I love Elizabeth Bennett, Harry Potter and Anna Karenina but my favourite character in fiction is Psmith.
Swati Kaushal, the bestselling author of four novels, is back with a new book, A Few Good Friends (Hachette India). She talks about her new novel that takes us to the 20th reunion of a batch of IIM Calcutta students and shares some advice for budding writers.
What inspires you?
Over the years I’ve learned that for me, a book is both a long simmer and a quick boil. A half formed idea or character can live with you for a long time in your subconscious and then suddenly one day you know exactly what to do with it. A Few Good Friends is a book I had at the back of my mind for a long time. I have wanted to explore the theme of close friendship for years, but I was searching for the right milieu and context. Then, two years ago I went to Goa for a reunion. And I knew right away that it was the perfect setting and context to explore lifelong friendships!
The genre that draws you the most?
As a reader I am drawn to stories that are relatable, or eccentric, or original, or funny, across genres. I love all books with protagonists that have heart, humour and fire. I really enjoyed Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I also love books that put me in a different place and time.
Favourite opening line?
“It was the best of times, It was the worst of times...” What else? So iconic, so epic, so irresistible. It could have sounded trite coming from anyone else, but coming from Dickens, you knew you were heading into something monumental.
A fictional character close to your heart?
I love Elizabeth Bennett, Harry Potter and Anna Karenina but my favourite character in fiction is Psmith. I love how he hates work of any kind and works so hard to avoid working! He has the most delightful and ingenious ideas, he is funny enough to have you rolling on the floor, and resourceful enough to have the entire nation eating out of his hand.
Your antidote for writer’s block?
Read, read and read some more, when you’re searching for ideas! And write. If you can’t write anything original, copy down passages from any book you admire. I find that the physical act of writing actually unclogs whatever obstruction there is in your own storytelling. And it soon triggers ideas of one’s own. It really can be that simple.
How can new writers prevent rejection from turning into dejection?
Rejection is an unavoidable part of the deal. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was miraculously discovered in the slush pile by an intern. Writing the book is up to you, but the rest is a mixture of luck, timing and other factors outside your control. Further, you can always self-publish and make your novel available to a wider audience, if you are willing to put in that extra effort, time and money.
I love protagonists that have heart, humour and fire — Swati KAUSHAL