7 December 2017

Author Q&A Session #90: With Sharanya Manivannan

Hello & Welcome,

Just a few more days to go before we say goodbye to another year and welcome a new one with open arms.

Hope y'all are spending the last few days of the year without any regret or worry, living a little for yourself.

So without further wasting any more minute, let's welcome a very talented and an amazing Indian author on this brand new author interview session.

Ladies & Gents,

let's welcome Sharanya Manivannan, whose book The High Priestess Never Marries has won the hearts of so many readers, both globally and locally.

Me: Hello and welcome to my blog, Sharanya. Congratulations on your new novel, The High Priestess Never Marries. How will you express your feelings about this book that has already won the hearts of so many readers?

Sharanya: Thank you, Aditi. The High Priestess Never Marries is not a novel, but a collection of short stories. I’ve been very moved, and surprised, by the ways in which readers have embraced it so far. I was too close to the manuscript to be able to foresee how it would be received. Let me take this opportunity to clarify a misunderstanding that I sense many people have about works of art. When you see something being released – be it a book, a film or a song – you see the harvest, but not the toil. There’s so much labour that goes into it. And even more than that, love. Sheer love. More than anything else, I wanted this book to be the kind of companion certain other books have been to me. I cherish knowing that this wish has come true, for it’s precisely this experience that certain readers have shared with me.

Me: What was your source of inspiration behind this story?

Sharanya: It’s not a story, but 26 stories. They are thematically bound by two questions:  whether a mostly heteroromantic woman in this time and place can have both love and freedom, and what to do with her heart and the excess of love in it if the answer is No.

Me: The portrayal of Sri Lanka and South India is striking. Did you travel extensively for the purpose of research? Tell us briefly about your experience.

Sharanya: Not really. I live in Tamil Nadu, and am originally from Sri Lanka, so I simply drew from the environment around me, my memories, my longings, and my experiences. A sense of place is quite central in my writing because I’ve experienced a lot of dislocation in my life, and so I have a very conscious awareness of the rhythms and energies of different places. The natural world also matters to me, which is why you see so much of it in my writing.

Me: Tell us one trait about one of your protagonists that intrigues you the most.

Sharanya: What an interesting question! This one gave me much to think about. Many of my protagonists let the reader far into their interior worlds, so I’m intrigued by the one who doesn’t. In “Scheherazade On The Shore”, the narrator ensnares her lover with a deflection. She offers him a fable about red mechanical giraffes in lieu of the story of her own life. And she won’t even reveal to the reader what happens next: either one of them leaves the table at the dark bar they are in, or they both do (together?). That restraint, that coyness, is not something the majority of my protagonists have.

Me: How will you describe your journey so far as an author?

Sharanya: I started to write when I was 7 years old, and would send stories and poems to children’s magazines and newspapers. At around 15, I began to read my writing at public performances. My first full-length book of poems, Witchcraft, was published when I was 23. In 2015, I was commissioned to write and perform a poem at the Commonwealth Day Observance – an extraordinary experience, to be able to read my work at Westminster Abbey to an audience of 2000, including Queen Elizabeth II. And in October 2016, my second and third books came out simultaneously – The High Priestess Never Marries (HarperCollins India) and The Ammuchi Puchi (Lantana Publishing). These are certain biographical milestones. They don’t nearly encapsulate anything that happened between them, or what it took to get from each milestone to the next. The fact is that that is not how I measure my life at all. Even speaking purely in terms of literature, I am concurrently full of gratitude that I finished writing not one but four books before I turned 30, and full of vexation that I still have projects that have been pending for years and years and I don’t know if they’ll ever see the light of day.

Also, there’s a long gap between manuscript completion and having a book actually come out. My second book of poetry, The Altar Of The Only World, was signed by HarperCollins India a couple of months before The High Priestess Never Marries was (in mid-2015). But that book doesn’t have a release date until 2018. So that’s a three year wait for me, as the poet, between finishing a collection and having it reach its readers. It’s also a ten year gap between my first and second books of poetry. To be an author, one has to have the heart for such delayed gratification. And one has to have faith in oneself and in one’s work through it all.

Me: Was it always your one true dream to be an author?
Sharanya: Not my only dream, but the one I’ve sustained the longest, for certain. I still have that dream, you see. I am the author of books of poetry, short fiction and a children’s picturebook. I am not yet the author of a novel or graphic novel.

Me: What other passions do you have apart from writing?

I draw and paint as well, and I’ve begun working on a graphic novel that I’m both writing and illustrating. For pleasure, I like to cook, and I love to eat.

Me: What's next up on your writing sleeves? Please tell us briefly about it.

Sharanya: The graphic novel, a novella and a novel. Send help. I’m lost in textual frustration! In the meanwhile, though, you can expect my second book of poetry – The Altar Of The Only World – from HarperCollins India next year. This book began with Sita weeping in the forest, and grew to expand the Persian myth of Lucifer’s fall from grace and the Sumerian myth of the goddess Inanna’s descent into the underworld. It may be of interest to readers to whom the theme of solitude in The High Priestess Never Marries spoke to.

Me: Thanks Sharanya for joining me today on this interview session. I wish you luck for all your future endeavors.

Sharanya: My pleasure. Thank you, Aditi!

Read the review of The High Priestess Never Marries
Sharanya's Bio:

Sharanya Manivannan was born in India in 1985 and grew up in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. Her first book of poems was Witchcraft (Bullfighter Books, 2008); she is currently working on a novel, a collection of short fiction and two manuscripts of poetry. Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Drunken Boat, The Nervous Breakdown, Superstition Review, Killing The Buddha, Pratilipi, Dark Sky Magazine and elsewhere.

Connect with Sharanya on: GoodreadsWebsite| Twitter


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