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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Interview with Priya Vasudevan

Welcome to Jagged Edge!
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I am a lawyer, writer and trainer. As a lawyer, I have written training manuals and trained teachers, lawyers and judges in human rights law. I also serve as an Arbitrator and am a member of regional organizations such as Asia Pacific Forum for Women, Law and Development. I have written Contempt of Court in Halsbury’s Laws of India for Butterworths India Limited (now Lexis Nexis).

My articles have been published in magazines such as Femina. I have also published several short stories for children, including Nazreen’s Park (Orient Longman Ltd.) and short stories for children in Children s World and Target. I live with my husband and two daughters in Chennai.

What inspired you to write?
I first saw Hampi by moonlight, the outer battlements of the city wall glimmering, and the enchantment slithered into my subconscious, unfurled and remains to this day. The next day, sitting in the Queen's Bath, Islipped back in time and Achale danced before me, out of the keys, onto the page. While Achale remained a part of me, I heard the first faint whispers of her story only when I read about the strange case of the boy-saint, a widow's son who came out of the temple pond with his sacred thread, in the
colonial gazetteer.The theme was born out of the desire to rewrite history from the woman's perspective, not as a victim as she is so often shone, even in the non-fiction work which deal with Indian women through the ages, not as goddess/harlot/harridan, which distorts the image of Indian woman even today, but as an individual, making the best of her circumstances. Hence,Achale, courtesan but not prostitute, a career woman who gets waylaid but not derailed, by life.Maya, the other protagonist was born out of my own observation of the effect
of one form of globalization on India's modern youth and the trends of innovation and experimentation which are sweeping through the field of classical dance today. She seemed to be an ideal counterpoint to Achale- the
modern career woman- how far has she journeyed?
Why make religion central to the whole story? Religion, even in modern India, occupies not only the headlines but page three as well. More so in Vijayanagara, where an empire was established allegedly to rejuvenate an
ailing religion. This was the age of the Bhakthi Movement, after all. In modern India, at the time of the story, the Bombay communal riots had happened and the Gujarat carnage was still in the offing.

Finally, the sacred and the profane are closely interlinked in the religious discourse and sexuality is but an expression of love for the divine. AK Ramanujan's translations of Tamil poetry of the saints in ' Speaking of
Siva,' the meta physical yet erotically charged imagery of secular poetry and Hindu philosophy which links Creation, procreation and destruction in the dances of the Gods presented me with an irresistible opportunity to
flesh out the background of my story with the rich cultural tapestry which forms part of India's heritage.
What authors influenced you as a writer?
As a reader, I have enjoyed diverse literary genres from Jane Austen/ Arnold Bennet/ Gothic Romance through LOTR/ Harry Potter/E. Nesbit to Salman Rushdie/ Marquez/ Achebe , Vikram Seth, William Dalrymple, Umberto Ecco and Amartya Sen. In a sense, Middle Time is a tribute to these varied influences
which have swept through my life.
What is your favorite Quote? Why is it your favorite?
“It was still dark—the time before dawn when the light was stealing across the sky but it was still dark.” This is from the first paragraph in the prologue. It foreshadows all the mayhem which follows- the quiet before the storm. It also refers to Creation being whispered into being by the Cosmic Breath- it sets the scene for what follows- in both realms- the sacred and the profane.

If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world, which would it be?
Definitely the world of Harry Potter, not as a muggle but as a witch- if I could use magic to right the world- how good would that be?

What is at least one thing that every writer needs to have or do?
Take the trouble to refine your story as much as possible befoe you send it off to the publisher. That way you will have said all that you want to say, before the editors get their hands on it and you can get their comments at one go. Otherwise you might get some printers’ devils as many pens clash to make changes. There are a lot of editing self-help books out there and lots of writing sites on the net so you’ll have plenty of support.

Are your books different to your personal favorite books by other authors?
I think my genre is unique- its historical fiction with comedy, romance, paranormal, thriller and suspense, murder and drama thrown in.

What lead you to writing in this genre?
As you can see from my list of favourite authors, I am a bit eclectic in my reading. In my other life as a lawyer, I get plenty of drudgery, so I thought I would combine a lot of genre elements from the categories I enjoy to make a ripping good read!

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
The process is most enjoyable when I am planning the story and doing the research. The actual writing is enjoyable but hard work!

Least favorite part of the writing process?
The editing- my heart gets ripped, sometimes, with the words I cut.

What are you currently working on?
I am now planning the sequel to Middle Time- it’s called ‘Brahma’s Time’ and has Maya in it, but not Achale. I am sure it will be another good read.

Where readers can find you?
I have a page on goodreads and a facebook page which I update from time to time- and a blog- .I have a you-tube channel for my book trailers-thepriyavasudevan, as well.

Was there a question you wish I would have asked but didn't?
Ummm…. I think I should tell you that I love cats and dogs, so have included both in the book. Bangaru is my mascot and figured in my first children’s book- ‘Nasreen’s Park ‘, as well. I should also perhaps mention that Middle Time alternates between present day Chennai in South India and Hampi, aWorld heritage site in medieval India during the last days of the Vijayanagara empire. Maya, the protagonist is a lawyer whose client Tulsi has died under mysterious circumstances at a dance school. While going through her client's papers, as she tries to prove that the death is murder, not suicide, as Tulsi's child Shibani insists, Maya discovers an ancientmanuscript which transports her back in time. Maya discovers that Tulasi, a widow who had been excommunicated when she had a son a year after her husband's death, has been murdered. Ningi, maid to Achalebbe, a devadasi of the Virupaksheshwara temple at Hampi comes across the body of Tulasi on the banks of the river which flows past their town. Maya has to answer a number of questions as she struggles to solve both the mysteries not least being-is there a connection between the two deaths?

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