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‘We are only the sum of our stories’

Author Jerry Pinto on writing and the projects that keep him busy.

Written by Nikita Puri |
January 20, 2015 1:33:55 am
Jerry Pinto, Crime Fiction, crime fiction writer, author, crime fiction for kids Crime fiction writer Jerry Pinto.

In the Capital for the first edition of Crime Writers Festival, Mumbai-based author, Jerry Pinto (pictured) of the critically acclaimed Em and the Big Hoom (Aleph, 2012) spoke at length on different topics — from writing for children to crime fiction. Among his notable fiction/non-fiction works are Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb (Penguin, 2006) which won a National Award, Asylum and Other Poems (Allied Publishers, 2003) and A Bear for Felicia (Puffin, 2008). Excerpts from an interview:

On writing:
I wrote nine full-length novels before I turned 20. They were foul beyond belief. If you have any sense, you’ll read your work after you have done it. For Em… I initially had 7.5 lakh words, and I cried when I read the first few thousand words cause they were that bad. I had snot coming out of my nose. Then it got better. The difference between the amateur writer and the professional writer is how much you are willing to rewrite what you have already written. Every story you tell defines you, the pictures you make define you and they become part of you. We are only the sum of our stories. We are the stories we tell ourselves, so if you tell yourself that I can’t write because I am no good, or nothing interesting ever happens to me, you’ll begin to believe it. Be careful.

On literary festivals:
One comes to literary festivals because you write in a void. You write the book, you send it to the publisher, and then when it comes back, it looks like another artefact. No book ever comes out as you imagined it to be. Literary festivals give you the opportunity to meet those people who read the books and say things like ‘My mum was bipolar, Em and the Big Hoom helped; when I was a child I had a teddy bear too, or I liked Helen’.

On knowing how much to research, and when to stop:
Research is a big bore, but you’ve got to do it. I remember when Ravi Singh (of the newly formed publishing house Speaking Tiger) asked me, ‘who do you think will write a book on Helen?’ I said, me. Next morning, I went out and bought 30 of Helen’s films because the video library had just about three-four of her films. But she had done 900 films and I needed to see as much as I could. But there’s also a moment when you’ve got to stop researching. You have to stop because it could be the excuse not to write the book.

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On his new crime fiction book, and blood and gore:
I am intensely uncomfortable with gore. If you are writing crime fiction then there’s already death and bodies. Murder in Mahim and Other Stories (Speaking Tiger) has a long story and two short stories, and is slotted for later this year. It features Peter D’Souza, a retired journalist, and Inspector Shiva Jende of the Mumbai Police and has a chap who is slashed in a public toilet. It doesn’t get dirtier than that.

About new projects:
I’m translating a couple of autobiographies from Marathi into English. The next book to be out, before Murder in Mahim, is an autobiography of a Dalit. It’s called Daya Pawar (Speaking Tiger) and was written in 1978 as one of the first-ever autobiographies of a Dalit. The book is scathing in its honesty.

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First published on: 20-01-2015 at 01:33:55 am

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