Flipkart - Search Bar

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Author Interview: Rohini Lall, author of 'The Sour Faced Moon'

When I first read this book, I was struck by the characters and the interest that was shown in developing them. ‘The Sour Faced Moon’ is a story of interesting characters, so I thought that this interview must also talk of a character, Rohini Lall, talking about her bookish characters. 

So, whether it was her school principal, or the authors, or the people who took the form of her ‘bookish characters’, she got them together ‘by picking and clubbing together the details and intricacies from the lives of people around'. Catch the review here. This author sure will go a long way and I try to find out more…

How did the idea for ‘The Sour Faced Moon’ happen?

The Sour Faced Moon is an accidental short story that turned out to be a little too long.

Though originally conceived as a short story, it went on getting longer and longer and I began enjoying developing the characters and before I knew it, I was too emotionally invested in it! 

How did you come up with the name?

The name is derived from a folk story that I was told as child about an old woman who weaves on the moon and trapped there, looks down upon the earth in despair. Hence, 'The Sour Faced Moon'.

How did you put it all together? Could you describe the journey? 

I spent six years on the book. Five years for writing, re writing and rewriting till I felt I could do no more with it and then, I began my hunt for a publisher.

What according to you is different about your book?

I write about what feels right to me, about the things that challenge an inspire me; that make me question myself and the society along with the rules and norms that govern us and I feel this approach that seeps into my book and writing that makes it different.

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

Unlike most authors, I will come right out and say that, yes, I do pick favourites. The character I felt the closest to was Joshua Anderson. 

He was as unfettered and unaffected by boundaries as anyone can be — his disability, the controlled atmosphere of the rehab, the society, nothing can hold him back. He, in true sense, is his own master.

How would you relate the life of your characters to the lives around you? Any similarities?

I have developed my characters by picking and clubbing together the details and intricacies from the lives of people around me. There are a lot of people very close to me, in whom I still see a glimpse of characters and vice versa. 

Who was it that told you that you could become the storyteller, you have become?

When I was very young, my school principal, Rev. Fr. Varghese Panangatt, told me that that one day, people will believe in the stories that I have to tell and my voice will be heard and cherished.

Who is your inspiration? Also, is there an author you take inspiration from?

My inspiration are the people around me, people who think that they lead lives that are too ordinary to be documented, but that’s what is real; the good stuff that makes it worth our while to be thankful for all the little miracles.

The authors who inspire me are Gabriel García Màrquez, Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ruskin Bond, Orhan Pamuk and well, the list can go on and on…

What is the best and the worst part of being an author?

The best thing about being an author is that you can lead multiple lives all at once, also, don’t like something? Erase it!

The bad part- the agony, the waiting, the ominous brick wall!

Any advice to writers that would like to be published today?

Get an agent.

How tough is it to be published in India?
If you have a good agent- not very.

Which book are you currently reading?

Collected Stories - Gabriel García Màrquez.

Which book is coming next from you? When do you see it released?
I haven’t named it yet. Will keep you updated!

What do you like to do daily basis?

I like to walk- for hours at a stretch, read, watch movies and well, just the usual stuff!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review : ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ by Jeffrey Archer

The twisted tale of the Cliftons and the Barringtons finds something of an end in this part, but still there never is an end to Emma's or later Sebastian's lives.

Welcome back, Lord Archer, was all I wanted to say at the end of reading the fourth instalment of the Clifton Chronicles. I had read the whole series, until now and I cannot remember how many people I have said this to... 'It should have finished in the first part itself.' I felt that over and over again; even through the third part of the series.

But, Archer comes back into his element with this one. Let’s see how…

Be Careful What You Wish For’, seems the appropriate title for this one. I got back from a holiday, and I opened this book, a few days after I received it. I was not concerned about the suspense frankly, because I was not expecting too much.

