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Monday, March 03, 2014

Author Interview: V Sanjay Kumar, author of 'Virgin Gingelly'

There have been many days when I woke up to see quite a few
people take walks around the colony, I used to live in. My grandfather was the chatty kind and so, I would hear of stories, which were charming, funny and sometimes, painful. This book gave me an insight into that very bit of nostalgia. You can catch my review of ‘Virgin Gingelly’ here.

The author, V Sanjay Kumar, who does not write with a linear bent of mine, nor is he compelled by his plot but still puts up a book, worth reading. So, happy walking and reading…

How did ‘Virgin Gingelly’ happen?  And how did you come up with its name?

My morning walk in Chennai took me through a Colony similar to the one in the book and I always wondered what happened inside these houses that I passed. From there, it was a small step to working out characters staying in such a place and the lives they lead.

The title of the book at one level was an attempt to get to the essence of Chennai and one quintessential item is oil that is used daily in cooking and in festivals for rituals and this is Gingelly oil.

Could you describe the journey?

The book has been written over the last three years and I have had to take breaks in between just to refresh my perspective and re-examine what I had written.

I thought the second book would be easier to write but to the contrary it was more challenging.

What according to you is different about your book?
I think it is best left to readers and reviewers to dwell on this one.

You have used bits and pieces from various books for your research. How did you blend them together to form into one?

Allen Ginsberg was iconic for a certain type of character and so, I used a quote from his poem. Jeanette Winterson’s quote on book collecting fitted into the story where the writer rues his excessive book buying habit. And the XJ Kennedy poem is fairly crucial I feel, in establishing the nature of the voices in the book.

Who was it that told you that you could become the author, you are today?

Writing was something that I attempted on my own when I had some free time. I had sold my software business and was free of operational responsibilities.

How would you relate the lives of characters to the lives today? Any similarities?

The characters in the book are not your everyday characters even though the things they grapple with may afflict many people. I like to dwell on the margin than in the middle.

But yes, these kinds of people do exist and describing them I hope will be interesting for readers.

What was the most challenging part about writing ‘Virgin Gingelly’?

The structure of the book was challenging. I do not write linear narratives nor am I very plot driven. There is a thread that runs through the book but it reveals itself very slowly.

What are the most fulfilling parts in your book?

Fulfilment will really come from reader feedback. A couple of readers have said they re-read the book and found that worthwhile. That gives me a rush.

Which particular character did you feel most close to? Why?

I like most of the characters in the book, even the minor ones who feature almost like atmospherics. But the writer in the book is perhaps a more complex creature and I saw some of my predilections in him.

When will you next book be out?
I have no firm date in mind. After two books I have realised how unpredictable the 
writing schedule is but I am working on something right now.

Which book are you currently reading?

Currently, I am reading ‘Tenth of December’ by George Saunders and an earlier book
of Junot Diaz.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

My favourites keep changing. I am not a voracious reader but I like reading the works of Milan Kundera.

What else do you do on a daily basis?

I keep track of the art market as I am a Director at an art gallery in Mumbai called Sakshi.

What advice do you have for the young writers of today?

There is no shortage of advice for writers so I feel there is no need for me to add to that mountain. All of it is good advice but you still need to write that book.

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