Meghna Pant is currently writing two novels one set amidst a war between India and China, and the other about a dysfunctional family.
Q Why do you write?
It helps to soothe some kind of damage that refuses to heal.
Q Describe your favourite writing space.
Like Truman Capote I need to be lying down on the bed, tucked under a blanket (even in summer) in complete silence to be able to write. I guess you could call me a horizontal writer.
Q Your favourite word?
Panglossian, I love the roll of this word on my tongue and the meaning it evokes.
Q Do you have a writing schedule?
A body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment’s life — that’s my schedule. I write when I feel like, which could mean incessantly for 16 hours a day for months on end, or the inability to form a sentence for weeks on end. But I work hard, insanely hard at my craft, and even when I’m not actually writing, I am scavenging for inspiration through conversations, experiences and observations.
Q Ever struggled with writer’s block?
I don’t struggle with it but I do embrace it as part of the writing journey. I fix writer’s block by throwing myself back into life.
Q Do you keep a diary?
Ever since I was 12. But I’m very particular about not becoming a navel-gazer. Writing about something I’m very familiar with would be too easy, and I prefer to challenge my own imagination when penning down stories. So very little of what I write has to do with my life.
Q What inspires you to write? Do you have a secret trick, or a book/author that helps?
The fact that I don’t have to write inspires me to write. There is nothing but an innate need that compels me to write. Deconstructing the truth and constructing it back together inspires me to write.
Q Best piece of advice you’ve ever got?
Stay true to what lies inside you.
Q Coffee/tea/cigarettes — numbers please — while you are writing…
I’m not afflicted with addictions, as I want to live up to a ripe old age so I can keep writing for a long, long time. My only addiction is chocolate and two cups of either adrak chai or Nespresso coffee a day. My aphrodisiac for writing is angst: the urgency to complete an idea in my head, to finish telling a character’s story and to become the best writer I can possibly be.
Q Which books are you reading at present?
I’m madly obsessed with everything Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie nowadays, whether it’s her stories, essays, or motivational talks. She might possibly be the most inspiring and gifted writer the world has today.
Q Who are your favourite authors?
Adichie, for the reasons above. In recent years I’ve enjoyed reading Rohinton Mistry, Leon Uris, Jhumpa Lahiri, Aravind Adiga, Alice Munro, Manil Suri, Manu Joseph, Tania James, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Elif Shafak and Yiyun Li, among others.
Q Which book/author should be banned on grounds of bad taste?
All the popular commercial fiction authors in India today should be banned. They’re marketing geniuses who have commodified literature and packaged themselves to sell books. They’re the reason why good novels in India today are going unnoticed. Starting with Chetan Bhagat, these authors have embarked our nation on the Kali Yuga of literature. This is a pity for a country like ours that possesses such a rich history of storytelling.
Q Which are your favourite children's books?
I’ve unfortunately not read children’s books, but as an adolescent I read a lot of Enid Blyton, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer, Somerset Maugham, Ruskin Bond, Shakespeare and R.K. Narayan, the typical fare that Indian children growing up in the 80s-90s read.
Q Which classics do you want to read?
Books by Manto, Premchand, Nikolai Gogol, J.D. Salinger, O. Henry and Guy de Maupassant. I want to re-read the ones I’ve already read.
Q Who is your favourite literary character?
When I’m writing I often feel like Miss Havisham, a character I identify with more than I’d like to. Facetiousness aside, Gone With The Wind was the first book I stayed up till six in the morning reading, and till today I don’t think there is a book as perfect as that, or a character as finely etched out as Scarlett O’Hara. Margaret’s largesse is inimitable.
Q Which is the funniest book you have read?
I prefer to keep pedestrian comedy out of literature, where I think subliminal humour is more befitting. I think a book like A Case of Exploding Mangoes is as good as it gets.
Q Which is the most erotic book you have read?
I found The Vegetarian by Han Kang strangely erotic, not within the physical contextuality with which we define erotica, but in laying bare naked the soul and body of the protagonist, who simply wants to shun human brutality.
Q Which book do you wish you had written?
Every single book that I’ve ever enjoyed reading. My only wish in this lifetime is to have many lifetimes where I can come back as an author and write many good books.
Q Who is your favourite literary character?
A. Gone With The Wind was the first bookI stayed up till 6 in the morning reading, and till today I don’t think there is a book as perfect as that, or a character as finely etched out as Scarlett O’Hara.