So, I opened it, to note that it began from where it had left off. Harry Clifton, who is on his book tour, receives a call from his wife, Emma. She tells him of an accident that took place that killed his son. So, he takes off from New York to London. Emma goes through hours of grief and suspense before she reaches the hospital.

She is quick to discover that Sebastian is alive but it was Bruno Martinez, his best friend who met with his death, much to the chagrin of his father Pedro Martinez. Pedro is quick to assign blame and with his devious plans wants to wipe out the Cliftons and Barringtons, as he was originally planning to do so, in the earlier part.

But, the thorn in his plan is the British government, and the latest friend of Sebastian’s, Cedric Hardcastle, chairman of the Farthings Bank. Barrington’s shipping company, which is now being run by Ross Buchanan as its chairman, finds itself in trouble with the arrival of Martinez’s puppet, Major Alex Fisher. Fisher who is now on the board of directors is gunning for the chairman’s position, when Buchanan has to quit it, due to financial reasons caused to the company by Martinez.
But, unfortunately for Fisher, Emma takes over thanks to the votes coming her way and she takes centre stage both on the personal and professional fronts. Meanwhile, Seb who will not be left behind starts working at the Farthings Bank and find himself in a wonderful position. With Hardcastle’s help, he manages to push forward the Barrington Shipping Company and sees them through their troubles.

We must not miss Emma’s brother, Sir Giles and his ambitions for the Labour Party. His story takes an unfortunate twist too, with the whole Martinez plan. Also, in the plan is Jessica, who is the adopted child of Harry and Emma’s. (Jessica, if you, remember right was Hugo Barrington’s illegitimate child.) Jessica is a terrific artist and was set to marry Clive Bingham, before a few unfortunate incidents play havoc with her life. Clive’s father, Bob Bingham enters into the fray, and plays the other kindly role in the Barrington saga.
Giles’s ex-wife Lady Virginia, the Argentinian mob, the IRA, the architecture, the art taken up by Jessica and eventually taken over by Seb’s newly found love, Samantha, all have different roles to play in all the right places.

How the whole thing develops is something only Archer can do. He manages to twist the story around, and make it land in exactly the right places with ease, showing us that the master storyteller is back. He never lets the story drag on, because he has got a few twists up his sleeve. You will be left, wanting to turn the pages and the story goes on with his ultra-cool twist, which he reserves for the end. Now, for 2015, we wait…

Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Pan Macmillan 
ISBN: 9781447265092
Price: INR 399


Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review : ‘The Sour Faced Moon’ by Rohini Lall

Rohini Lall’s maiden venture, ‘The Sour Faced Moon’ is an odd one. The beginning of which, by the way I really enjoyed. I thought that the book had a good foundation and a weaving start, which it could have gone on with...

We begin with Zaamir Agha Khan, who has a certain optimism about how his life would end up. His hopes and visions are wonderfully illustrated in the first chapter. How he travels to India from Afghanistan, how he trusts his horse to bring him to his dreamland, are all details that are brilliantly written about.

But then, we jump forwards to green-eyed Imroz’s life. He runs a shop in India and has only the stories of his past and his forefathers, which he does not like. Then, of course we have other characters like Imroz’s almost blind muezzin father, Farooqh, the Andersons; Nicholas, Emma, Danielle, Bryan and Joshua and a whole other sundry group of characters.

I do not know how they all fit into the story, though they have individual stories of their own. The first three are Nicholas, Emma, Danielle and Bryan. Nicholas is the head of the family with the beautiful Emma who is now dead, and their daughter, Danielle. Danielle, who is in love with Imroz but leaves India for Australia for almost twelve years, and comes back to India with the green-eyed Bryan in tow. 

Bryan is a young boy, who takes to Imroz and all the Indian ways with abolutely no issues. There is also Joshua, but how he fits into the story remains mystery, with only hints for the reader.

Why? You ask… I cannot give you the answers because that was how the book ran. So many questions are raised but the answers are not provided.

