Please welcome August Author in the Spotlight, Kamala Nair! Her book, The Girl in the Garden, is heading to the top of the book charts and she is here to answer some questions.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in London, and moved to the U.S. when I was two. I lived in small towns in upstate New York, Vermont, and Minnesota, before leaving for Wellesley College in Boston when I was eighteen. At Wellesley, I majored in English, and wrote a lot of poetry. I decided I wanted to go to graduate school for Creative Writing and continue writing poetry, settling upon Trinity College Dublin (I am a huge fan of Irish literature, and fell in love with Trinity’s campus during a college trip). Once at Trinity, I found myself surrounded by talented fiction writers and very few poets, so I decided to shift my focus to fiction, which is how I began writing THE GIRL IN THE GARDEN. I have lived in New York City for the past six years, where until recently I was an editor at ELLE DECOR magazine. I recently left my job in order to pursue writing full-time, and am working on my second novel.
- What inspired you to write The Girl in the Garden?
The idea for this novel came to me during a family trip to Kerala, India, while I was in the midst of the writing program at Trinity. We were in the small village where my father grew up, a place I had often visited as a child. It was unlike anywhere else I had ever been, and over the years I heard many fascinating stories and superstitions. One night I accompanied some of my relatives to the village temple after dark, and one of my cousins pointed out an old stone well in a moonlit field next to the temple. She told me it was haunted by a yekshi, or a ghost. Later that night I had a vivid dream about that field and the well, but in my dream there was also a tree covered with red flowers, and two small girls huddled underneath. I wanted to know who those girls were and why they were there. My story grew from that image. I was also inspired by the childhood classic The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I was drawn to the idea of this once grand, now crumbling estate harboring a forsaken garden, and how the garden becomes the source of redemption for this broken family. I wanted to explore a similar idea in a darker way for adults, and through a different cultural lens.
- Why did you decide to set your novel in Minnesota and India?
I was drawn to the idea of the huge contrast between Minnesota and India. Minnesota is a place of flat fields, snow, and bitter cold. It is completely opposite from the world Rakhee discovers in India, which is full of heat, color, and sound. It was interesting to me that in both places, however different, Rakhee felt like an outsider.
- Why factors led you to write a novel for young adults?
The novel is actually intended for adults, but I do hope that it also appeals to a young adult audience.
- Are you currently working on a second novel and will you share part of the plot with us?
I am working on a second novel, but since it’s in such an early stage I’m a bit superstitious about revealing anything about the plot. I can say it’s very different from THE GIRL IN THE GARDEN.
- Mirabai is a beautiful Indian poet. Why did you decide to use her poetry and influence in your book?
I discovered Mirabai while researching poems to read at my sister’s wedding. I stumbled across “Unbreakable,” and thought it was incredibly beautiful. I researched the poet and her life, and was moved and intrigued. She was a pioneer and a feminist in a time and place where such a figure was rare. I wanted to pay tribute to her, and felt the poem fit the mood and theme of the story.
7. This is your first book. Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer?
I have been writing ever since I was a child. Reading was always my great passion, and I started writing my own stories at an early age as a form of entertainment. I was always happiest when I was reading and writing, and that organically translated into a desire to become a writer professionally. I always knew writing would be part of my life no matter what, but I didn’t make the decision to plunge into it as a profession until after I left Trinity and turned down admission to a law school in order to pursue my writing career.
8. Do you like to read? What authors or books influence you?
I love reading. I have been influenced by the 19th century British novelists, especially the Brontë sisters. I also love Irish literature, everything from James Joyce to Edna O’Brien to Claire Keegan. Some other writers whom I admire: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton, Banana Yoshimoto, Margaret Atwood. I guess my tastes are all over the map!
9. In your opinion should the Epic of Ramayana be required reading for book enthusiasts? How does the Ramayana relate to Hinduism?
The Ramayana was written by a Hindu sage, and is one of the great epics in Indian culture. My parents always used to tell me stories from the Ramayana, and because it was a big part of my childhood, I wanted to weave it into the story of my novel.
10. In one sentence tell us why we should read your book, The Girl in the Garden?
It’s a page-turning story about the coming-of-age of a young girl in an unfamiliar world, about family and the bonds that hold us together and those that tear us apart, and at its core, about the deep and complicated love between mothers and daughters.
To enter the contest to win The Girl in the Garden please visit this link: CONTEST