My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.
"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times
"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine
"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll
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19 March 2008
We remove the shroud of mystery and actually talk about work type things
So, today, I thought I'd talk about the book a little bit. I've had some emails and some comments asking about how it happened and so on, and besides now that it's almost here, I feel READY to talk about it.
Back in 2005, a publisher approached me saying she had read my blog and would I be interested in writing? I have been writing, you must know, since I COULD write, so yeah, the story for the book was something I had been toying with since college. Growing up in urban India, being young in a world that seems so international and yet, at the heart of it is so traditional too. I wanted to talk about the India that generally doesn't get talked about, away from mango pickle and elephants and arranged marriages. But at the time I only knew vaguely what I wanted the actual story to be, so I said, "Okay, let me get some of it done, see if I can actually make a commitment to writing a book and get back to you.' I took two weeks off at the end of 2005, spent the entire day in front of my computer, not leaving the house at all, and I got a fair chunk done. Things were falling into place. I had a main character I liked very much, her world, her history, her friends all got done quite easily and in January 2006, I signed with Penguin.
I didn't even have a title. The word file was called terra firma, but obviously, I couldn't call my book that. I was toying with You Should've Been There when one day I was at Shakti's house, eating cheese toast and I told her and her husband about it and she thought a little and said, "How about You Are Here?" And I loved it. I also love the fact that Shakti is so in my book, as in, she is tied up completely with my memory of how I got the title and it makes me feel a little bit as though it's a tribute. I wish she could've been here to see how everything turned out.
The second half of the book took a lot longer. I didn't have my own laptop in those days, and I was living with Small so I didn't go home often enough to write regularly. I had my cousin's ancient laptop and I got two chapters done on that and it crashed. Note to self: always make back-up copies. My parents gave me a laptop a little later, the pride and joy of my life (and tc's, he loves to walk across the keyboard right before I've saved anything. I swear, he recognises ctrl + s) and I recreated the two chapters I had lost, plus a good chunk of the rest of the book. It took me about a year, and I only had the time to work really late at night, say 1 am to 4 am. I was an insomniac so it worked out for me. A lot of the book reads like that, like it's a conversation people are having in the middle of the night, where your voice is husky from talking so much but you keep talking and talking and talking anyway, because you feel so intimate about the person you're with.
After the book was FINALLY done, right before I moved to Bombay, I was given a huge set of edits. I printed out the first lot and carried it around with me on the train and while I was waiting for people and just worked with a pen, till it was over. That was fun. I liked to see how a formless (well, kinda formless) mass of words took on structure and narrative and a linear storyline. I tended to write all over the place and some of my favourite parts were a little confusing because the reader couldn't easily make the jump between one paragraph and the next.
That wasn't the only round of edits though. It was only the basic one, inserting and deleting things. I got a much more detailed set in January, which dealt with the little things. Make the character go to the bathroom, for instance, when she has a conversation outside the loo. Add a chapter. Stuff like that.
Edits, I don't mind telling you, are a pain in the ass. After a while you get so bored of reading the same thing over and over and OVER again, that you never want to see it anymore. I just want it out now! I'm horribly procrastinatory over chores I'm not very fond of so I just looked at them and sighed and did other things for a bit till I absolutely could not put it off anymore.
And FINALLY they're done and finally it's out of my hands (I hope) and finally I can begin to attempt to write book two. Which will also be fabulous and I'm super excited about it. I love to write. I'm happiest when I write, it's like praying for me. When I write, I'm like a different person, the kind of person I'd like to be. It may not be excellent writing, but I love doing it.