- You have stated before that the thirteen years spent writing Family Life were rather long and painful. What was your immediate reaction on winning the Folio prize for fiction for it?
Family Life is based very closely on my own life. Like the protagonist of the novel, I too had a character who had a brother who was severely brain damaged by an accident in a swimming pool.
My reaction to winning the prize was shame. I feel like I have received a great deal of luck in my life. I have been OK while my brother has not and my parents have not. Winning the Folio made me feel again how great the imbalance is between the luck I have received and what the rest of my family has received.
- In relation to Family Life, you have spoken of the elimination of sensorium – meaning that you allow the reader only minimal descriptions of sound, smell or feel in the novel. Why would you deem such elimination important? What kind of novel would you say warrants such minimal descriptions?
Eliminating the sensorium thins out the reality of the novel. Thinning out the reality means that it is easier to enter and exit a scene without the scene having to do a great deal of “plot” type work. Eliminating the sensorium is useful for books which don’t have a great deal of plot or where there is a desire to move across a vast amount of time.
- The narrative in Family Life is of nine year old Ajay’s. In choosing such a narrative, of a child’s, does there run a risk of the voice seeming more mature than may be necessary?
The novel begins with the protagonist looking back. This looking back allows the nine-year-old Ajay to have a voice that is both childlike and also more mature than a child’s.
- You teach creative writing now. How has the experience been so far? Of all your lessons, which is the one thing that you would say is the most important thing you tell your students?
I enjoy teaching. I enjoy working with young people. The most important part of learning to write is reading a lot and reading analytically. You have to know and explain why a story works or does not.
- You have spoken of how fiction may provide more leverage in generating emotions and using dialogue in a certain manner as opposed to a memoir. But what would you say lies central to the writing of a memoir?
I have never written a memoir and so I cannot say what makes a memoir work especially well. I think that knowing something is true gives a memoir a great deal of power. Also, the voice of the narrator needs to make up for the fictional tools that are absent.
- What do you think about The Bombay Review? Any advice, feedback or comments for us?
I think you are doing a great job and you are at the beginning of the beginning.