R.K.Narayan and internet message boards: #HowWritersWrite with Veena Muthuraman

Veena Muthuraman talks about her writing process

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We asked  Veena Muthuraman, author of A Place of No Importance to tell us about her writing process and what influences her writing. Here’s what she had to say:

Do you write everyday? When and where do you write?

I’d like to write everyday and get to Trollopian levels of discipline in doing so but I come nowhere close. Days and weeks go by without any writing followed by bursts of enforced ‘creativity’ usually prompted by some combination of guilt and looming deadlines.

I am not a morning person and hence most of my writing happens late in the day. The initial version is almost always on paper, nowadays on a moleskine that my 6-year old gave me for my birthday so that she can keep track of how much writing is really happening. I write everywhere except on a writing desk – on my bed, on the dining table, on the floor, and stretched out on the armchair.

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Do you listen to music while you write? What’s on your playlist at the moment?

I do not usually listen to music while I write as I am terrible at doing more than one thing at one time. In any case, I have a rather boring taste in music as my idea of it is playing Ella Fitzgerald & Miles Davis and occasionally S&G on an endless loop. Playing right now: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.

 

What’s your go-to-site for distracting yourself while you write? Or do you refuse to browse while writing?

Ooh, where does one start? Always with Wikipedia, though I’d like to call it research. Whatever I start with, I end up spending hours on one of the following: history and alt fiction, set usually in Roman times or far in the future, politics of a bleeding-heart liberal bent, LRB, n+1, medical memoirs and histories (blame Siddhartha Mukherjee), and well, ahem, Guardian message boards.

 

A reader called your stories ’21st century Malgudi Days’ — has R.K. Narayan been an influence on your writing? Who are the other Indian writers you go back to?

R.K. Narayan is an obvious influence both in content and form; it is fascinating how he brings a small-town to life with all its drama and intricacies in ‘simple’ prose, and the sense of mischief he brings to any situation. Other Indian writers I have gone back to in writing the stories in A Place of no Importance are writers who write in regional languages about local subcultures — Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai and M.T. Vasudevan Nair in Malayalam, and more recently, Sundara Ramaswamy in Tamil. Going beyond the written word, this collection is also influenced by films to an extent – for instance, ‘A New Release’ and ‘The Amman of Saris’ owe their genesis to Ray’s Charulata (I have not read the book) and Devi respectively. Not to mention the debt owed to many films of my childhood, the golden age of Malayalam comedies, for their unique blend of slapstick and satire applied to everyday situations.

 

Does the fictional village of Ayyanarpatti exist in real life? Or is it completely imaginary?

Ayyanarpatti is fictional, but the cluster of villages that I have based it on is very much real and I have spent many a summer there. If you read the book and like the village so much that you’d like a customized itinerary, get in touch and I am sure it can be arranged! The village’s denizens are all entirely fictional, just don’t ask my parents.

 

Veena Muthuraman’s collection of stories, A Place of No Importance, is available exclusively on the Juggernaut App. Click here to download the app.

 

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