She is one of those writers who know how to stretch their imagination with a story that has an interesting plot as well as a compelling path.
So, Dear Readers, Let's hear from Chitra Gopalakrishnan beyond an attention-grabbing opening with maximum excitement from you all
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
As a child. I had an amazing, unstoppable ability to dream. To dream up situations, ideas and stories. These were all, always in plain sight and always afoot, running away on their own steam without a care for what was probable, practical or socially acceptable. The more preposterous the visions, the grander was the hullabaloo in my being and the greater was the joy in my soul.
On occasions, when fantasies proved elusive, I dredged them up by looking through the corners of my eyes, perfecting the art of looking sideways when very young. I assumed everyone to be like this, trying their best to spice up the prosaic by stretching their cerebral leniency to the utmost until I realised that it was not true.
My head-in-the-clouds approach was fuelled by an endless supply of reading material: fairy tales, comics, historical sagas, adventure series, science fiction, animal and plant lore, epics…the list is endless… and by a grandfather who told stories all day long. And late into the night, much to the exasperation of my parents.
As places I had never visited held a lot of allure like England, Russia, Czechoslovakia, Greenland, Africa, France and Spain, to name a few, I would always dream of being on a mission, sometimes like an explorer and fact-finder, other times as a performer conjuring jaw-dropping wizardries. Archaeology as a subject began to enthral me during high school.
Being convent-schooled, in demure skirts and clean white socks, and taught the Queen’s English by Irish nuns, I learnt to hear the English language, savour the felicity of words, understand their origins and delight in writing. So, yes, being a writer, a popular one, was part of my fertile, febrile, childhood imagination. And, as I have said, making up stories in my head was never a problem!
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I am a strange combination of a gregarious, social being and a recluse.
I absolutely delight in the company of friends and being part of their lives and journeys. I especially enjoy tossing ideas around with them and largely just having fun.
Yet I like my company as much. I spent weeks alone, pottering about my home, rearranging things and collecting artefacts and paintings. Crafts and textiles are huge passions.
I like to listen to classical music (particular that it is be low in volume), read prodigally and watch films, rather indiscriminately, I must confess.
As I live on a farm, I spent a lot of time in the gardens, growing organic greens and vegetables and several varieties of flowers. Aquaponics is my latest fancy.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Reader response is what every author delights in. Mostly, one accepts praise and critiques in equal measure, as a sign that the reader has invested in your writing to be able to respond to it.
I have readers who write wonderful notes to me, quote back lines from my fiction or poetry as memorable, some who talk of similar experiences they have been through and how the story resonated inside, others who comment on the language, and yet others who like astute editors fact correct. This, especially, when my stories tackle the not-so-easy-to-grasp issue of spirituality, a territory that I find myself increasingly exploring, inching ahead, step by little step. I even had an alert reader tell me that I had used the number six as a leitmotif in my story and used it in twelve paragraphs in different contexts.
What is your ideal work environment when it comes to writing?
I need absolute quiet when I write. “Pin-drop silence” as our nuns in school would say. Maybe, they tutored me into it.
I also pace, restlessly, while the story evolves in my head. It is as if I need my body to keep pace with my mind. So I really need space to wander and collect my thoughts. I am thankful for my spacious gardens that handle my troubled movements with patience and equanimity.
Do you use any grammar tools or resources?
Just Grammarly. And, oftentimes, I slither away from its suggestions taking cover under the much misused ‘artistic licence’. Rude and sly, I agree.
What would you do if an editor-publisher sent your piece back with edits you didn't agree with?
Fortunately, I have not had this happen to me. But if it did, I think I would argue my case to the best of my ability and convictions. But if the editor remains unmoved, rather than battle, I would prefer to withdraw the piece. After all, the editor is the monarch, the energy, impetus and adhesive behind the volume and has the final say. If the eyes, head, heart and soul of the two of us are not on the same axis, it is best to walk away.
How do you overcome writer's block?
This is a tough question. A block is a block. It is not easy to overcome. I have had several periods of complete blankness and emptiness, where nothing has emerged. Rather than panic, I have learnt to let this inertness be, to accept it. Looking sideways has been of no help under these circumstances. At some point, a sliver of an idea, a tiny thread of an idea is served up to me by the universe, teasing me, tempting me to follow it. Sometimes, this sliver is a mirage, more the absence of a presence really. Other times, there is a windfall and several stands appear and collect themselves into a story. One theme, one mood.
In short, it is important for a writer to learn patience. I would say it is necessary travel for a wordsmith.
Explain your proofreading process in detail for our readers.
As my career has been focused on communication, putting out messages for national and international organisations, I understand the need to communicate simply, clearly and faultlessly.
After editing my story, I am fussy about proofreading it on my end.
I let the story breathe for a day or two and then begin to detect errors and inconsistencies.
A comma everyone knows can change the meaning of a sentence. There is a cannibalistic difference between “Let’s eat grandma” and “let’s eat, grandma”. So I do agonise over punctuation, grammar, tense, misplaced and superfluous words, spellings, language consistency, logical order of sentences, formatting and pagination.
Share a bit about your upcoming work and links to connect with you
I aspire to put together a collection of short stories with a motif running through, either from my existing work or by writing anew. I need to work towards pitching my ideas to publishers and see if they will bite the bait.
For those interested to see my writings, do see: www.chitragopalakrishnan.com