We recently interviewed published author Meghna Pant
Short Bio :
A financial journalist by day and a writer by night, Meghna Pant is the editor of a business magazine. She has formerly worked as a TV anchor for NDTV Profit and Bloomberg-UTV. Her short stories have been published in over a dozen literary magazines, across four countries.
An avid traveller, Meghna Pant has stayed in various cities around the world, from Mumbai and Singapore to Zurich and New York City. She is currently based in Dubai.
One and a Half Wife - Meghna’s debut novel - has been long listed for the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award, selected as a top ten finalists in Word Hustler’s Literary Storm Novel Contest, and made it to the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
1. Tell us something about your novel
One & A Half Wife is a prism that captures the social realities of our time – cultural bigotry, reverse immigration, the fall of the American Dream, the shift of the Golden Age to India, divorce and childless marriages – with a fast-paced narrative, a dash of humour and colourful characters. The background score is the call of the homeland and a search for one’s identity.
2. How did this book happen and why did you choose to write about it?
The longest I’ve ever lived away from India was from 2008 to 2010, and when I returned home to Mumbai it didn’t feel like home anymore. I almost felt betrayed because I’d been carrying this image of old India in my head as the ultimate truth, while the place had changed to an extent where my truth had become deviant. That was also a time when reverse immigration peaked and divorce became commonplace. There was a tectonic shift of the golden age from the US to India, and a raging debate about modernity versus traditionalism. I combined these triggers as the narrative for Amara Malhotra’s story in One & A Half Wife.
3. When did you take to writing?
I was 19 when my first short story, Aberration, was published online. But I started writing seriously around five years back, though at that time it was only short stories. To improve my art I took several writing courses in New York, and after a fair share of rejections my short stories slowly began to be published in reputed US literary magazines. The idea for a full-length novel, One & A Half Wife, came only in 2009.
4. Where do you usually write? What is your favourite setting to write in?
I am a completely horizontal writer. I need to be lying down on the bed or couch, tucked under a blanket (even in the summer) to be able to write. And since I work full-time, Saturday is dedicated to writing. I pretend as though the world doesn’t exist that day.
5. Did this story come to you easily or did you find yourself stuck with a writer’s block sometimes?
Amara’s story simply flowed out, especially the first half which is largely based in the US. I knew the beginning and the end of the novel, but wrote the middle part organically, in line with the characters and setting.
It’s interesting that for my second full-length novel I’ve used a completely different style of writing. Before penning the first draft, I jotted down a mini-synopsis for each chapter, as well as a sketch for each character. I find that this style works much better for me, though of course the readers will be the final judge of that.
All in all, I’m blessed to not have faced writer’s block so far in my writing career. In fact, I don’t have the time to put all my ideas to paper!
6. Tell us about your life online and the sites you maintain
I enjoy Facebook since it offers a personal way to connect with people from all over the world. Linked In is great for networking, but I use it primarily for work. I’m still relatively new to Twitter (https://twitter.com/MeghnaPant) and still learning the fine art of injecting brevity, wit, knowledge, entertainment and information into 140 characters.
I maintain two sites for One & A Half Wife:
7. What are your thoughts on life – The one thing that it takes to live it?
Life expands or shrinks in proportion to our courage. We’re so bound by shackles and rules that we shortchange ourselves, living a half-life in fear of what may go wrong.
Fortunately I’ve discovered writing, which to me is the most powerful medium for self-realisation. By writing about others, I’ve learnt to be kinder, stronger, while coming to face with the fact that we’re all trying to do the best with what we’ve been given.
8. How has your experience been so far in the literary world? Any highs or lows being a part of this space that you would like to share -here?
I feel like every day is bringing a new surprise, and I was totally unprepared for it. People – from bestselling authors to strangers in Agra – have reached out to tell me that they loved the novel. I’m getting friend requests and followers every day from across India – readers, reviewers, publishers and authors – and it’s astonishing just how far-reaching the power of words really is.
When I walk into parties now, people point to me and say, “The great author is here,” and I actually turn around to see whom they’re talking about since it feels surreal to be acknowledged in this fashion.
9. Tell us something about your work & hobbies?
I have an undergraduate degree in Economics and an MBA, so it’s no surprise that I’m a business journalist. Having worked with the likes of NDTV Profit and Bloomberg-UTV in Mumbai and New York, I currently work as the Features Editor of a Dubai-based business magazine.
In my free time, which is rare when you’re an author who also works full-time, I like to read, travel and talk to myself.
10. So how did it feel when you finally finished writing the book?
I immediately wanted to go out and meet Amara, because her world and the characters in it became so real to me. I remember typing the last sentence and feeling this great sense of relief, joy, achievement and loss, all rolled into one. I guess every writer must feel this way, and it’s so profound that even writers can’t find a word to describe it.
11. Top 3 All-time favourite books.
Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez – This book demystifies love and relationships, and is a bible in preparing for the inevitable agony and joy that attraction brings in its fold.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – For showing us how to write, and how to live. For Howard Roark who I have looked for in every man. For making struggle and obscurity sexy. For daring us to think.
Exodus by Leon Uris – This razor-sharp story about the creation of Israel is a must-read. Although I’m not a fan of historical fiction, this magnificently written novel helps crystallise why we live in the world we live in.