Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Interview Week 22 on Manoj Kewalramani

What kind of book you have there?

The book, ‘Fairy Tales: Love, Hate and Hubris’ is a poetic recap of 16 timeless fairy tales. Each of the poems delves into the lives of the antagonists and other ignored characters shedding new light on their predicaments and motivations. It’s a look at the darker side of relationships through the prism of these stories.
When I say dark, what I mean is that it focuses on certain primal instincts and subtle games that people play within relationships. In that vein, the collection dwells on wide-ranging, unexplored themes — from age and youth, the trappings of power, God and faith, narcissism, self-loathing, and unbridled desire, arrogance and lust, idealization and love.

How long have you been writing?

My first memory of writing is probably when I was 11 or 12 years old. I had a bunch of cousins over at my place, and we would organize these late night ‘secretive’ meetings in the kitchen where we would discuss the plot and bring together what we’ve written. If my memory serves me well, the four of us were working on some sort of fantasy tale. The story was about four kids, based on each of us or rather the cooler versions of us, and their tryst with an evil witch. We never did complete that project, but the idea of writing stayed with me from then on. However, it wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I took up writing seriously. That, however, was more to do with politics and journalism that putting together stories or verses.

Do you have previous publishing experiences?

Yes, I do! My first book, ‘Voterfiles: A Political Travelogue’, was published in 2010, and I am thrilled that since then my association with Leadstart Publishing has only grown. The first book was a learning curve in many ways. I think I was far to overwhelmed by the fact that I was getting published. I mean, I had been a journalist for a while and was fairly used to seeing my material in print. But the idea of a book with my name on it, just took some time to get used to.
What I’ve learnt, however, is that getting the book done is not even half the job done. What follows is how you sell, and in that, the smallest bit counts. It’s your product and you need to get it out to as many people as possible. That’s what every writer wants. You want to reach as many people as you can. And in that, nothing should hold you back.

Which part of the book you believe most charming to readers?

I believe each poem has its own charm. Most of them tend to remain within the boundaries of the actual fairy tale. However, there are one or two where I think that line blurs a bit. The thing that I hope the reader takes away is the honesty in them, even though at times that honesty reveals certain ugliness.
This excerpt should probably best explain what I mean. Here’s the story of the Wolf from the Red Riding Hood story. The sense here is of a relationship and its unseemly push and pull and the impact that that has on a person. It’s unabashedly one-sided, i.e., from Mr. Big Bad Wolf’s perspective and how he is in a way managing his bruised ego.
The Narcissistic Wolf

Through the woods on a windy day
You skipped along; your worries at bay
A velvet cloak; the bread and butter
Along the way, I came in for some chatter
They say I am bad, they say I am big
But even then, it’s me you dig
You share your path
Oh such a novice, I hath
Courtesy, that is your one vice
Wildflowers, I say, they would be nice
You pick the stems; I sneak beneath the hem
A knock; unlock
Baby you knew me; so why the shock
My eyes, my ears, my teeth
Such a tease; now don’t you retreat
You run around; I growl and howl
In came the hunter; honey now I am torn asunder
The gun he clicks; in turn I split
You sigh in relief; but I am sure there’s grief
For if it wasn’t for me; the Big Bad Wolf
You’d be nothing more than another girl in a little red hood

Do you have any hints on how to get published?

That’s a tough one. I think there’s no one way. It depends on the market that you are in and how the industry works there. There are certain publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts while there are others who work best through literary agents. So, I guess, the horses for courses strategy works here.
The best advice that I can give someone is to reach out to as many people as possible. The task is to make sure that your material reaches the right person, and that’s not always easy. A good, strong synopsis is probably the most important bit here. It has to be intriguing and clear, because that’s what’s going to grab the reader’s attention.

Do you have a favorite author?

It’s tough to pick one as a favorite really. I love spending my free time reading folk tales and researching myths from different cultures. I tend to travel a lot, and one of the things that I do during my trips, is to grab a hold of anyone who can shed light on the place and its stories and listen to them.
In terms of the books I read, to be honest, I read a lot of non-fiction. A lot of history, politics and theology. So people like Elaine Pagels, Devdutt Pattanaik, Karen Armstrong, I really admire their work. However, one of my favorite books perhaps is Henry Kissinger’s ‘Diplomacy’.
But beyond that, apocalyptic/historical thrillers are a guilty pleasure. I believe that I’ve read nearly all of Chris Kuzneski’s books and absolutely loved them. ‘The Historian’ by Elizabeth Kostova was another one that I just couldn’t put down. However, if I had to be picky, I’d say Norman Mailer’s ‘The Gospel according to the Son’ and ‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’ by Philip Pullman would be among the best books that I’ve ever read.

What are your major inspirations?

A lot of the writers mentioned above. I think you draw from all that you read and from the different styles of different writers. The way I look at it, much of writing is like operating a camera. It’s about the perspective that you choose to highlight.
In terms of poetry, it’s still something that I am learning each day. I think much of my style, in how I build a narrative, is a reflection of the musical influences that I’ve had. And in that, I think Bruce Springsteen’s music and words play a big role. Growing up, I was fascinated by the man’s ability to approach every relationship and touch upon their complexities. The sheer variety and depth of his work is what is appealing. And that’s probably what I tried to emulate in ‘Fairy Tales: Love, Hate and Hubris’, or at least that’s what I hope to. 

What’s your writing plan for the future?

There are a few ideas that are floating about. But I think that I now want to take the time to work on a novel. But that’s a big commitment, and I want to take it one step at a time. For the moment, all I hope is that people enjoy this journey through the world of Fairy Tales.

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Maxwell Mead Williams Robinson Barry said...

Great interview.

Unknown said...

beautiful response,

good luck on everything you do.