Monday, March 27, 2017

Meet Tejaswini Author of These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape

Tejaswini has recently published her first book These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape. It is a collection of short stories covering different levels of life circus. She is going to talk about her new book with us today.


Can you brief our reader about your educational & professional background?
I grew up in Mumbai and attended the JB Petit High School for Girls. Later I moved to boarding school at the United World College of Singapore. I then did my BA at the University of Sussex (English Literature with Development Studies), and MA at the University of Kent (Image/Media Studies). 
I started off as a journalist at The Asian Age in Mumbai, and then moved to Screen magazine where I worked as a features writer. I then worked with the NGO Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group in Pune, as a researcher and writer.
Which author inspires you the most?
My literary heroes are Roald Dahl (his short stories for adults) and Doris Lessing. I love the way Dahl dissects human nature with a certain ruthlessness. He lays bare a character’s inner truth and their darkest sides, in a few concise words. That kind of precision and concise style is something that I have always aspired to. And of course there is the allure of the classic Dahlesque twist in the tale. Doris Lessing also uses words with the precision of a knife-edge, and to that she adds a beautiful compassion towards her characters
When did you start writing?
My first published article was for The Asian Age, when I wrote a film review as a freelancer. Later I started working at the newspaper.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always loved writing – there was no conscious decision to become a writer. I didn’t think I was writing a story collection. I began writing these stories with a fairly hazy idea that perhaps I could publish a few in a literary journal or magazine. When I had written about seven or eight stories which I was happy with, I began to think that perhaps I had a short story collection on my hands. Eventually the stories turned into my book These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’m working on a novel, which will be my next book. My ambition is simply to enjoy the process of writing it, and to create a gripping, memorable story. It’s very interesting to write in a completely different genre this time, particularly since it involves a good amount of historical research. 
Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured to accommodate your writing?
I usually set aside about 3 hours a day to write, whether or not I feel inspired to do so –because I’ve found that waiting for inspiration to strike is simply a way of procrastinating! Also, being a mom means that I don’t have the luxury of sitting down to write whenever I feel like it – I have to fit in writing during a limited number of hours in the day (read: only during school-hours, and definitely not over weekends or school holidays!) My husband’s job requires us to move countries every couple of years – we’ve lived in 7 countries over 14 years. Of course, this is a fascinating way to see the world. But it also means that there are frequent, extended periods of moving and settling into a new country and culture. This does break the flow of writing and it takes a fairly long time for me to get into the groove again. Given my lifestyle, I’ve had to be very disciplined in order to make progress in my writing projects, whether as a fiction writer or, formerly, as an environmental researcher and writer.
What have you written so far?
These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape is my debut book as a fiction writer. Previously I’ve written two non-fiction books on environmental issues – one on biodiversity planning and the other on intellectual property rights in relation to biodiversity and traditional knowledge - written when I was working as an environmental researcher and writer.

Click here to get a chance to win copy of the book

What genre are your books?
My genre is accessible literary fiction. I enjoy writing stories which are slightly dark and twisty. I like to explore the shadowy boundary between dark and light – it is such a small step from one side to the other side. ‘Normal’ is an illusion that is easily broken. This has endless dramatic possibilities. 
Can you describe your current book in few lines? What’s it about?
These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape is a collection of ten short stories, published in December 2016 by Aleph Book Company. The stories are about different forms of passion, violence and love. Many of the stories are a bit dark and twisty. My characters are tussling with some kind of dilemma or facing a moment of truth, and often they make choices with the dark part of their minds. 
Give us an insight into your main character(s)
There are a varied bunch of characters in my short stories. There’s a beetle-collector whose jealous obsession with his wife manifests itself in a very twisted way; there’s a girl who falls in love with a superstar from a bygone era, and she has a major problem on her hands because he has been dead for years; there’s a shopaholic woman who is stuck in a mall for a year, unable to find the exit; there’s a woman who begins to find inexplicable, creepy bits of cotton strewn around her house. And many other characters!
Where did you get idea for this book?
I get a lot of inspiration from observing people and also reading widely. Each story is inspired by different observations. For example the story “Drinks At Seven” was inspired by a well-dressed man I observed who was standing on the road, screaming at his wife or girlfriend on his mobile phone. I began wondering what kind of relationship this couple had – and the man ended up featuring as one of the main characters in my story, right down to the screaming and the physical description. The story “The Mall” was inspired by the enormous shopping malls of Bangkok where I would often feel lost and claustrophobic.
How much research did you do for this book?
Some of the stories needed some factual research – for example, the main character in “Homo Coleoptera” is a beetle collector. So I had to find out how beetles are collected and mounted for display. In “The Girl Who Loved Dean Martin”, I had to research the life and background of Dean Martin who was a singing superstar in the 1950s in America. For “The Mall” I had to look up various designer brands to see what kinds of shoes, handbags and dresses they produce. It’s very important to get even the small details right, otherwise the writing appears shabby and the story seems unrealistic.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why? (If applicable)
I don’t have a favourite character – but my favourite story is the title story, “These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape”, because it was the most challenging to write. It is about an old architect and his former student having a conversation about the old days – there is an undercurrent of menace throughout, and the story is told through their alternating perspectives. It was a challenge to look at the same conversation from two completely different viewpoints, so when I finally got it right, it was very satisfying. It was also very enjoyable to work at creating a slow, controlled build-up of menace through the story.
What was the toughestg thing about writing your latest book?
That’s difficult to pinpoint, because I found the whole process of writing and editing very enjoyable. There are ups and downs, of course. Sometimes you are having a bad day and the words just don’t flow. Another time you might have a story or a character which is not working out the way you want it to, but you can’t figure out how to put it right, how to fix the problem. But all this is part and parcel of the process of writing – even the ‘hard’ parts are really just interesting challenges for me.
Release date.
These Circuses That Sweep Through the Landscape was published by Aleph Book Company in December 2016.
Can you tell our reader how well your book accepted by readers?
The book has received some very good reviews so far, particularly in Hindustan Times, Midday and Jet Wings (Jet Airways magazine) and on Radio One, as well as by a range of bloggers. It also has very good reviews on Amazon, Flipkart and Goodreads. For reviews see my website: http://www.tejaswiniapterahm.com/reviews-2/
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write every day, whether or not you feel like it. You can always edit what you’ve written if you don’t like it – but you can’t edit a blank page. There is something to be learned from all the writing you do, whether it is good or bad. Be prepared to throw away something you’ve labored over, and start again. It’s also important to read widely - everything from literary fiction to a film magazine, exposes you to wildly varying ways of seeing, living and writing. Read beyond your own genre of writing – for example, if you’re writing a novel you should also read screenplays; if you’re writing short stories you should also read poetry. Cultivate the habit of reading like a writer, i.e. always be aware of the techniques used by an author to achieve a certain effect, whether it is in the choice of words, or choice of narrator, or the structure of a chapter.
Links for your book readers
Click here to get a chance to win copy of the book
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