the Carnatic music system. But in the novel, it is mentioned in passing almost as part of a description of a room. That one word adds color to the character of the person in the room. Writing anything more felt forced.
So, while I do a lot of research, it doesn’t all get into the book.
What motivated you to write the book “The Mute Anklet”?
I had never attempted writing a novel before, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I had a couple of plots that I wanted to explore but this one felt like something I’d enjoy researching about. It was also dealing with questions of identity that I am fascinated about. I knew right from the beginning if I did not enjoy the process, I’d never finish. On the flip side, I also wanted to work on a plot that I’d have fun with, irrespective of whether I finished or not.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “The Mute Anklet”?
If pushed I’d categorize ‘The Mute Anklet‘ as historical romance. It is also a coming-of-age story. The protagonist Uma, a young woman with Caucasian looks and Indian identity struggles with coming to terms with an unwanted marriage and the changing circumstances due to the political turmoil surrounding her. Her husband, a dashing soldier in the British army, in the course of the story, for his part learns about viewpoints other than his own and becomes well rounded as a person. The book is about the discovery, growth and acknowledgement of their love for each other.
I am close to finishing my second novel, which is set in contemporary times but again influenced by medieval Indian history. It deals with the place for art and science in today’s world at one level and about the blossoming love between two very different people. Unlike my first novel that happens over many months, the second happens over a week.
How did you come up with the idea of writing historical genre book?
I like novels that have a rich backdrop – science fiction, fantasy and of course historical. It is challenging to write material that is lush with details, yet has something the reader could identify with.
With this book in particular, I found the period very interesting. The core idea came from a paper that I read which could only happen during the late 18th century.
Who are your favourite authors?
I like authors who build memorable characters, authors who are very skilful in painting the atmosphere. I like authors who know what they are talking about. For example books by the queens of crime or P.D James.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
Unfortunately not enough. My writing is usually in spurts, best output oddly on Sunday afternoons. If I can produce a thousand words a week, I’d consider it a huge success. I do read for at least a half hour a day which indirectly contributes to my writing.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Find a story that you cannot live without telling or a plot you would enjoy writing about irrespective of the outcome. The rest will fall in place.
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