Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Story of my book

I am currently desperately trying to complete a historical mystery enmeshed with a contemporary mystery. I was on chapter 6,pg 82 when inspiration struck and I began to write in the contemporary mystery and now I am hopelessly entangled in both and boring my way out word by word.
I first saw Hampi by moonlight, the outer battlements of the city wall glimmering, and their enchantment slithered into my subconscious, unfurled and remains to this day. The next day, sitting in the Queen’s Bath, I slipped back in time and Achale danced before me, out of the keys, onto the page.While Achale remained a part of me, I heard the first faint whispers of her story only when I read about the strange case of the boy-saint, a widow’s son who came out of the temple pond with his sacred thread, in the colonial gazetteer.
The theme was born out of the desire to rewrite history from the woman’s perspective, not as a victim as she is so often shown, even in the non-fiction works which deal with Indian women through the ages, not as goddess/harlot/harridan, which distorts the image of Indian woman even today, but as an individual, making the best of her circumstances.
The modern protagonist was born out of my own observation of the effect of one form of globalization on India’s modern youth and the trends of innovation and experimentation which are sweeping through the field of classical dance today. She seemed to be an ideal counterpoint to Achale- the modern career woman- how far has she journeyed?
Why make religion central to the whole story? Religion, even in modern India, occupies not only the headlines but page three as well. More so in Vijayanagara, where an empire was established allegedly to rejuvenate an ailing religion. This was the age of the Bhakthi Movement, after all. In modern India, at the time of the story,the Bombay communal riots had happened and the Gujarat carnage was still in the offing.

Finally, the sacred and the profane are closely interlinked in the religious discourse and sexuality is but an expression of love for the divine. AK Ramanujan’s translations of Tamil poetry of the saints in ‘ Speaking of Siva,’ the meta physical yet erotically charged imagery of secular poetry and Hindu philosophy which links Creation, procreation and destruction in the dances of the Gods presented me with an irresistible opportunity to flesh out the background of my story with the rich cultural tapestry which forms part of India’s heritage.

As a reader, I have enjoyed diverse literary genres from Jane Austen/ Arnold Bennet/ Gothic Romance through LOTR/ Harry Potter/E. Nesbit to Salman Rushdie/ Marquez/ Achebe , Vikram Seth,William Dalrymple,Umberto Ecco and Amartya Sen. In a sense, Middle Time is a tribute to these varied influences which have swept through my life.

I started by randomly selecting names of agents from Bloomsbury's list and mailing them a copy. I got a few faint(damning?!!!?) words of praise- I wrote good prose/it was not a reflection of my work but I did not fit into their list.Then I tried to be discriminatating and sent off a sample to those who seemed to represent South Asians-not even a reply from some.Next, I tried Indian publishers- they made good speed in sending it back.I then trawled the net and made a list of the agents who represented mystery writersI liked. I've sent them all e-mails-no reply. I decided to befriend silence-no news is good news and next checked out writers' blogs- I found a list of friendly agents and I tried them as well-you guessed right-no reply. Next I tried some sites which gave names and addresses of agents and graded them- I found out that my book fitted into a new category all by itself- multi-culti-historical mystery. I made alist of agents who represented both genres and sent off e-mails. I'm waiting.....waiting...while writing...

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