By Kulpreet Yadav
Kulpreet Yadav: Your future as a writer after winning The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction 2013? What has changed?
Anees Salim: Post an award, your books look different and important, thanks to that bold line or the little slug on the cover which says you are the winner of an award. It is both an honour and a reminder. And it makes you feel that a lot more is expected out of your writing. In that sense, the award has had an impact on me, and it makes me nervous as I am now writing my first book after winning The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction.
KY: Literary vs. genre fiction, which one do you prefer and why?
AS: I prefer literary fiction. I like the pace and depth of it. But I did enjoy writing something you can brand as commercial fiction. It’s my third novel Tales from a Vending Machine and incidentally it was the book that got me my first book deal and made my literary agent take a look at my other two manuscripts.
KY: Suddenly there are so many literary agents in India. Since a literary agent gave you your first break, you think their presence will make it easier for deserving writers to be considered?
AS: Yes. I think literary agents are important, and I learned it the hard way. A good literary scout can make an aspiring writer’s life easier. An agent can take care of submissions, negotiations etcetera so you get more time to write and rewrite. Especially for someone like me, who likes to interact with a limited number of people, an agent is a lifesaver. And another thing, a publisher normally sends you a polite, regretful letter while rejecting your work. A literary agent is more helpful in his or her communication, and tells you why your book will work or not.
KY: How do you plan your writing and how often are you able to stick to a plan?
AS: I don’t plan my writing. I write whenever I feel like.
KY: Can writing be done part time? Or to write a good book, one needs to write full time.
AS: It depends on your bank balance. I have a day job; I can’t survive without one. The day I can afford to be a full time writer, I will leave advertising.
KY: How much did your background in advertising help your writing?
AS: Not much in writing. As a writer, I refuse to be influenced by the cleverness and juiciness of advertising.
KY: Your favorite Indian writers and their books?
AS: I like Manu Joseph. I liked both his books. I like Aman Sethi and I was deeply touched by A Free Man. I like Jerry Pinto and Aravind Adiga.
KY: Advice to young writers in India and elsewhere.
AS: Read, read, read. Write, write, write.