Writing was the last thing on my mind!: Prajwal Parajuly | Interview
Prajwal Parajuly isn’t just some new kid on the block. The youngest ever writer to bag a two book International deal with Quercus, Prajwal is as popular as he is critically acclaimed. Add to that his reputation as a Literary Festival darling and you get a writer who isn’t just superbly talented, but is charming, witty and exciting- all the makings of a future literary superstar!
Prajwal sets ‘The Gurkha’s Daughter’ and ‘Land Where I Flee’ within the Nepali diaspora, taking his readers on a discovery of a much loved, idiosyncratic world populated with characters that stay with you long after you’ve put the book down. His are the kind of stories that move you, that tug urgently at the strings of your heart, that let you smile through your tears.
In an interview with Fried Eye, Prajwal lets on that he’s a night owl, wishes he knew how to play to the gallery and tells us about the one thing that makes him see red. Read on..
FE You worked as an advertising executive at ‘The Village Voice’, one of the most prestigious weeklies of the United States. It must have been a difficult decision to quit. Or were you always sure that you’d make it bigger as an author than as an ad executive?
PP Well, The Village Voice was beginning to look a little bit like a joke around the time I quit. What was once a vibrant paper had gradually become everyone’s object of choice to scoop dog poop with, so the decision to walk away from it wasn’t difficult. Sure, the money was good and the job started off as fun, but I was tired of waking up at 8:30 in the morning and going to work. You live only once. Did I think I’d make it big as an author? Writing was the last thing on my mind then. I knew nothing about what I wanted to do with my life.
FE The one stereotype about the Nepali community that you hate the most?
PP The word isn’t entirely negative—in fact it’s a positive word—but I see red when a well-meaning person describes Nepalis as “loyal.” It’s infuriating.
FE A professor once told the young John Steinbeck that he would be an author only when pigs flew. What is the most brutal piece of criticism you’ve ever received?
PP Wow, that’s brutal. I am yet to get something that hurtful. Sometimes I get messages on Facebook that are along these lines: “I don’t believe The Gurkha’s Daughter lived up to its hype.”
FE Tell us about the ‘masturbatory inter-textuality’ in your books that you mentioned in an interview for Livemint.
PP I decided to include in Land Where I Flee references to eight characters in the eight stories of The Gurkha’s Daughter. I did that for fun and nothing else. These references don’t add anything to the book.
FE Both your books have lovely mantelpiece-worthy covers. How much credit would you take for them?
PP I am guessing you’re referring to the Indian editions. I had very little to do with the cover. Gavin Morris of Penguin Books designed the jacket of The Gurkha’s Daughter—that’s the one with the cute girl on the cover. I saw the design and was immediately floored. Something similar happened with Land Where I Flee.
FE You have made some pretty controversial statements about our politicians. Were you playing to the gallery or was it one of those foot in mouth moments?
PP I steer away from controversy. I wish I knew how to play to the gallery. The Rahul Gandhi/ Narendra Modi comment I made because that’s how I—and many people around me—felt at that time. I didn’t think the answer would tumble out of my mouth in so … err … eloquent a manner.
FE Poker or food?
PP Poker and good food.
FE You’ve had your readers’ expectations go sky-high from the delectable fare that you’ve churned up till now. Does it scare you? What if your next book is a dud?
PP That might happen. I think it will happen. There have only been highs, highs and highs. There’s got to be a low at some point. My third book may very well be my last whether or not it’s successful. I don’t enjoy writing as much as I used to when I started it.
FE You have artfully worked your way to worldwide success using effective marketing. What are the various strategies that you use to market yourself as an author? What is your USP?
PP I get asked marketing-based questions a lot, which is interesting because I know very little about marketing. I’ve been lucky–I have had fantastic marketing/PR people at all my publishing houses backing my books. They treat my books well, and my publishers allocate substantial sums of money for the books’ marketing, so it doesn’t feel right to not cooperate. How do I cooperate? By posting reviews/interviews/book-related news on my Facebook page, by agreeing to do interviews coming my way (although I realize it’s practically impossible to say yes to all interview requests) and by agreeing to book tours and “launches”–no matter how tiresome traveling can sometimes get– they meticulously plan. To say that my books are successful because I am a marketing genius is to discredit the work of the half a dozen marketing/PR professionals behind them. Yes, I often have suggestions on how to sell my books–sometimes good, sometimes silly–but most of the work is done by others.
FE Which story in “The Gurkha’s Daughter” is closest to your heart?
PP Missed Blessing, the story about the young man in Darjeeling preparing for his wealthy relatives’ arrival while figuring out his missionary friends. It’s interesting how no reviewer has singled it out as his or her favorite story. I guess I am a bad judge of my own stories.
FE James Joyce wrote lying on his stomach in bed, with a large blue pencil, Victor Hugo wrote in the nude and Maya Angelou had the rather extravagant habit of checking into a hotel to write. Do you already have a writer’s ritual or are you starting to develop one?
PP I have zero discipline in my life. I have no schedule and can’t function if there’s a deadline. If there’s anything close to a ritual, it’d be that I mostly write during nights, and I will have to have slept so much before the writing commences that I can sleep no more.
FE You have your hands full now, what with travelling all over the world for fests and promotions and keeping up with writing deadlines. What’s the one thing you’ve been dying to do, but just haven’t had the time?
PP I’d love to not travel for six months. I kept promising myself that 2015 would be a travel-less year, but it looks like there will be more travels this year than 2012, 2013 and 2014.
FE What is the favourite cuisine of Chitralekha Nepauney from “Land Where I Flee.” ?
PP She loves Nepali food. Fermented greens, called gundruk, rice and vegetables with daal would be her favorite meal.
FE Tell us, has it become easier to get dates now that you’re a famous writer?
PP No comments! 🙂
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