Feb 09 2024.views 122
It’s day two of the maiden edition of the Ceylon Literary and Art Festival. The festival is currently being held in the salubrious citadel city of Kandy before it heads to the heady metropolis of Colombo. Packed with many leading authors from Sri Lanka and around the globe we chat with 4 esteemed authors on their Literary lives and influences.
Q HOW DID YOUR JOURNEY AS A WRITER/POET BEGIN? I guess it began with my parents and grandparents who read poetry to me. With my mother who made my sister and me memorise poems and recite them. With my study of English poetry as a student at university. I wrote my first ‘poem’ as a 7-year-old. But as an adult, I really started writing poetry in my late twenties during a personal crisis.
Q WHO WERE YOUR LITERARY INFLUENCES? Some of them were Kamala Das, Eunice de Souza, Sharon Olds, Anne Ranasingha. Indran Amirthanayagam’s early work was an early inspiration. I’m constantly inspired by various poets, including poets writing in Sinhala.
Q HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN AN IDEA YOU’VE COME UP WITH FOR A POEM IS GOOD? If it gives birth to a poem with minimal pain which I can then work on.
Q HOW PROFITABLE IS IT TO BE A WRITER IN SRI LANKA? Profitable? Are you serious?
Q WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING POETS? Read lots and lots of poetry. Be prepared to be torn to bits by criticism. Know the difference between genuine criticism and those who are just hating on you. Be prepared to rework and rewrite poems and above all don’t be overconfident. That way you’ll always want to improve your craft.
Q WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST AT THE CEYLON LITERARY AND ART FESTIVAL? New audiences, inspiration, meeting other writers and interacting with them.
Q HOW DID YOUR JOURNEY AS AN AUTHOR BEGIN? I was fortunate! I didn't have to go through fire to have my first book published. It was commissioned! Penguin Books wanted to enter the Indian market with a bang! I took that seriously and wrote ‘’Socialite Evenings’’. David Davidar became the first and youngest publisher. His really tight India list included me, which was pretty cool! The book became a bestseller... and several books later.... here I am!
Q WHO WERE YOUR LITERARY INFLUENCES? I loved the classics. Read like a maniac. Admired the great writers of the world - American, Russian, English, Japanese. Like many of my generation, Ayn Rand was a huge hero. And F. Scott Fitzgerald remains my biggest literary inspiration.
Q WHAT WAS IT ABOUT READING THEM THAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER YOURSELF? I wrote because I passionately enjoyed writing and still do. Nothing has diminished my love affair with words. Nothing can. I didn’t necessarily want to write like any of them. I just wanted to find my own voice - and did.
Q HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN AN IDEA YOU’VE COME UP WITH FOR A NOVEL IS GOOD? Gut instinct. Bells have to ring. Ears have to tingle. Heart has to race. Impatience must make me want to jump and reach my writing station.... start the book there and then. I hear voices! I obey them.
Q WOULD YOU CONSIDER WRITING ANY OTHER GENRE APART FROM YOUR FORTE? Always. A writer should be prepared to take every wild shot.... risk it all... no safety nets.
Q WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO WRITE BOOKS IN YOUR GENRE? I write my truths. Like every writer. I don’t select a genre - I select a subject that demands a story. And then, I go ahead and narrate it. Genres are so limiting and boring!
Q ARE YOU A DISCIPLINED WRITER AND DO YOU SIT DOWN DAILY TO WRITE? I am disgustingly disciplined. I write 1200 words a day. That has been my pattern for 40-plus years. With regular columns, 25 books and a very active presence on social media... where’s the time to take a break? I have been writing in the public domain for 50 non-stop years without skipping a deadline. I’m proud of that!
Q WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING NOVELISTS? Read, read and read. Observe every and every tiny detail. Listen to conversations. Look at body language. Be as curious as a kid. Ask questions. Don’t overthink - just keep writing till your story ends.
Q WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST AT THE CEYLON LITERARY AND ART FESTIVAL? Meeting old friends in a place I adore - Colombo! Discovering new voices. Learning. Listening. Loving. It promises to be an exciting, thought-provoking and incredibly fun lit fest. Bring it on!!