The story moves on and one sees a lot of things happening. The past, the present, boatmen, brick kilns, children, and Rogan Gosht and even kites and cricket make an appearance, but one cannot find an ending to any of these stories. There were probably more than two main stories and every one of the stories has misery, regret and sorrow. Including in the title. The moon, which looked up on all these people could only have a sour face.

On the whole, I felt that the novel could have gone two ways. Either, it could have been in short story format. Or the stories of the Khans and the Andersons could have been running parallel to each other and had proper endings, allowing the story a wholeness, that it lacked.

The reason I am not putting it away, is because of the author. Her style of writing deserves marks. She grasps the emotions and manages to draw the reader to not put down the book, immediately. But, unfortunately the story does not end properly, too many unresolved issues, I guess…

Author: Rohini Lall
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing, an imprint of Frog Books
ISBN: 9789383562305
Price: India 195/-, Elsewhere: $8

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Author Interview: Lucinda Riley, author of 'The Midnight Rose'

When I first started reading this ‘The Midnight Rose’, I saw so many similarities to my own life. Coincidences, one may call them. But actually at the end of this interview, I do not think that it would be acceptable, if I did. Wonder what my 90-year-old grandmother would say to that, or my cousin who is pretty much into the technology filled world as Ari?

Lucinda Riley is a former actress who is blessed with a brilliant sense of writing and a keen idea of what exactly she needs to do, to write a book. The supernatural elements in this book do not seem so very strange at the end of this interview. The Moon Palace in India is real and Astbury in England though an ‘imaginary amalgam of several stately homes’ seem so real to the reader, that one cannot differentiate between the two, in terms of the beauty. It is a wonderful thing known as imagination! Or was it something else...

So, read my review on the book and Lucinda Riley’s take, in this interview.

This book was brilliant in a lot of ways. When did the idea behind the story, first come to you?

I have always been fascinated by India, its differing cultures and diverse landscapes. In fact, the entire country presents such a vivid, rich tapestry that it naturally provides the kind of colourful, exotic background, I so adore writing about. Also, I knew that some of my family lived out in India at the turn of the century, though I knew virtually nothing else about them, not even their names.

Strangely, just thinking after I’d finished the first draft of ‘The Midnight Rose’, my mother came to visit and told me I should sit down and prepare for a shock – she proceeded to show me a wonderful photograph album that she’d just found in the attic. It chronicles in photo form, the experiences of my great-great uncle, who was a British Army Officer out in India in the days of the Raj.

Not only were there photographs of many of the places I’d used in the story, there were also numerous photos of family members called ‘Donald’, ‘Daisy’, ‘Violet’ and ‘Maud’ – names that I’d randomly chosen for four of the main characters in the book. Not only that, but from the photos, it seemed that my ancestors physically ‘fitted’ the characters I’d created.

How did the whole thing happen? The idea behind India and then in the UK, how did you conceptualize it?

I read absolutely everything I could find about the locations and the real-life characters that existed in the last days of the British Raj. I also watched endless films and trawled the internet for information. At that point, I began to form a picture in my mind of where the story should begin and it was then that I boarded a plane and flew to Jaipur and Mumbai.

I visited the Moon Palace and actually stayed at the Rambagh Palace before journeying up to Cooch Behar in the far north of the country. 

The reality of modern India was huge culture shock. It is a country of such contrasts. The beauty, the landscape, with its stunning temples and palaces, yet coupled with so much deprivation for mane of the human beings that live there, has had a lasting effect on me.

It is only when you have experienced the noise, the heat, the dust and the intense claustrophobia of so many human beings – many of whom live on the streets – that you can begin to understand the chasm that still exists between rich and poor. I wanted to touch on that in the story, contrasting the vast wealth of the Maharaja and Maharani of Cooch Behar with the hardships experienced by so many others.

