I’ve published twenty books by now. These include eleven works of fiction, two books for young readers, four anthologies with a fifth on its way, and so on. I can never keep track of all that I’ve written. Sometimes when I can’t get to sleep I make mental lists of my books, but somehow they never add up. My fiction covers many different themes and genres, but is often populated by strong and individualistic women. The Himalayas and Hindu myth and religion are also recurring strands.
India has 21 National Languages and many Indians are bilingual. One could say that we exist in a constant state of translation. I am fascinated by the richness and diversity of our linguistic cultures - I would have loved to be able to write novels in another Indian language as well as in English, or to be able to translate fluently from one to the other.
✔️WHEN I WRITE, HOW I WRITE
I have no set time to write as I have a heavy workload but I do give myself goals in terms of schedules and timelines. I never put pressure on myself to write, but go with the flow - and the magic moments of creativity find me out. I write the first draft by hand on a lined notebook, with a pencil or gel pen. I then type this out on my keyboard and do the first edit as I go along.
✔️MY LIFE AS A FESTIVAL DIRECTOR
As co-founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, I get to spend a lot of time around books and writers. People are always sending me books and manuscripts - you could say that I live in a bookshelf. I LOVE BOOKS and feel incredibly blessed and lucky to do what I so love and privileged to know so many creative and inspirational people.
✔️WHY I DON’T WATCH TELEVISION
I prefer reading or talking and interacting with people. I view films and web series when I’m with my granddaughter as it’s a shared experience. I avoid watching by myself as I can be an addictive viewer and binge watch until my eyes hurt.
✔️FALLING IN LOVE WITH AUDIO BOOKS
I found myself suffering from eye-strain last year, and decided to give reading a break for a while. As I had a backlog of reading that I had to do for a prize jury, I moved to audio books. It’s an immersive experience which I truly enjoyed - the books come alive in a different dimension, with new nuances. I’m delighted that six of my books are releasing as audio books this year, and completely enchanted with the range and variety of books now available that one can listen in to.
✔️ WRITING ABOUT THE HIMALAYAS
My hometown Nainital is situated in the central Himalayas. I grew up in the hills of Kumaon and return there as often as I can. Seven of my books have been set in or about the Himalayas - and a seventh is on its way. I have also been associated with a beloved literary festival in Thimphu, Bhutan, and one in Nainital. I am very attached to Kathmandu and try to go there when I can - it was the last place I visited before the pandemic changed our world.
✔️ EPIC LOVE : THE MAHABHARATA
The ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata is to my mind the greatest story ever told. I have retold it for young and first time readers in the beautifully illustrated Puffin Mahabharata. It mirrors the range of human emotions and situations , and I have learnt many deep life-lessons from it. Whenever I am puzzled or perplexed, I go back to this timeless text to see things in perspective and figure out the best course of action.
✔️MY FAVOURITE CHARACTERS FROM MY NOVELS
My favourite character is surely the septuagenarian Rudrani Rana from my recent novel Jaipur Journals, closely followed by the cat burglar and Urdu poet Raju Srivastava ‘Betaab’ from the same book. I often forget the names and other details of writers I have created, but these two are dear to my heart - I feel I know them in real life, and that I will bump into them at the next Jaipur festival!
I confess that I usually forget everything about my novels and fictional works the moment I finish them. I don’t remember much about the characters and have only hazy memories of the plot. On the rare occasions when I return to my books and re-read them, I find myself surprised by the twists and turns of the storyline and have little idea of what might happen next. This holds more true of my fiction - though for some reason Jaipur Journals remains etched in my memory - perhaps because it is set against the backdrop of the Jaipur Literature Festival, which is so closely tied to my own life and memories.
Jaipur Journals by Namita Gokhale is published on 29th April by HopeRoad.
My first bestseller came to me in a dream. I’ve always been a writer. The first “book” I wrote, which consisted of two sheets of ruled notebook paper, was about a blind girl who could turn herself into a sighted cat. As a teen, I wrote stories about Luke Skywalker swashbuckling his way across the galaxy to meet, well, me. In my twenties, I tried my hand at fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. But it wasn’t until I dreamed about an older, never-married Chief Superintendent at Scotland Yard falling in love with a beautiful, much younger subordinate, that I started writing the book that would break through...