Published: 11th September 2017
Wake up-drink coffee-write: This British-Indian author has the perfect recipe to emerge as one of the best authors in the country
Anjali Joseph from Mumbai opens up about her career transition from a teacher to an award winning writer
Anjali Joseph's book, Another Country, that released in 2012, is a narrative on a middle-class Bengali girl finding love and friendship. An ordinary plot made interesting by Anjali's writing is what makes her one of the best in the field. Here is her story of transition.
What has been your greatest understanding from your experience as a teacher?
You’re not really doing things; you’re creating the conditions in which things can happen. And this is not only true of teaching. Helping other people do something that they can’t quite see yet how to do, and keeping the faith that it will work out for them is a practice that can be very encouraging for oneself too. A lot of life is having patience and the faith that things will grow, and teaching certainly does foster that.
How much has your personal history affected what you write? Do you think it has to do with where you come from?
It’s difficult to answer that without knowing what I would have written had I lived another life. Given that things are as they are, I don’t see how they could possibly have been different.
You paint images with words. How important is it for you that the reader sees what you see?
I don’t know that the reader ever sees exactly what the writer sees, any more than two people sitting next to each other see the same color. But writing something, for me, involves a movement of using words to transmit something I feel or perceive, and make something happen in a reader’s head. Or influence what is already happening in her head. It’s a mysterious process; we all read differently, and we read as though the books we read are telling us the story of our own lives. In a way they are.
Was the transition long from journalist to author? How did it influence you?
No, not that long. I worked at a newspaper for three years, spent a year doing a master’s degree, and then worked at a magazine for a year while I was writing my first novel. I had many interesting experiences being a journalist and met so many interesting people. One of the things I learned was not to spend too long agonizing before writing the first draft. Another was that I was quite a shy person before I was a newspaper journalist and it helped me learn how to talk to people I don’t know. Sort of.
How would you describe 'The Living' to someone who is about to read it?
It’s a novel of two first-person narrators. Both make shoes. Claire is 35 and lives in the East of England. She’s alone and has a teenage son. She works in a shoe factory. Arun is in his late sixties. He lives in Kolhapur with his wife and stitches chappals. The novel follows them through the work, which is also a way of following them through their days and the way they think about their lives.
What does your writing process involve?
I wake up, drink some coffee, and write. When I realize I have to write about something I don’t yet know much about, or somewhere I haven’t been, I find out more or spend some time at that place. Also, what I might be viewed as the interruptions of living, in fact, provide much of the thread from which a book is woven.
Your stories and characters move across continents, is this drawn from your own experience?
Maybe, but it’s also a type of movement that isn’t so unusual these days, and not only for affluent people. People emigrate, and return.