As Above, So Below – Laline Paull on Her Latest Book ‘Pod’

Laline Paull, the acclaimed author known for her thought-provoking novels, such as “The Bees” and “The Ice,” has once again captured readers’ attention with her latest book, “Pod.” This captivating novel has been shortlisted for the prestigious Women’s Fiction Prize 2023.

In a recent interview with Storizen, Paull offered insights into the inspiration behind “Pod,” her extensive research on marine life, the influence of her Indian heritage, and her commitment to addressing pressing environmental issues through storytelling. Join us as we dive into the depths of Laline Paull’s imagination and explore the fascinating world she has crafted in “Pod.”

Shortlisted for the Women’s Fiction Prize

“It’s an honor to be recognized by such a prestigious award,” says Laline Paull, the talented author behind the critically acclaimed novels “The Bees” and “The Ice.” Paull’s latest book, “Pod,” has been shortlisted for the Women’s Fiction Prize 2023. This captivating novel delves into the world of marine life, exploring themes of migration, love, loss, and survival.

POD by Laline Paull Book Cover

The Genesis of “Pod”

“I swam with these majestic creatures, and it sparked my curiosity,” shares Paull when discussing the genesis of “Pod.” During a vacation in Mauritius, Paull had a personal encounter with a pod of bottlenose dolphins. As she swam alongside them, she became aware of the impact that human interference had on their lives. This experience led her to investigate the dolphins’ displacement from their home due to an unreported oil spill. The smaller spinner dolphin tribe forced out by this event became the inspiration for the narrative in “Pod.”

Laline Paull with Namita Gokhale, JLF London 2022
Laline Paull with Namita Gokhale, JLF London 2022

Influence of Indian Heritage and Yoga

“Indian philosophy played a significant role in shaping the themes and characters,” Paull explains. Her Indian heritage and study of yoga influenced the story in profound ways. The ideas of oneness and interconnectedness present in Indian philosophy played a crucial role in developing the themes and characters of “Pod.” For example, the character of Devi, the first wife of the patriarchal bottlenose pod leader, symbolizes the complexities of power dynamics and conformity within a hierarchical society.

During the interview, Paull expands on this influence, saying, “Growing up with Indian culture, I was exposed to concepts of interconnectedness, respect for nature, and the idea of shared consciousness. These ideas naturally found their way into my writing.”

Extensive Research and Scientific Understanding

“I delved into the scientific understanding of these highly social marine creatures,” shares Paull regarding her extensive research process for “Pod.” She wanted to capture the intricacies of dolphins, their behavior, and their ecosystem. Paull expresses her gratitude to the scientists who generously provided her with fresh data and guided her investigations. She found herself fascinated by the intertwining stories and complex character dynamics, drawing inspiration from George Eliot’s literary masterpiece, “Middlemarch.”

In the interview, Paull shares, “I spent months reading scientific papers, consulting marine biologists, and even had the opportunity to observe dolphins in their natural habitat. It was important for me to accurately portray their behaviors, social structures, and the threats they face from human activities.”

Laline Paull with Dr Vandana Shiva, London 2023
Laline Paull with Dr Vandana Shiva, London 2023

Engaging Concepts and Emotional Depth

“My writing process begins with a fascination for a particular subject and extensive research,” explains Paull. Her novels are characterized by engaging concepts and emotional depth. She immerses herself in a subject, conducting extensive research that gradually shapes the plot and characters. From exploring gender politics in “The Bees” to delving into the Arctic’s human world in “The Ice,” Paull’s books address pressing environmental issues, reflecting her sense of responsibility to shed light on these topics.

Paull expands on this, saying, “I believe in the power of storytelling to create empathy and understanding. Through my novels, I strive to engage readers intellectually and emotionally, encouraging them to reflect on our relationship with nature and each other.”

The Role of Women in Literature and Society

“Education for girls and women is crucial in creating a more equitable and inclusive world,” emphasizes Paull. When asked about the challenges of being a female writer in a male-dominated literary landscape, she praises The Women’s Prize for Literature for its efforts in providing recognition and equal representation. Paull firmly believes in the power of education for girls and women, not just within literature but also in society as a whole.

During the interview, Laline Paull states, “Women’s voices have historically been underrepresented in literature, and it’s essential to celebrate and amplify these voices. I’m grateful for platforms like The Women’s Prize for Literature, which champion female authors and their stories.”

In the interview, Paull reveals, “It takes me about three years to research, write, and then get a book through the publishing process. I’m working on something that I find very exciting, risky, and enticing – but you can’t open the oven door when the soufflé’s rising so I won’t say more for now, except that it leans into my Indian heritage and my British upbringing. And I hope to be at the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2024… “

The Cover Story first appeared in Storizen Magazine May 2023 Issue.