This post was originally published on Daryl Rothman’s blog. Daryl is one of those generous people on Twitter, who very soon became a friend. His own fantasy novel for young adults,The Awakening of David Rose, is available here. I really enjoyed this interview. Sometimes you need the right question to make you stumble into new thoughts.
1. I’ve heard you talk a little about the inspiration for this novel, and it’s very compelling. What can you tell us about that moment in time, and how it became the genesis for your tale?
I’ve always been a daydreamer. There are some images I just can’t shake, and that’s when I know a story is worth telling. With All the Tomorrows, there was one scene I could vividly see, as if it were already on film: a filthy, older, Indian man, pressed up against a window. He was sad, and not a threat. I wanted to know more about him. What brings someone to spy on a family? Could there ever be a reason to act that way? Could you feel sympathy for someone who other people might class as a monster? Could a man like that find his way back into being a functioning member of society? The novel grew from those questions.
2. Tell us about your publisher, how you connected with them, and some unique aspects of their approach.
Evolved Publishing is a small, hybrid US press. When I finished writing All the Tomorrows I looked around for which publishing house might be the right fit for me. I was keen to sign quickly if I could, to keep my momentum going, to carry on learning about the industry. I really wanted to find the right person to trust my manuscript to so I could keep on creating. I knew a couple of authors at EP, and they encouraged me to submit. They were kind enough to share their experiences with me, and it seemed a great fit. The team at EP is very passionate and collaborative. I get more of a say in final decisions than I would at other houses. I was thrilled to get an offer. The CEO puts a lot of focus into editorial quality, and I loved the fact that I was signed for three books, so they are investing in me as an author long-term. I couldn’t have been luckier with my editor and cover artist. I’m so proud of the book we have created together.
3. People sometimes fret that a literary novel can’t include a riveting plot, or a thriller doesn’t allow for deep characterization. But early praise for All the Tomorrows suggests your literary novel has pulled off both–tell us how.
This is such an interesting question! Most people so far have said that the novel is an easy read, and in some ways that surprises me, as it raises some challenging themes. I want it to challenge perceptions, certainly. I think my style has been influenced by critique groups I have been a part of, in which authors have written a cross-section of work. I often trade feedback with fantasy, thriller or romance authors, for example, and these wonderful authors have influenced me. I live in fear that mine will be one of those books readers drift away from. That was not something I wanted. I wanted it to be a book people devour, as there are so many other forms of entertainment to compete with. So I wrote chapter endings that often have a small reveal. My editor helped me to make the most of small moments to keep the reader turning the page.
4. What were the most rewarding, challenging, and surprising aspects of writing this novel?
I’ve wanted to write a novel for years. I started many. What surprised me is the persistence it takes to finish a story. I underestimated the grit it takes. There’s always this fear at the back of your mind, that you eventually learn to ignore. It’s like a little woodpecker: you’re not good enough, no-one is going to read this, why are you wasting your time? Eventually you realise that every creative leap is an act of faith, and you find little tricks to keep on chipping away at your creativity until it becomes a swell. I also found it surprising how awkward it is for some people to engage with a first-time novelist. They have no way of knowing if you are talented, and after a while I wonder if they might think you’re a bit deluded. It’s not like baking a cake. There’s no immediate taste test. So for both readers and the novelist, this sort of work is a test of patience!
5. Your story’s setting is vivid and distinct: what can you tell us about the research that went into it?
All the Tomorrows is set in Mumbai. I wanted a culture that suited my themes of gender and traditions, but one I was at least half-way familiar with. I’m Indian, although I was born in the UK. I know lots about Indian culture, and I loved the opportunities the setting brought to the story: the colour, the food and traditions. I’ve visited India twice, once as a child and once in my early twenties. My recollections are broad brush strokes: the smell of street food, the sticky heat, the palaces in Jaipur, child beggars pressed against cool taxi windows. For details I turned to travel guides and photo books. Friends sent me pictures of their own travels there. I watched Bollywood movies to drink up the setting. The geography was a bit more difficult. I used Google Maps for the layout of Mumbai, and picked beta-readers who would be able to alert me to any glaring errors, and guide me to make the setting a bit more authentic. I hope I did it justice.
6. What projects are next for you?
I’m signed to Evolved Publishing for three literary fiction novels. My pace for novels tends to be about one a year. My next novel, Hidden Colours, tells the story of an acrobat and a journalist in Berlin. It’s about grief and chance, and about race and fixed viewpoints. I usually try and write for a couple of anthologies a year, but with three small children life gets really busy, and the novel has to be my focus. I’m itching to get to that place in the process when the connections all start fizzing, and you just pour it out onto the page and hope that the magic will somehow happen. I hope you’ll read All the Tomorrows, and be back for more when novel two is ready.
“Make no mistake: while All the Tomorrows is character driven, those who enjoy a good plot will not be disappointed… This is superb writing.” ~ Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews
You can get your copy of All the Tomorrows (available in both e-book and paperback) here.
To celebrate the release of Nillu’s novel, newsletter subscribers will receive a multi-author e-book bundle of fiction about contemporary women, but hurry, as it is only available until November 13.