From Advertising to being an author, Anita Nair has won many awards and accolades. Author of Eating Wasps, a versatile writer, she has written books on almost every genre. In a candid conversation, she shares her writing journey with Storizen!
Being a writer in the crime and mystery genre as a woman in India is tough but gives an edge too? Do you agree or disagree? Your thoughts.
I am not entirely sure it gives me an edge but I realize that in my own way I have created a niche for the noir I write. The interesting thing here is that noir is a dark space and it requires a certain mindset to be able to delve into it and create a book that is edgy. So it is presumed that men will excel in it.
What motivates you to write books in the crime/mystery genre? Any life experiences or observations, etc. Orit’s just an interest and inclination towards it?
I think what prompts me to write crime fiction is how it allows me to be in social commentary. With literary fiction, the mindscape of the characters rule and so a lot of weightage is given to the crafting of characters and their thoughts.
However, with crime, I am able to point out the social ills that lead to crime. My reason for writing crime is to address the darkness that is part of our society; darkness that we seem to be in denial about or are unwilling to accept as the reality of our lives.
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Your second book was published by Picador USA and it was the first book by an Indian author to be published by them, Congratulations! What was your reaction?
It’s a long time ago. But I do remember that I was rather excited at that point.
Any other genre you tried or would like to try in the future apart from your forte?
I think I have pretty much written in every genre that I like to read.
Tell us about your latest book, ‘Eating Wasps‘.
It has been 17 years since Ladies Coupe was published and I had been wanting to revisit the lives of women. But if Ladies Coupe was about women finding their identity, I thought Eating Wasps would be about women preserving their identity despite the constant challenges they face on numerous fronts every day be it patriarchy, misogyny, the male gaze, or even the all-pervasive touch of technology.
But I also wanted to focus on the challenges a woman faces from within herself especially as the world we live in today ceaselessly drums in tropes on how a woman may be or may not be. Many streams of thought were running parallel in my head. I needed a thread to connect the multiple stories. I wanted an invisible narrator.
And yet, I also wanted the narrator to be the protagonist. And that’s when I remembered the story of this writer Rajalakshmi from Kerala who killed herself in 1965. To this day no one knows why she did it. I took a cue from that and turned my protagonist and narrator into a writer and a ghost who is condemned to live even after she is dead.
What are your future plans with the books? Tell us about your books on Inspector Gowda. Is there any real living person from whom this character is born?
I have the next Inspector Gowda novel in my head. But it is in a nebulous form. He isn’t based on any real person. I often think of him as my alter ego, somebody who does all the things that I wish I could do. I actually am living vicariously through this character. My real-life experiences with policemen have been very limited.
I have met and interacted with several senior police officers and policemen from the ranks as well. Most of them impressed me immensely and in all honesty, a few of them made me want to laugh at their pomposity, and a few others I wanted to kick for their churlishness.
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When I was building Inspector Gowda’s psyche, I knew for certain that all cops didn’t have to be the boorish creatures they are made out to be. Some of them are wonderful human beings and work tirelessly to make things right, and I was certain Gowda would be one of them.
Nowadays, crime/mystery/thrillers are taking over other genres. They are highly unpredictable, intriguing and make the reader crave for more. What’s your take?
Crime fiction is still in its primary stage in India. It will go global when the characters and issues are written about start having greater dimensions than just the usual run-of-the-mill crime procedural and puzzle-solving.
Tell us about the things you love in your books? Characters, setting/plot, etc.
I think my books will always be character-driven. What makes them tick and how characters react to different situations.
You have also written travelogues. Which destination is your most favorite one? Please elaborate on what you liked/disliked?
My favorite destination will always be Italy outside India. The food, the wines, the landscape bathed in that golden light, the art and architecture, and the gelato always fill me with a great sense of well-being. Kandaghat in Himachal Pradesh is my favorite mountain travel destination within India. I first went there last November and was awed by the pristine beauty and untamed nature of the place.
Who is your biggest critic? Apart from all the best-selling numbers, accolades, interviews, and fame, what makes YOU feel successful as a writer?
I think I am my own biggest critic. What makes me feel successful as a writer is when I am able to strike a chord with a reader. No matter how often that happens, it makes me feel validated as a writer.
As an author, what message you would like to share with the budding writers.
Write honestly and write as though your very life depended on it.