Interview with Anu Lal, The author of Life after the Floods
Anu Lal is the author of three short story collections, two anthologies, one novella, one nonfiction, and an epic fantasy series, the second part of which is out now. He is presently working on an anthology that will be published in September 2020. A collection of short stories and his first novel is in the pipeline for its final stage in the publishing process by Kalamos Literary Services, New Delhi. He working as an assistant professor in English Kannur, Kerala.
Ravi: What’s your favorite short story?
Anu Lal: There is not just one. Out of the many stories that I love, the very first that comes to mind are two: The Rocking-Horse Winner by D H Lawrence, which I once taught in an undergraduate class and A Sign in Space by Italo Calvino, which I read as a Post Graduate student.
Ravi: The Best piece of writing advice?
Anu Lal: Write every day and keep a regular schedule for writing. But most probably you wouldn't be able to stick to this schedule. It is your ability to forgive yourself that matters at the end. So I'd say, it's the schedule and let it go at the same time that matters. It is paradoxical, to say that. However, to build a world with the language you have to come prepared to face paradoxes. We have to learn through constantly working on our craft how to deal with this paradox.
Ravi: Where do you write?
Anu Lal: I write in my office, which is the living room upstairs in my home in Kannur. It's a place my family has, quite gracefully, permitted me to occupy for my literary activities.
Ravi: Where do you get your ideas?
Anu Lal: It's a mystery to me too.
Ravi: Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Anu Lal: It energizes me, certainly.
Ravi: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Anu Lal: It varies from book to book. I wrote my novel in four months.
Ravi: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Anu Lal: I would have started serious reading at a very early age. I used to read a lot of comic books. But from the present vantage point, I could say that I should have tried books by authors like Mark Twain at an early age.
Ravi: What is your favorite childhood book?
Ravi: What are your favorite literary journals?
Anu Lal: Munyori and The New Yorker
Ravi: What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Anu Lal: My laziness.
Ravi: What was your hardest scene to write?
Anu Lal: The starting scene from my second novel, which is in the final stages of writing. The title is not confirmed. It's a novel about Raavan.
Ravi: Do you Google yourself?
Anu Lal: Yup, guilty as charged.
Ravi: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Anu Lal: Yes.
Ravi: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Anu Lal: I do read my reviews. I take inspiration from criticisms and learn from what others have to say about my writing. I take the positive reviews objectively and learn from them too. They offer me a chance to learn what worked and what didn't.
Ravi: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
Anu Lal: Yes. The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist by Orhan Pamuk.
Ravi: What did you edit out of this book?
Anu Lal: The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist is an essential read for any author, in my view. A friend of mine suggested this. But it took me a really long time to finally sit down and read it. This book blew me away with its simplicity and dedication to the art of storytelling in the long-formthe. I wouldn't edit anything out of it. I would love to get a personal copy of the book someday. I read a library copy from the Central University of Kerala, Kasaragod, where I had a tryst with my destiny. I am infinitely grateful to all the libraries in the world that help people find their true calling.
Ravi: How many hours a day do you write?
Anu Lal: I try to write at least one hour every day. But it varies according to what happens in my day job, that is teaching. This was the case before COVID-19. Now, it's a different story. But as I said, laziness is the one thing that makes me feel guilty of all the time I wasted without writing.
Ravi: How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
Anu Lal: I have always been a full-time writer. Everything else I did, including my teaching job is part-time. I could not program my mind otherwise.
Ravi: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Anu Lal: I spend months researching a book. It varies for each project. Research doesn't end for me with the writing of the book. I explore the worlds I talk about in my books while I am working on them, simultaneously.
Ravi: What’s the best way to market your books?
Anu Lal: I think, it's through social media. Having said, I do not undermine other forms of media. The reason I said social media is because it can offer a person-to-person contact. It's easy to connect with your readers through social media. Readers will love a book only when they find a personal connection with it. This later becomes word-of-mouth publicity also. The most important thing therefore is connecting with readers on a personal level.
Ravi: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Anu Lal: I have three half-finished books, which includes the one about Raavan, and two unpublished books.
Ravi: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Anu Lal: It made me more responsible as a writer.
Ravi: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Anu Lal: Write every day, find time to read every day. Do not model on others. Find your own path to writing. You will be alright. Do not worry too much.
Ravi: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Anu Lal: I have several author friends and they all help me in more than one way. I am thankful to be a part of a small author community.
Ravi: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Anu Lal: I always try to be original. It is original ideas that keep readers coming back for more rather than just writing formula fiction. Even if one writes formula fiction, it is important to infuse some originality in the way one organizes and tells a story.
Ravi: What advice do you have for writers?
Anu Lal: Whatever your relationship with God is, keep it in mind when you write. Also, remember that your words would affect your nation and family. So keep them in your mind while writing your books.
Ravi: What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
Anu Lal: Subscribing to just one or two magazines isn't enough. If you are a writer, you must read whatever you can put your hands to.
Ravi: Tell me about your recent book to our Ravi Reads Blog Readers?
Anu Lal: My recent book is a nonfiction work titled Life After the Floods, which is about the megafloods that drowned the state of Kerala in 2018. This book brings to the foreground the importance to give psychological healthcare during calamities. It also points out the lack of such measures as psychological first aid in India. You will also find a lot of tips to help people psychologically during calamities. This is my first nonfiction work and I am super excited at how people across India found this book very useful in their daily lives.
Thanks to Anu Lal for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to email me at the address on my contact page.