Behind the Book : Nadya A R

1. Welcome to my blog. Tell us something about your journey as an author. How did writing happen to you?

Many Thanks Namrata. I love your blog, and find the concept of food tied to writing very unique and appetizing.My journey as an author has been a long one. I wrote my first book of short stories, Broken Souls, in my twenties when I was doing my Bachelors in Business Administration. Then I made a switch in my career to pursue my interest in Psychology, and teaching children with social, emotional and behavioral difficulties. Simultaneously, I started working on my novel, Kolachi dreams, which was published in 2006. After that, I pursued a Masters degree from Singapore in Psychotherapy, with a psychodynamic orientation, and started working on my second novel, Invisible Ties, which has been published by Rupa this year. I think life-long learning and writing are inextricably tied in my journey as an author and on a personal level, as well.

2. Can you please tell us something about your new novel “The Invisible Ties”? What prompted you to write it?

Invisible ties, is a saga of love, loss and displacement, set in Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore and London. It is the story of a woman in her twenties, Noor, and her journey of becoming a person in her own right, able to make her choices and take charge of her life. It highlights the cultural values, the clash and confusion which often arises as one migrates and has to adapt to the norms of your new home. Invisible ties has a historical theme as well, where I have tied up the history of South Asia and also covers the Mughal history, which is a rich common heritage of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

I am a psychotherapist and an idealist- and in my small way trying to be an agent of change through my writing. My own experience of living in different countries-Pakistan and Singapore-made me more aware of the differences and also of the merging of varied beliefs in my own life’s multi-cultural narrative. I became passionate about this theme, and felt driven to write a novel set in different places. The novel’s title suggests that we are connected to other people in many intangible ways; we may not be aware of these ties but each one of them is meaningful in our lives. The most important shared bond that binds us to each other is our common humanity, which should not be compromised due to surface differences like where we live, or our different faiths and value systems, and so many other issues in our chaotic world today.

Book Launch in Singapore (C) Nadya A R

3. Writing a book like this definitely calls for a lot of research. How important is research for fiction according to you?

It took me four years to write this book and I did intensive research for it. I spent lots of time in libraries in Singapore and also took guided tours which helped me with my writing. I have visited each and every place that I have mentioned in the book. For instance, I visited Malacca four times, Sheesh Mahal in Lahore and the Tower of London at least three times, before attempting to write about them. I used to walk on Orchard road for months, before I started writing the part where Noor gets lost in Singapore. For me, research is very important if you choose to write on a theme which is tied to facts and the writing will only be authentic if you have done your homework well.

4. Given the sensitivity of the subject it must have been very challenging to write this book, both emotionally as a person and as a writer to get in that state of mind? Can you share your experiences while working on this novel?

Writing for me is always very draining on a personal level. I give hundred percent of myself when I am working on my story. It consumes me and I live with the characters on a daily basis. And that is why it was very challenging to write the book. Often, it happens that you get enmeshed into this web of emotions. There is that danger of transference of feelings which is an ongoing struggle of trying to balance what is happening in writing with what is going on in your personal life. You have to constantly remind yourself that you have a life and to keep yourself sane you have to keep it as normal as you can with your writing routine and other responsibilities. Sadly, having said that, I had minimal social life when I was writing ‘Invisible Ties’ and I do regret it at times. But writing for me, requires that solitary confinement and contemplation, which has to be far away from the social circus of everyday life. 

I worked on different settees which overlooked the garden in my apartment. My children made fun of the fact that all of them had large craters, with the amount of time I spent sitting on them. One must exercise and also have other hobbies to keep oneself going, like I said before as writing can be all-consuming and you can so easily lose yourself, if you don’t remind yourself that at the end of the day it is but only a part, even though it may be very important, of you.

5. Any challenges you faced on your journey to becoming an author that would like to share.

I think the challenges that I faced on my journey and what I would like to share is the identity of being a writer. Though my father is a poet, and my sister is also a published writer, I was brought up in a very conventional way and married again into that set-up. I feel that I struggled to educate myself and not feel ashamed of that fact in a culture which doesn’t give a woman the space to explore her individuality. Many times, I would just conceal the fact that I was working on a book by saying that I am researching for my thesis etc. It was difficult for me since I myself didn’t know whether I had it in me to complete the book. I was tied to my career, my family, and my responsibilities as a homemaker, and I did feel so overwhelmed at times. I didn’t even know where I was heading, so there was that self-doubt in my head and heart. And that is very daunting, for any artiste. So I think, reconciliation with the reality that you are a writer and believing in yourself is one of the most important aspect of my journey. It makes life much easier for yourself, even if it displeases others. It is the affirmation that you need to give love to what you want to do with your life. And you really can’t please everyone anyway.

6. Any favourite character from this book? If yes, which one and why?

My favourite character is my female protagonist, Noor. She seems familiar, but actually she has a layered identity. It was interesting to create someone who is so rooted, and yet is willing to evolve with the change in her environment. Despite, facing childhood attachment issues, and then so many different challenges thrown at her constantly by fate, Noor is resilient and emerges stronger than before. And yet, there is that vulnerability about her, which defines her and her identity of being a woman. The shades of grey in her character appeal to me and I found it very satisfying to work on her character. 

7. Do we see you experimenting with genres?

Yes, I have experimented with genres and will continue to do so. Like, my first novel, Kolachi dreams, would fit into the commercial fiction category. When I started, Invisible ties, the intention was to write literary fiction, but something which could be read by everyone. So, with age, experience, constant learning and the quest for something new, you grapple with the changing reality and the content which appeals to you. For me, it is important to think out of the box and just the thought of doing something which has never been done before is empowering in a strange way.

8. Any future projects you are working on currently.

I am researching for my next novel, The Sanctuary, which is an adventure novel. It will be set across different continents and terrain, and I want to explore different themes and stretch myself in ways that I have not done before.

9. Any words for your readers and aspiring authors. 

All I can say is that follow your passion, and be true to it and yourself. Be who you are, and that will enable you to create something magical and beautiful. At the same time, one should never stop learning from others and that is why reading other voices is crucial for our development as writers. The most important thing for writers is perseverance, as it is not only writing but also publishing what you have written, which requires us to be resilient against all odds. Getting published is extremely hard as we all know, and I have been through lots of rejections, and have to keep reminding myself even now not to take it personally. So ‘passion’ and ‘perseverance’ are definitely the key words which work for me.

Thank you so much for your time! We cannot wait to read your next book, wishing you all the best with it.

P.S: In case you have missed my review of this amazing book you can read it HERE