Thursday, February 3, 2011

Interview: Melvin Durai

Today I have on my blog Melvin Durai, author of "Bala Takes the Plunge" which I've reviewed here. Welcome, Melvin. 

1. I'd like to begin this interview by asking you what kind of books are there on your bookshelf? What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?

Most of the books on our bookshelf are literary fiction, about a third by South Asian authors. My wife, Malathi, is a voracious reader and sets a good example for me. (Arundhati Roy, Rohinton Mistry and Vikram Seth are gods in our reading universe!) I’m currently reading “A heartbreaking work of staggering genius” by Dave Eggers and “The Blaft anthology of Tamil pulp fiction,” which we picked up during our recent trip to India. I read literary fiction mostly, but occasionally dip into popular fiction like Alexander McCall Smith’s Ladies Detective Agency series. I tend not to re-read books, but do re-read short stories. Among my favorites are the Sherlock Holmes stories, which I first read as a schoolboy and still love as an adult (yes, I did read your lukewarm review of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”!).

2. Tell us something about your work before "BalaTakes the Plunge"?

I’ve done a lot of newspaper journalism, including some feature writing that I really enjoyed. I’ve also written a regular humor column for about 15 years. As for fiction, I’ve worked on several short stories, one of which was published in an American literary magazine and another that will appear in the upcoming issue of Kindle Magazine in India.

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "Bala Takes the Plunge"?

I started dreaming of becoming a writer when I was in high school. I enjoyed writing in school – it came easy to me – but it took me a long time to become a “writer.” I got into writing full-time after earning a master’s degree in journalism from Towson University in Maryland and landing a job at a small newspaper in Pennsylvania. (Before that, I had attempted to fulfill my mother’s dream for me – to become a doctor.) “Bala Takes the Plunge” was inspired largely by my own matrimonial search about a decade ago. I wrote humor columns about the experience and realized that there was a lot of potential for humor in the way many Indians find their mates.

4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?

Anyone who shares my sense of humor will probably enjoy the book. If you don’t appreciate the humor, then you probably won’t like the book.

5. What is your favourite thing about books and reading? How have books made an impact on your life?

Books and reading in general can give you insights/perspectives  you wouldn’t
get in your everyday life. Books have made me more empathetic, more attuned to
the viewpoints of others. Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance”, for example, took
me right into the world of the poor and oppressed, showing me vividly what they
have to endure. (That’s a book I need to re-read!)

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes toyour mind, in five words or less:

- Marriage – roller coaster ride

- Life – full of challenges, surprises

- India – never boring

- Bala (the character) – keeps trying

- Books – not enough shelf space

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