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Chitra Divakaruni (Award Winning Author)

About Her

She is an award-winning and bestselling author, poet, activist and teacher of writing. Her work has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories, the O.Henry Prize Stories and the Pushcart Prize Anthology. Her books have been translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Bengali, Russian and Japanese, and many of them have been used for campus-wide and city-wide reads. Several of her works have been made into films and plays. She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy and has two sons, Anand and Abhay, who are in college. She loves to connect with readers on her Facebook page.

  • 1.
    Your latest novel, ‘Before We Visit the Goddess’ has  just come out in paperback in India and USA, can you share with us the inspiration behind this book? How and when did the idea germinate? Who is your favorite character - Sabitri, Bela or Tara? And why?
    I started working on Before We Visit the Goddess soon after my mother passed away. I was thinking a lot about mothers and daughters, and the influence that my own mother, who brought me up pretty much as a single parent, had on my life. Thus, quite naturally, the book became about three generations of mothers and daughters and their complicated yet deeply rooted relationship. I like all the three protagonists of the book and identify with them in different ways – the ambitious Sabitri who wants to break through the glass ceiling and become a successful entrepreneur, the adventurous Bela, who runs away halfway across the world, and the rebellious Tara, brought up in the US, who must rediscover her links to her family and her culture.
  • 2.
    Multi generational and/or transcontinental bonds have been the focus of many of your works including this one, how much do you find yourself in your characters? They say that writers do partake of themselves in their characters in some ways, is it true for you?
    The characters I write about are not really like me in any way – they are much more adventurous and take many more risks and sometimes rush into dramatic decisions! But they do reflect many of my concerns, and their lives are often built around themes that are interesting to me – immigration, women’s success, family relationships, secrets that change our lives.
  • 3.
    I heard you say in one of your interviews that it was only after receiving the ‘American Book Award’ for ‘Arranged Marriage’ that you considered yourself a writer and knew that, that is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life. But when was it that you first started writing and did you train yourself for it? Your advice to new authors who are struggling to identify their voice?
    I started writing some years after I moved to the United States. I think the experience of immigration and of finding myself in a country that was so different from the place where I grew up impelled me into writing. For quite a while, I wrote in seclusion and did not show my work to anyone. I was not very confident about my talent or the interest that my subject matter would hold for anyone. Slowly, I joined the writers group, and that was very helpful. Then I started sending out my work to magazines. Finally I found an agent. For beginning writers, I strongly recommend taking a class or joining a writers group. That gives you valuable feedback and helps you improve your writing. It certainly did that for me.
  • 4.
    You are now exploring the magical realism and writings with a spiritual connect between human and divine. ‘Palace of Illusions’ which I have immensely enjoyed simply because of a different perspective and a female narrative that, as you rightly noticed at a very early childhood listening to your grandfather, that it was missing! Your next in the Epic line is ‘Under the Sorrow Tree’ – Sita’s voice from Mahabharata. How difficult was it to write from Sita’s perspective and when is the book due?

    I am still working on the Sita novel – it is a very challenging one, and I want to be able to handle it right, and bring out the complexity of the main character. I hope to finish writing the book by early 2018.

  • 5.
    Your top five favorite books and authors? What are you currently reading?

    I have so many favorite books and writers that it is very hard to choose the top five. I would say that perhaps they are Tagore, Margaret Atwood, Mahasweta Devi, Tolstoy, and Tolkien (for his Lord of the Rings).

    Currently I’m reading a nonfiction book, The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

  • 6.
    What is your process of writing? How long does it take for you to write a book?

    It takes about two years. First, I do the research. Then I tried to take notes about the characters and a basic plot outline. Then I get started. I revise a lot, so by the end often many important elements of the story have changed and become something quite different.

  • 7.
    Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you handle it?
    I do get writer’s block. I tried to put myself in a quiet space without interruptions and make handwritten notes about the story and the characters – what’s going on, what is the problem that’s getting me stuck, etc. Often that helps me get over my writer’s block. At other times, I have to take a break and go away from writing. Generally, a long walk helps to clear my head. I also find that my regular meditation practice helps keep creativity flowing.
  • 8.
    On a personal front, what does a weekend mean to you? Your favorite pastime? I read your blog where you share recipes from your mother’s kitchen. Would you label yourself as a foodie? There is one question that I throw at all my guests, what is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?
    My favorite nonalcoholic drink is Mango Lassi. I like cooking fancy dishes, but am very unmotivated when it comes to everyday cooking! My favorite weekend activity is watching movies with my family – this can be in a theater or just in my living room, after a nice dinner together. Of course, I love reading and always have piles of books handy.
  • 9.
    What strategy would you recommend to aspiring authors of ‘The Write Scene,’ who are working on their manuscripts?
    As I said before, joining a writers group would be very, very helpful. Also, sending out excerpts or publishing short stories in well reputed magazines or webzines is a very good way to get your name out there. I would also recommend that the start building their writer’s platform through social media. I have a website, and Facebook and Twitter accounts on which I’m quite active, and it helps me get book news out to many people
  • 10.
    Can we have your views on our new initiative of ‘Young Author Awards’ to recognize the next generation authors under the age of 30?
    I think it’s an excellent idea. It is bound to give writers encouragement and enthusiasm. I wish I had this kind of opportunity when I was younger.


To connect with the author :

Website: chitradivakaruni.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chitradivakaruni

 Chitra Divakaruni (Award Winning Author)