Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov. So suffused as it is with sensory images that I can read and be dazzled by it over and over.
Shefali Tripathi Mehta’s debut book Stuck like Lint is a collection of short stories with a diverse set of characters and plots, and a mix of suspense, romance and internal conflict. The writer talks about her book, and her writing life.
When did the idea for the book germinate?
I wanted to bring in an element of surprise to somewhat mitigate the melancholy and wistfulness these stories can leave one with. I did plan the format in advance — the structure of having a frame story that ties all the other stories together but this link story that I finally brought in here wrote itself even as my editor and I were completing the final editing of the manuscript. So, yes, inspiration does dawn on one suddenly and it is truly illuminating, leaving no room for doubts.
The best opening line in a book you have ever read?
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ Daphne du Maurier’s opening line in Rebecca is so very redolent of loss, of wistfulness, of fear and it so definitively, in one simple sentence, sets the mood and the pace.
A fictional character close to your heart...
Anna Karenina and all those women that the world calls ‘the other woman’. There are two people in a relationship, why is the woman singled out? Why is it that she must lose, bear the stigma and social ostracisation? Why did Anna Karenina have to die?
Antidote for writer’s block?
If I cannot seem to get on with what I’m writing, I write something else. Reading and walking help immensely. Sometimes I take a clean break — I cook, clean windows, look after my plants — sitting idle seems to dull my senses more. Walks help immensely to clear my head. The busier I am, the luckier I get with expressions and ideas and at cracking plots.
A book you keep revisiting?
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov. So suffused as it is with sensory images that I can read and be dazzled by it over and over. Daphne du Maurier’s The King’s General is like comfort food for my heart that I read when I need that.
Tips for aspiring writers...
Wiser people than me have said this before — write every day. It may not be your ‘big work’, it can be your daily journal, blog post or even something that you’ll trash the very next day. Like a cook, a dancer or a sportsperson get better with practice, so it is with writing.
Another practice that I absolutely endorse is reading aloud. When we read our writing aloud — all the clunky parts — a wrong choice of words, a forced expression, a superfluous image... stick out and must be chipped away a la Michelangelo who said of his sculpture of David, ‘It’s simple, you just chip away what is not David.’