Kota Neelima completed Master of Arts, International Studies, JNU. She is currently a Senior Research Fellow, South Asia Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC. Let us know more about her writing.
What inspired you to start writing?
Life is a story waiting to be told, and every life is an interesting story. Every time I look away from myself and my life, I see the world around me as a matrix of stories, each with its own unique beginning and end. I explore and understand lives of others, and communicate them through my writing.
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
I read literature early, especially English writers like Hardy, Austen and Dickens. Great Expectations was the first book I finished reading as a child, and understood it gradually in the years later.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
There is no challenge at all, if ‘writing’ is the objective and not ‘writing a book.’
How much research do you do before writing the book?
My books are based on real issues that are difficult and unresolved. In The Honest Season, my new book released in 2016, I deal with issues like the life of a single woman in Delhi, challenges of covering politics for a journalist, corruption in corridors of power, etc. My earlier three books were about farmers’ suicides in Vidarbha and elsewhere in India. I spend time researching the issues about which I write, so that I am not merely learning the fact or alternate fact, but the truth. Truth, as we all know, is elusive and may take years to be discovered. To sum up, my research is never over, I am always searching for the truth, and I am always writing.
What motivated you to write the book “The Honest Season”?
The patience of the Indian voter had always mesmerized me. The voters ‘settle’ for politicians who do not deliver most promises they make in elections, and usually re-elect them. The lack of choice before the voters should have led to demands and struggle for a better democracy. Only the voters can force reforms in a system that serves the politicians well. And yet, we never question the system and prefer a status quo rather than change. This is at the root of all corruption, and the neglect of problems of common people in the country. This needs to change, and all my four books are about how such change can be brought about.
Can you tell us more about your latest book “The Honest Season”?
The Honest Season is a political fiction set in Delhi, and seeks to open the guarded gates outside the power centres to expose corruption in these high places. The question I ask is, why are the gates of our MPs, MLAs, ministers shut to voters who had elected them to power? The headlines are full of the corruption that takes place inside these guarded gates and my book seeks to open these gates for the readers. The story revolves around six tapes of conversations secretly recorded within Parliament corridors by an honest MP who wants to expose the corruption. I use Parliament as a metaphor for a seat of power, inaccessible to common people, and where the deals and exchanges are made in the name of common people without their knowledge.
How did you come up with the idea of writing political fiction genre book?
The political narrative in India is complex and not all of it can be reported in news or through journalism. There are always stories between the lines which need to be told and political fiction allows these to materialize. For instance, why a particular politician becomes minister for industry or health, is not just news or fact. There is more to politics than what is communicated in news, and readers deserve to know the truth.
Who are your favourite authors?
Every person who rebels against injustice and inequality writes history and changes it. Ordinary people who speak their mind and challenge the powerful are my favourite authors, those who do not accept the written history and write it afresh.
How much time do you dedicate to writing on a daily basis?
About 4 to 6 hours per day. This has been my schedule for the last 10 years.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
Do not write ‘like’ anyone. Be you.
You can buy her book now: