I met Prof Shiv K. Kumar briefly today and could not resist asking a few questions again.
Q) How has your experience been with foreign publishers as against Indian publishing houses?
A) Not much experience with foreign publishers though two of my books were brought out by foreign publishers. One thing with foreign publishers is that they are very fastidious and have a quest for perfection, precision, exactness. Also the marketing is professionally done.Unlike in India.
Q) What is your opinion on the new generation Indian Writing in English?
A) Unfortunately I cannot read much because of my poor eyesight. Doctors have advised me to restrict my reading and writing. I am saving up what I have for my writing.
Q) What changes would you like to happen in IWE?
A) There seems to be too much focus on advances, royalties etc and too little on the quality of content. Hemingway wrote 80 drafts for the 'Old Man and Sea'. I don't see that kind of a thing happening here. John Ruskin said there are two kinds of books - books of the hour and books forever. Most books we produce here seem to belong to the former category. That is unfortunate because we are supposed to be philosophers and thinkers but we have not touched the core of our culture yet. There is a preoccupation with sex, with the superficial.
Q) Your favourite authors, books?
A) The classical writing will get my vote any day. Dostoevsky, Kafka, Tolstoy. Books like 'Notes from Underground', 'The Trial', The bothers Karmazov', 'The Stranger' are the kind of books I would like to read.
Q) When you write fiction, hwo do you approach it?
A) First thing is that I do not write for an audience. I think one must write to please oneself. In the process you will communicate. But whatever you write, it must be written, so it touches you deeply.
Q) Any process that you adopt while structuring your novel?
A) I believe that the novel should be happening. I have written all my novels on my feet. When I say that I mean that when I go for my morning walk, I open up my mind to things around me. Things that are ahppening. Once the story starts, it takes care of itself.
Q) What about the structured method of writing a novel?
A) I think it loses its soul if its all too well planned out and structured.
Q) What do you look for when you rate good fiction?
A) Credibility. You cannot achieve that unless you write from the gut. Writing that has touched you immensely. You must be committed to the truth. A character of mine, the protagonist from a novel who is a writer says 'I cannot lie to myself when I am writing'. When I am writing I am writing for myself. On this there must be no compromises. The writer must be objective, dispassionate.Also good fiction writing gets involved with the characters so much that each character has a distinctly different point of view, and the writer recognizes that and is honest to that. Imagination is like water, taking the shape of the vessel you fill it in. I look for honest, dispassionate, objective writing.