A Bengal tiger wakes up one morning realising he is ravenously in love. A pompous railway supervisor in a small Indian village bites off more than he can chew when a peculiar new clerk arrives on his doorstep. In another place and in another time, a secret agent who spends her days watching the front door of an unknown quarry discovers something she isn’t meant to. An immigrant housewife in an American suburb geeing up for Thanksgiving makes a wish she may come to regret. And a small and famous country’s only executioner claims his conscience is as clean as his heavy, washed stones. With this glittering, savage and elegant first collection, where reality loops in mind-bending twists and dazzles with cinematic exuberance, where frayed photographs take on a life of their own and where elephants wish only to die with dignity, Rajesh Parameswaran bursts onto the literary landscape as an astonishing new talent.
Author Rajesh Parameswaran joined RailNews readers for an interaction on his book ‘I Am An Executioner: Love Stories’.
Q. What is your upcoming projects?
A. I am working on a novel. It’s fun to work in a longer format. I’m trying not to talk too much about the subject matter of the novel, but I’m very excited about it.
Q. So the typical question first..what inspired you to write I Am An Executioner’?
A. There were many different inspirations for the stories in I Am An Executioner. Everything from anecdotes in newspaper articles, to things I’ve observed, to my reading of other books and novels. It’s hard to point to any one thing that inspired the book.
Q. Why the bringing together of different stories in one book? That too from diverse backgrounds and cultural ethnicity….was this a conscious beginning or did the idea take shape along the way?
A. Although the stories are very different from each other in terms of subject matter and style, I thought that they shared some common themes. They all seemed to be darkly comic love stories, of one form or another. So I thought it made sense to collect them as one book. But I didn’t plan at the outset to collect these as a book–I was just working on one story at a time. The idea to put them together into a book came to me at some point along the way.
Q. How long did it take for you to put down everything in order?
A. Writin the book took a long time–six to ten years, depending on how I count it. Editing and revising the book with my editor took about a year or year and a half of that time. Figuring out the order of the stories was the very last part of the process, but it took a lot of thought.
Q. What writers, books, or ideas have most influenced you?
A. I love 19th and 20th century American fiction. I love Melville and Poe and Nabokov and Fitzgerald. Also Borges, Kafka…. Sometimes I’m thinking of one or another of these writers while I am writing, but mostly I try to write without thinking too much about who is influencing me.
Q. I want to be a short story writer. Pls share some writing tricks.
A. I would suggest reading as widely as possible. Write a lot. Compare your own writing to that of he writers you love and try to see where you fall short. I’m not sure if that counts as a “trick,” though.
Q. What is going through your mind when you writing a book?
A. I think I would answer that a book is an accumulation and condensation of a million little thoughts that occur to a writer over the course of the days, weeks, months and years of writing. Sometimes I am thinking “when can I stop and eat lunch.”
Q. How do you see fiction and non-fiction books? Which is more difficult to write? Why?
A. There’s no general answer to this question, but for me, non-fiction is harder, which is why I avoid writing it! I like the sheer freedom that fiction affords. A non-fiction writer has an obligation to facts which I think I would find burdensome.
Q. What to expect from this book?
A. Hmmm… I think maybe you can expect humor and love as well as some blood and violence. A little bit of everything!
Q. What makes one a writer more? Imagination or Experiences or both equally?
A. Imagination. I think that someone with the sensibility and imagination of a writer will make the most of whatever experience she happens to have. Melville went on a whaling ship and Hemingway had great adventures, but Kafka just went to an office, and Emily Dickinson barely left her bedroom.
Q. What/who inspired you to start writing or become an author?
A. I think I was most inspired by reading and being moved by books. As a child, I never understood that writing was a viable path. Later in college, I began to meet people who intended to pursue writing as a career, and I began to see that this was a path that one could actually take. But it took me a long time to come to writing seriously. I tried different careers along the way.
Q. What do you think the readership of your book is like, as in, what age-group do you think would likely be reading ‘I Am An Executioner’ ?
A. This book is for adults of any age. Maybe also precocious teenagers.
Q. what is the most important quality to have to become a writer?
A. Hard to answer this one. Lots of things are probably important. Love of reading? Patience? Determination? Desperation? A high tolerance for rejection?
Q. Who would you say, outside the literary world, has influenced you towards books? Was writing always on your mind?
A. Interesting question. Writing was always in the back of my mind, but I tried a lot of other things along the way. I was interested in photography and in film at various points, and used to think I’d like to be a filmmaker. I also studied law. Finally it became clear that the other things weren’t qutie working for one reason or another, and I came back to writing, and tried to do it more seriously. Maybe those other things I did have influenced my writing in some way–I’m not sure.
Q. Which book would you highly recommend me to read if i ask you apart from yours?
A. Moby Dick is my favorite novel, so if I can only recommend one, I’ll go with that.
Q. What is your writing schedule like for books?
A. The process, for me, is pretty slow. This book took around six or ten years. I’m really hoping the next one will go more quickly.
Q. So are you primarily a fiction writer? Any plans to go towards non-fiction any time?
A. Right now, I enjoy fiction a lot, and don’t feel any urge at all to go towards non-fiction.
Q. What, as a reader, instead of an author, are your favourite genres?
A. Thanks for this question. I like all sorts of writing–my favourite is probably 19th and 20th century american fiction, as I think I answered previously. Recently, I’ve been into detective fiction. Raymond Chandler and stuff like that–loads of fun.
Q. How did you come up with the subject of your book?
A. No one answer to this. Ideas come from all over the place. I keep a notebook where I write down potential story ideas as I find them or as they come to me. I go through the notebook from time to time and see which ones I feel like pursuing.
Q. Are you a full-time writer? Are you working on any other book at the moment?
A. At the moment, I am lucky to be a full time writer. And I am working on a novel — thanks for asking.
Q. How’s a typical working day for a writer?
A. Wake up, drink coffee, sit in front of computer until lunch time. Eat lunch. Try to avoid napping. Read. Repeat. Or something like that.
Q. Is this your first book?
A. Yes, ‘I Am An Executioner’ is my first book.