Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Date of Publication: May 1, 2014
Number of pages: 224
After Indian Independence Arjun brings his family to London, but hopes of a better life rapidly dissipate. His wife Sunila spends all day longing for a nice tea service, his son suddenly hates anything Indian, and his daughter, well, that’s a whole other problem. As he struggles to enforce the values he grew up with, his family eagerly embraces the new. But when Arjun’s right leg suddenly fails him, his sense of imbalance is more than external. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, he is forced to question his youthful impatience and careless cruelty to his family, until he learns, ultimately, to love them despite — or because of — their flaws. In a series of tender and touching glimpses into the shared life of a married couple, Sandra Hunter creates strikingly sympathetic characters — ones that remind us of our own shortfalls, successes, hypocrisies, and humanity.
Sometimes she goes to stand at the bottom of the garden, pretending to tidy up the compost heap, and allows the forbidden thought to come: divorce.
She can only whisper it. It’s a bad word. Bad people do it. But in the Woman’s Own magazine at the doctor’s office, she read that Elizabeth Taylor had done it. She’d done it so many times that it was just part of her normal routine. Get up, put on face cream, divorce Richard. How daring it sounds, so chic. Sunila practices. Get up, put on Johnson’s Baby Lotion, divorce Arjun. I’ll just divorce him and he can take his disapproving face and jump in the lake.
Today, we welcome Sandra Hunter to Musings and Ramblings. Let's all give a big Geeky welcome!
Let's start with some writer specific questions before moving into the fun stuff. That way everyone can really get to know the person behind the writer. We will finish things off with a round of Think Fast. Ready for the interrogation to begin?
1. Is your writing style more plotter or pantser?
As a short-story writer, I was a die-hard pantser. But writing a novel taught me that it’s too much to juggle characters, plot, and themes. Enter the story board. Yup. I can claim I’m a born-again story-boarder (pic below). Confession: I’m still a pantser when it comes to short fiction.
2. When is your favorite time/place to write? Do you write structured or patchworked?
5am-7am. Evil time to get up but that’s when the house is quiet. I only have one child but once she’s up, she’s up. This brings me to something else: women writers. They take care of children, hold down jobs AND they write. I have several friends who have children – plural -- and they’re plonked in front of the lap top/desk top at 11pm or 4am, the graveyard shift, blogging or writing poetry. It’s true for me: the less time I have, the more organized I get about writing.
Patchwork: I patchwork away during the first draft. I’m not linear at all. Bits come to me and I stick them down in any order.
Structured: I’m virtually OCD with structure during rewriting. Once the draft chapter or short story is birthed and bleeding on the page, I go back umpteen times and structure the pants off it.
4. How do you deal with Writer's Block?
Eating chocolate and binge-watching on Netflix. I watched two seasons of “Orange Is The New Black” in 3 days. But seriously, folks: having more than one thing going helps with potential blocks. If I’m writing short fiction I usually have two stories going. If I hit a wall with one, I switch to the other. With a novel, I switch between chapters if I’m really stuck somewhere. Having the storyboard helps. A lot.
Pretty and functional!
5. Tell us something about yourself that's not in your bio.
I’m a gluten-free cupcake fiend. Also – and entirely unrelated -- I know how to kill a chicken, pluck it, and remove the entrails. It makes for excellent writing material.
These are amazing gluten free cupcakes from Healdsburg. If only they could FedEx them …
6. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Binge-watch Netflix. And I also make photo/text art. That is, I take close-up pics of ice/snow/water and layer poetic text over the top. During the winters, I head off to icy places (Canada, Montana, Vermont) to take pics. This year I’ll be up in Calgary, at Banff on a writer’s residency. Currently I’m working on a series with x-rays in response to the rape crisis in India. I’m currently searching for more x-rays!
This is an example of the photo/text pics. This one was exhibited at the 2014 Dublin Biennial.
1. What was the last movie/concert/show that you saw?
Catfight at Zombie Joe’s Underground in North Hollywood, directed by Vanessa Cate. It was a collection of poems, songs, dances, and celebrations about the feminine experience. Standouts: (a) a pole dancer. I had no idea how athletic pole dancing could be. This woman blew us away with her strength and grace. (b) A monologue on being transgender. This was funny, thoughtful and incredibly moving. (c) A piece about partner abuse. A woman stood with her back to the audience and started singing “I will follow him”. When she turned around her face was covered in bruises. Just about everyone in the audience gasped. By the time she finished just about all of us were weeping. This was one of those shows where you laughed, cried and stamped your feet while you clapped. There should be more theatre like this.
2. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
To go without sleep so I could get more done. Maybe Super-Awake Mom? I’ll have to design a t-shirt for that one.
3. Tell us 2 positive and 2 negative character traits you possess.
Positive: I’m usually cheerful, one of those see-the-bright-side people. I’m also hard working – when I get down to it.
Negative: I have to get down to it! If I can find an easy way to avoid cooking, I will. I’d rather eat Ramen than cook. But when I do eventually drag the recipe book out, I can make a mean eggplant parmesan. So, I tend to drag my feet but when I’m faced with a deadline, I can leap into action.
4. If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, fictional or real, who would it be and why?
Mary Kingsley. Was she the ultimate independent Victorian woman or what? Striding off to explore West Africa in her bustle and corsets, and armed with an umbrella which she once used to beat off an enraged hippo! She didn’t even think about herself as a trail-blazer. Modest, home-educated and cloistered – she spent her youth taking care of her father – it must have taken a huge amount of courage to pack her bag and head off to Sierra Leone, the Gabon and Cameroon.
5. If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
Short, Brown, And Kind Of British. I suggested this to my publisher as a title for Losing Touch but it didn’t quite fit the book. I do think it fits me, though.
1. Elvis or Sinatra? Elvis. But if Jeff Buckley had been an option, I’d have been all over that.
2. AM or PM? AM: I get droopy in the afternoon.
3. Meat or Veggies? Veggies. I do like meat occasionally, but I seem to get more energy from veggies.
4. Italian or Chinese? Indian! Duh!
5. Summer or Winter? Winter – very definitely Winter. So looking forward to seeing the snow in Calgary in January.
6. Coffee or Tea? Water. I love coffee but I react very strongly to caffeine. And I have cystic breasts. Is that too much information?
7. Cake or Pie? CAKE CAKE CAKE!
8. Car or Truck? Is golf cart an option?
9.Dead Tree or Electronic? Electronic. I love dead trees but I always feel guilty so I’m a Kindle freak now.
Thanks for coming by and spending some time with us. Any final words of wisdom to pass along?
To the writers out there: Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Find open mics. Find other writers. Find people to laugh hysterically with and cry into napkins with. Yes, there’s rejection and heartache out there, but believe in what you’re writing and believe someone is waiting to read it.
If anyone’s in the Westlake, CA area, I’m running a 6 month writing workshop, beginning in October, and we’ll have a session on How To Submit Work And Still Respect Yourself In The Morning.
To the readers: we love you. You’re the fresh-from-the-bread-machine soul of what we do. You are the buttered crumpets of our hearts. I’m hungry now, so I won’t make any more food comparisons. Just know that without you, there is no us.
Sandra will be awarding one randomly drawn winner: a luggage tag, mini book necklace and a $15 Starbucks GC.
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