Behind the Book: Jaya Padmanabhan

Today we have Ms. Jaya Padmanabhan the author of the latest book Transactions of Belonging by Leadstart.
Jaya Padmanabhan has worked as a Copywriter, Sales Manager, Collections Agent, Software Engineer and Television Producer before emerging as a writer. She believes that her previous jobs distinctly inhabit her work.
She has won three Katha Short Story Contest titles, the Lorian Hemingway Short Story recognition and the New America Media award for feature reporting. She lives in California with her husband, mother, twin girls and a Golden doodle. She is the editor of India Currents magazine.

The blurb of her story reads:

The short stories in the collection blend emotion and introspection. Moments of urgency and sweetness are fully canvassed and explored. The stories draw out and examine the texture of emotional belonging. In "His Curls," a mother suffers the anguish of wondering if her son is a terrorist. The ending is left to interpretation and several possibilities. The reader is forced to teeter between laughter and sadness in the tragicomedy of "An Indian Summer." "The Blue Arc" is a redemptive tale of a young woman who shows enormous courage. Each story in the collection is a journey of insights. Transactions of Belonging is a unique, intense and gripping work of short fiction.
"In this debut collection, Jaya Padmanabhan has brought together a diverse and memorable group of characters from many kinds of backgrounds. With meticulous details and keen observation, she brings them to life and makes us care about them-their poverty, their loneliness, their tragedies and their triumphs."-CHITRA DIVAKARUNI, author of The Mistress of Spices and Oleander Girl.
Source: Google Images
In conversation with her:
1. Firstly a huge thanks for your time today. It is a pleasure having you here. Transactions of Belonging – has a very unique feel to it. It talks about so many things in those few words intriguing a reader. Can you tell us something about how it all came into being?

Thank you for reaching out to me and thank you for reading Transactions of Belonging. The first story I wrote was “His Curls.” This is a chilling tale of a mother who suspects her son of being a terrorist. That was the original plot. However, as I began to write, the story assumed different inflections. It could be the sad story of a mother who suspects her son; or it could be the depressing tale of a boy who is subject to his mother’s premonitions; or it could be a combination of both scenarios. The ending to the story is left to the reader's interpretation and can be framed depending on the plot strand that is chosen. The process of creating this narrative arc within tightly contained borders was exhilarating. This one story led me to all the others.

2. Any specific reason you wanted it to be a collection of short stories instead of one full fledged novel.

Great question! The short story is an immensely challenging genre. Within a few pages, characters, plot, movement and pacing have to be drawn and executed. It requires a tight control of language. There is little room for indulging in lengthy descriptions unless these descriptions move the plot in well-defined ways. I find writing a short story much like a rapid chess game: exciting till the bitter end. This collection evolved because of the different characters and stories that reside in my head. They all needed a voice and I felt compelled to give them one.

3. How has been your experience about getting published in today’s times?

I have no means of comparing, since this is my first book. However, I am particularly gratified by the lack of stress in the process. I think the internet/social media age has given wings to the business of publishing. It is no longer a local or regional phenomenon. Books can be released globally from a local region. So here I am, residing in California, releasing a book in India, and giving interviews to local publications like Palo Alto Online as well as a blogger in Mumbai!

4. Donning various hats like that of Copywriter, Sales Manager, Collections Agent, Software Engineer , Television Producer and now a writer – how does it feel juggling between all of them? Which one role is the closest to your heart?

It was a progression of jobs, one after another. The only job I’ve had to juggle is motherhood—probably the biggest and most challenging of all and one that doesn’t pay in any currency other than love and affection. Writing, needless to say, is very close to my heart. I live and love the characters I develop. I think about these people while in the shower, while cutting vegetables, while waiting outside the ballet studio, while on the treadmill, while arguing with my teenage children, while driving to work, while reading the morning editorials ... My own life gives these characters nuance. And writing fulfills me.

5. From the blurb and teasers I see a lot of stories having women playing a pivotal role in the stories. Any specific reason behind it?

I have always found movies, television episodes, plays, stories and novels without strong feminine characters or with no female roles rather difficult to absorb. We all have women in our lives, so how is it possible to eliminate one half of mankind? Yes, women play pivotal roles in the stories. Some more than others. In the first story, “The Fly Swatter,” the woman leaves little notes “banal phrases,” that predict and drive the plot. She becomes the unseen power behind the farce. I have explored different facets of feminine influence in this collection.
6. One word that defines Jaya Padmanabhan the professional precisely.


7. Being a mother, a wife, a daughter – how easy / difficult it is to keep the personal emotions at bay while writing about things which are actually very close to the heart.

I feel that it’s okay to allow personal emotions to seep into my work. The emotions I feel are defined by my circumstances. It’s difficult to divorce either the circumstance or the emotion from my writing. Fiction is, after all, limited by imagination and imagination is coloured by experience, so therefore fiction must be informed by personal experience. Maybe not the plot, or the characters, but some of the details fleshing out the interior journeys. So yes, as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter I exist in my characters.

8. Any writing tips or personal experiences you would like to share with us.

Writing is a job like any other, and requires discipline. And of course, my writing is only as rich as my reading. So I make it a point to read as much or more than I write.

9. We would love to know your future projects or any other books you might be working on currently.

I’m working on a novel called The Eleventh Letter at the moment. The novel is based in Kerala and pivots on an historical event that took place in the 1930s.

10. One message that you would like to give to your readers and all those aspiring authors who dream of being HERE someday, having the title of author associated with their name.

I think self-doubt has served me well in my writing. I'm always worrying about a turn of phrase, the depth of an emotion, an interpretation and because of this obsessiveness, I feel I've grown and progressed with my writing. I know I'm not above mistakes and that knowledge keeps me grounded.
A huge thank you for sparing some of your precious time to be with here today, we would like to wish you all the best for all your future endeavours.

Thank you for reading my work and thank you for thinking about these questions.