Astbury in England is an imaginary amalgam of several stately homes, although the closest resemblance is Castle Howard in Yorkshire, famously used as the setting for both the original TV series and the recent film version of ‘Brideshead Revisited’. I also have plenty of experience of staying in draughty, freezing bedrooms with ancient plumbing when I’ve spent weekends with friends at their stately homes! So, I really felt for Rebecca when she arrives at Astbury for the first time, used as she is to her five-star ultra-modern apartment in New York, replete with every material comfort, money can provide.
Even though these grand old houses look beautiful from the outside, it doesn’t necessarily mean they make comfortable homes. I live in an old Hall in Norfolk, where every floorboard creaks ominously and the air conditioning is provided by a 2 inch gap between the original Georgian windows and the frames!

You have created a whole other world, especially when you created Anahita with her powers. What all did you have to study when you did that and how were you influenced by the world around you?

We would be very arrogant if we thought that everything in life could be explained by ‘hard facts and science’. I am very open to the idea that these ‘gifts’ exist and it’s just that we do not fully understand them. I’ve certainly had some very strange experiences myself, things that can’t necessarily be put down to pure chance.

For example, the story about me finding out about my relatives in India had the same names as in my book, as described above. There was a similar story when I wrote my previous book ‘The Light Behind the Window.’ As with all my books, I research the past time period before I start writing.

I do this by reading every book I can find on the particular place and period. However, I read very broadly at this point, because I never know where the actual story will head.

When I’d finished writing the book, and whilst I was in France, I came across a wonderful  elderly man, Monsieur Chapelle of the Domaine du Bourriane, whose surname, chateau and vineyard I’d written about before I knew such a family and their beautiful home actually existed in reality. I walked into my own fictional story and it was a humbling and magical experience.

How have you developed the characters? Are they influenced by people you have met in real life or do they just come out of your head?

Anahita is probably my favourite character ever, and with many of the qualities I would like to have. She's so gentle, loyal and clever, with an acceptance of the way we can only control our own destiny only up to a point. She also listens to her instincts, which is a way of living that comes naturally to me.

In your book, Anahita and Rebecca are your central figures. What have you researched of them? Are there any real life influences? How much of your real life is in the book?

I was a stage and television actress when I was younger, so I’d already had experience of being in the spotlight by the time I started writing. I also have a number of close friends who are famous in their field or married to someone who is so I’ve learned from their experiences too.

The whole concept of fame terrifies me, so when I was writing about Rebecca, there were certainly personal parallels to the way she feels about her celebrity.

To be honest, I have no idea why anyone would go out of their way to seek fame for its own sake, like today’s reality TV stars seem to do. I treasure and protect my private life and my family – they’re what keep me sane!

How do you manage to switch from one character to the next? What does it exactly require?

As an ex actress, I write by walking around with my dictaphone and acting out and dictating the dialogue and movements of my characters. The switching between characters should therefore feel natural to the reader.

There are lots of points of view in the book. Are they yours or have you developed them for your characters?

I feel that the characters develop their own points of view.

What is the most fulfilling part of writing a book?

Finishing the first draft and realising that I have created a good story with believable and interesting characters.

What book is coming from your desk, next? When do you see it released?

I am writing a seven book series called ‘The Seven Sisters’ based allegorically on the mythology surrounding the famous star constellation. I am very excited about this project and have not only finished Book 1 called ‘Maia’s Story’ based in Rio and Paris in the 1920’s, but am half way through Book 2. 

'Maia' will be published firstly in Brazil in August and then in England and India in November.

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

I never told anyone I was writing a book until my first novel (‘Lovers and Players’) was completed in 1992.

What else do you write, besides the novels?

Short stories and articles, but mainly I write my novels (and rewrite my backlist from the 1990’s which are now in demand).

Which book are you currently reading?

The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

Who are your favourite authors and why?

What else do you do on a day to day basis?

Spend time with my four children and husband.

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

Keep believing and don’t stop until it’s finished!