Author Interview with Vineetha Mokkil

  1. Who or what inspired you to write short stories and when did you begin writing?

All the writers I read and digested inspired me to write. I was a voracious reader as a child. I started writing when I was in middle school. Some of those stories were written for competitions held at school and some stayed on the pages of my notebooks. I’ve loved books ever since I can remember. Reading stories was such a pleasure and a fascinating voyage of discovery—of other lives and worlds—and I couldn’t resist the temptation of trying my hand at writing them. I was enthralled as a reader and I wanted to see if I could write stories to recreate that immersive and magical experience for my readers.

  1. How has living in various places – New York, Delhi and Taos affected your writing? Do you think travel helps to inspire your work?

Every place I’ve lived in or visited shapes my writing in particular ways. The energy of a place—inspiring, soothing, manic or comatose—rubs off on me. The essence of a place stays in my heart long after I say goodbye. The people I meet and the stories they tell, the sights, sounds, skies, and hidden histories of a place all spark my fiction. Travel is inextricably linked to my process. New places jumpstart my imagination. The memories they gift me are fertile ground for stories to germinate.

  1. Do you create a structure for your stories before you begin or are they more fluid?

I tend to write short stories and flash fiction in a fluid way. I have a basic idea of the flow of the story, but it’s not strictly structured before I begin. Whereas with my novel, which I’m currently working on, I found that I had to create a solid structure before I started.

  1. What advice would you give to writers wanting to submit work to literary journals?

Get your story into the best shape possible. Rewrite, refine, edit and polish vigorously before you submit. Keep at it inspite of rejections. Appreciate the feedback editors give you and incorporate it into your work. Acceptances will eventually come your way.

  1. How has winning writing competitions affected your journey as an author?

Writing competitions come with strict deadlines and they force me to sit down at my desk and finish a story on time. Competitions make me a more disciplined writer in this sense. Winning a competition makes me feel my hard work is being appreciated. That’s a wonderful boost for a writer. It gives you reason to believe in yourself and your art and to carry on writing in a world which is largely indifferent to creative endeavours.

  1. Can you tell us about your collection, A Happy Place, and your route to publication with Harper Collins?

I didn’t start out with a collection in mind. The stories were written one at a time. The title story was published in the Santa Fe Writers’ Project Journal. My eternal gratitude to the editors for that acceptance! Then, a few more of my stories got published in literary journals and magazines, and that gave me the confidence to consider putting together a collection. Once I had enough stories, the hunt for an agent started. It was not easy. Some agents loved my writing, but they were running scared of taking on short stories. It took a lot of effort and patience to find an agent who believed in the collection’s possibilities. She sent it out to several publishers and I was thrilled when HarperCollins said yes to it.

  1. Who are your favourite short story authors?

It’s a long list. To name a few: Chekhov, O. Henry, TC Boyle, Anita Desai, Lucia Berlin, Anne Enright, EL Doctorow, Akil Kumarasamy, Chimamanda Adichie, KJ Orr, Deborah Eisenberg.

  1. What do you think is the essence of a good piece of short fiction?

Telling detail, tension, humour, nuance, startling imagery, and the ability to make a word resonate in different registers at the same time.

  1. What are you currently reading and which book would you take to a desert island, and why?

I am currently devoting all my time to working on my novel, though it’s a tough challenge to resist the call of my very attractive to-read pile. The last book I read and was bowled over by was The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, an incredibly perceptive and well-written novel about friendship, loyalty, loss, and grief. My desert island pick would be Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The copy I own is falling apart because I’ve re-read it so many times. This novel surprises me every time I read it. It is so lyrical, insightful, wise, and immense in scope—I’d be delighted to be marooned on an island with it.

 Vineetha Mokkil is the author of the short story collection, A Happy Place and other stories (HarperCollins), which was listed as one of the Ten Best Works of Fiction by The Telegraph. She was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Award June 2018, shortlisted for the Desi Writers Lounge Short Story Contest 2018, and is the winner of the New Asian Writing Short Story Competition 2018. She was a nominee for Best Small Fictions 2019. Her fiction has appeared in Barren, Cosmonauts Avenue, Fictive Dream, The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 (Kitaab, Singapore), GravelJellyfish Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and chosen for the Longform fiction pick-of-the-week.

You can find Vineetha on Twitter @VineethaMokkil and her books on her Amazon author page

#bookaday Favourite Book From Childhood: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Bookseller has announced that Harper Collins imprint The Borough Press is launching a social initiative for booklovers to share books they love on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #bookaday. It will begin today, Sunday 1st June, and run throughout the entire month. Where has the year gone? How did we get to June? I will be blogging briefly on my book choices each day throughout June.

bookaday

I have many childhood favourites, but The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe sits at the top of the list. I’m sure you know the story but for those who don’t, it’s a fantasy novel for children (and adults!) The first of seven in The Chronicles of Narnia series, this one is probably the most well known. The setting is Narnia, a land of talking animals and mythical creatures that the White Witch has ruled for 100 years of winter. Four children are evacuated from London to an old country house in England during World War 2. Lucy, the youngest, discovers the land of Narnia through a wardrobe in a spare room. The others take some convincing but soon follow. TIME magazine included the book in its “All-TIME 100 Novels.” In 2003, it was listed at number 9 on the BBC‘s survey The Big Read. It has been published in 47 languages.

lion witch wardrobe

Why did I chose this one? I think there was something about the other-worldliness of the story that appealed to me as a child. The idea of a whole world on the other side of all that we know made me curious. I also related to Lucy’s difficulty in convincing her siblings that Narnia existed. There were times in my childhood where people I trusted didn’t believe me when I told them something important. I think a lot of children/adults can connect with this theme. Then there is the struggle between good and evil, between the White Witch and Aslan. Isn’t there always a struggle between good and evil in our minds and in our wills? There are so many themes in the book that I think anyone can relate to. Overall, it’s a magical tale of four children on a journey of discovery, who are willing to battle for justice in a land that not everyone can see. Their different characters and responses to the situations they encounter are, in my eyes, what make the story work. And the illustrations…

narnia

                     narnia 2

Have you read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Join the conversation.