Anita Nair is a popular Indian-English writer. She was born at Mundakottakurissi, near Shornur in Kerala State. She was working as the creative director of an advertising agency in Bangalore when she wrote her first book, a collection of short stories called Satyr of the Subway, which she sold to Har-Anand Press. The book won her a fellowship from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her second book was published by Penguin India, and was the first book by an Indian author to be published by Picador USA. Her books have been published in several languages around the world. She lives in Bangalore. Among Nair's early commercial works were pieces she penned in the late 90's for The Bangalore Monthly magazine (now called "080" Magazine), published by Explocity in a column titled 'The Economical Epicurean'. She is giving the answers for the common questions of her fans through the FAQ page of her website.
Do you use a computer to write?
I write in long hand using a fountain pen, Quink ink and A4 size lined pads. After every chapter, I key it into the computer and that becomes my second draft.
What are your writing habits?
The patterns of my work habits were formed during the years when my son was a baby. Although he goes to school now, those early work habits remain with me. I work in my study from where I have a vantage view of the entire house and garden. I do not spend long hours in front of the writing pad waiting for the words to come. Instead I spend it on my back in an almost trance-like state [ my family thinks I'm sleeping though] enacting every single scene in my head so that when I begin to write, I know exactly how to proceed and the words flow… Whatever I'm doing, there's still a part of me working on the story/ book, thinking about what it's saying, the direction it's going.
I keep a little notebook that records anything that's pertinent to the plot, characters or atmosphere of the book. I carry it with me everywhere so that as and when something occurs to me, I can make a note of it. I also write down anything unusual that I see or hear or experience apart from any interesting thought or phrase that wanders through my mind. I also make a list of words and phrases and brief thoughts, simply because they attracted my attention.
I'm very careful about cross-checking facts again and again. Even if the reader doesn't know better, I believe that I need to know for sure what I am stating is the truth. In every possible instance, I try and live an experience that I need to describe. Only then do I allow my imagination to step in.
Do you ever have writer's block? How do you combat it?
I never really have writer's block. But I do get stuck at a certain point and don't know how to proceed. But then something happens and the whole business is clarified in my head. For instance, in the summer of 1998 on my way to New York City from Amherst, Virginia, a friend and I spent a night at a friend's home in Washington D.C. I was given the guest suite in the basement that had just been done up. The bathroom door jammed and I was locked in. And since I had told everyone else that I was going to bed, I knew no one would come looking for me till the morning. I shouted, pounded on the walls hoping that someone would hear me. I wasn't very confident that anyone would hear me for it was pat midnight and everyone else had also gone to bed. But my friend who was watching TV in the living room did. He and my hosts rushed to my rescue. They had to finally break down the bathroom door.
By itself, this is a minor incident except that there was an area in my book, the turning point, in fact, when the protagonist breaks down and looks for help. The way I had tackled it wasn't very convincing and I was most uncomfortable with it and could think of nothing to salvage it. But suddenly I had the answer. The panic, the helplessness, the 'what do I do next' feeling that hit me in the first few minutes of knowing that I was locked up was transposed into an incident in the book and it worked right this time.
How do you plan a book?
Once I think of a story line or when an outline sits in my mind, I progress from scene to scene. When I am done, I read through and re-work. As I write, the plot or the main theme of the story progresses. The crux of the story is always there in my mind, but the story is always evolving..
Where do you get your inspiration from?
There is no difference in the subjects that I choose to write about, be it poetry or prose. What happens is that every day there are several times when I chance upon a word, idea, picture, scene or even thought and think – here’s a story. But what ultimately gets written is an idea that is so powerful that it refuses to dislodge itself no matter what happens. For me what is supreme is a good story and character driven narratives... naturally this is what motivates me to write the kind of books I do...