Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan was born in Hyderabad, but grew up in New Delhi, where she currently lives with her partner and their three cats. Formerly a journalist, Madhavan’s first book You Are Here was commissioned in 2007 on the basis of her hugely popular blog Compulsive Confessions, and was the first book to speak of the concerns of a certain type of modern Indian woman. Since then, Madhavan has written three more novels—two for young adults—and a collection of short stories, as well as contributing to several anthologies. She also writes essays and columns for a variety of publications. The One Who Swam With The Fishes is her sixth book and her first foray into mythology-inspired writing.
Tell us a bit about your work. What inspires you to write?
People. I’m a character first writer, and for me, an entire story only unfolds once I know the habits of the person the story is about. I pick up mannerisms, back stories, quirks and journeys from all sorts of places: waiting for friends in coffee shops, the story someone tells me about a third person, a mention in a news story and these turn into books.
The journey from blogger to writer. What does being a digital writer mean and how is it different from writing a physical book?
You can be a lot more careless when you’re just doing a “Dear Diary” online. There’s not much craft involved, just “this is what I did today.” Sure, some of my posts were more well thought out, but on the whole, I’d send out a first draft, no questions asked. With each book I write though, I can feel myself actually getting better at it, even through the edit process which is my least favourite bit, I know what to remove and what to keep in, and this growing and changing I think is entirely connected with the fact that book writing is not an instant medium.
What you reading right now? Your favourite books?
I’m reading Gathering Blue, the second book in Lois Lowry’s fantastic Giver quartet. There’s a future society, and people are either super regimented (as you see in book one) or falling apart (in book two). I’m not sure yet how the books are connected, if they are connected at all, but I think that mystery is adding to my pleasure at reading it. My favourite books change from month to month, and it would require a much more organised person than me to turn it into an actual list. I do love Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith though. Also Judy Blume.
Advice for aspiring writers who are trying to complete their first book or story.
Read everything, and I do mean everything, read something that you wouldn’t normally pick up, read across genres. Listen to people, you’d be surprised at how many story ideas are just lying around waiting to be picked up if you’re just paying attention at the right time. And write. Write every day.
What would you be looking for in this contest? How would you choose the best story?
Judging things is so subjective, but I’ll try to be fair. I think I’m looking for a story which stays with me a long time after I’ve read it, it doesn’t necessarily have to have a twist or a surprise ending, I love Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories, and they move so slowly. I’m a sucker for good descriptive prose as well, something that makes me go, “Huh. I’ve thought that too.”
Do you have it in you to impress Meenakshi with your story?