Monday, February 27, 2012

Anita Nair talks about The LIlac House, Greek myths, crime and more

I was sent The Lilac House to blurb, and I think I was enraptured by the second paragraph. About grief, recovery and the way two people make a connection, The Lilac House is as engrossing as it is haunting. I'm honored to host Anita Nair here.

Tell us where the idea for The Lilac House came from?
I began writing The Lilac House in October 2006. The idea was to write a light novel but eventually I decided that I couldn’t waste the next few years writing a book that would mean nothing to me. Perhaps it was that thought that drove me to seek new dimensions, a fresh texture, and in due course found myself working on this rather complex narrative.

I was really interested in the structure, how you told Meera's story, and then Jak's and slowly the two converge. Was this by original design or did this happen during the writing? And do you map out your novels before you begin or are you the kind of writer who simply discovers the story as you are writing it.

The cyclone happens when a hot steam of air and a cold stream of air converge. Hence I wanted to carry this phenomenon into the narrative structure as well and so arrived at two streams of thought namely Meera and Jak’s. This was part of the original design as the novel came into its own when I decided to use the cyclone metaphor. In fact in many ways that has become the pattern of my writing. First the idea, then the metaphor that captures the idea the best and from it stems the writing.
I don’t really map the story out but somewhere in my head is a beginning and an end…. The exciting thing for me to get from that point A to point Z

Can you please talk about the role of Greek myths in the story? And how you came to write the knockout Thereafter... ending. I'd also like to know if you feel we can ever make peace with our pasts.

I was reading Robert Grave’s The Greek Myths and suddenly it occurred to me that the gods and goddesses of Greek myths are probably just as human as we are with none of the guilt we seem to be burdened with.  Their depths of degradation are as low as they are triumphs. It makes a great metaphor. And Hera seemed the capture all that Meera was and hoped to be.
The Lilac House would have ended very bleakly for both the reader and me if it had ended without The Thereafter. And so I decided that I would work in that final image of hope. No rainbows and tinsel streaked horizons but a glimmer of hope which is enough for most of us to move on. I am not certain that we ever make peace with our pasts. But we need to make that effort to come to terms with it. 

What is obsessing you now?
A crime novel that I began on a whim. I am not even a reader of crime fiction in general. Nevertheless some strange power drove me into writing a first chapter and thereafter I had to delve within and around me to be able to carry it forward. It was a world that I was not familiar with. But sheer doggedness in terms of research has propelled the novel forward. It’s also writing out of the comfort zone which makes me that much more satisfied with every chapter written. Especially as very few crime novels have emerged from India. So going into territories that others haven’t makes me feel a bit of a pioneer and super sleuth. 

What question didn't I ask that I should have?
Well, you have asked me all the important ones so there isn’t any I can think of either…

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