It’s my pleasure to introduce a new Insignia Stories contributor, Amrita Valan. Amrita will have 3 drabbles featured in the upcoming Mythical Creatures of Asia anthology.
She tells us all about herself and her writing interests in this 25-question interview. Enjoy!
- Author Name/s: Amrita Valan
- Years active as a writer: I have written poems since age seven. During school and college days an international print journal called The Writer’s Forum published a few of my poems. The highlight of those early years was a poem called ‘Sorry’, which was printed in our colony’s ladies’ club magazine when I was in grade 8. This earned me the praise of an English teacher at my school who was also a neighbor and instilled confidence in me. I have had an active online presence on social media poetry groups since 2014. So roughly seven years. Around October 2020 during the covid 19 lockdown phase, I decided to try getting published.
- What genre/s you write:
I would say I write on compartmentalized genres and a criss cross of genres. Memoirs, short vignettes, quasi humorous, emotional, or blending the two. I am currently attempting science fiction with a speculative element. I have dipped my toes in suspense as well, with short flash fiction pieces, like ‘To Share is to Care” or ‘Invisible’, both printed in Café Lit. But I am inclined towards a fluidity of genres, interstitial fiction. Lyrical poems, if on romantic or heroic themes, but free verse for slices of life.
- Favorite genre to write: Free verse poems on the range of human emotions. Stream of consciousness with craft which comes instinctively, to fit the poem’s mood not an add on. Enjambments might occur naturally, words with literary, biblical, mythological or scientific allusions, word play, not to sound clever. The poem must be utterly truthful and honest.
- Favorite length of story to write: I have written stories ranging from 50 words to 4000 words. Generally, 2000 word is the upper limit I am comfortable with so far.
- Your nationality: I am Indian.
- Country you live in: I live in India.
- Number of Asian countries visited: I have never been outside of India. Except for a couple of hurried day trips to Bhutan and Nepal.
- Favorite Asian country (visited): I have no firsthand experience. Japan fascinates me, but only as an armchair traveler reading about the elaborate green tea ceremonies, the graceful kimono, the unhurried soothing culture.
- Favorite place in Asia (visited): In my own country, the hill stations of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Ranikhet. The splendid sea beaches of Mumbai, Juhu beach, Marve beach, Marina Beach in Chennai, Digha and Puri in West Bengal.
- Place (city or country) you most want to visit in Asia: If I could, I would love to visit both Singapore and Japan.
- Favorite Asian cuisine: East Indian Bengali cuisine. Not because it is the best, but it is what I grew up on.
- Favorite Asian dish: Dry spicy Hakka Noodles accompanied by anything cooked in sweet and sour sauce, be it prawns, chicken or fish.
- Favorite Asian movie (any genre): I have no favorites. But I was spellbound by Akiro Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood. And a Hindi movie called Darmiyaan, on transgender people.
- Favorite Asian book (any genre): I haven’t read enough Asian authors from all countries; my knowledge is shamefully limited to Indian writers in English. A Sin of Colours and Memories of Rain by Sunetra Gupta is my first choice. Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake made me relate to Indian English writings. I was fascinated by Salman Rushdie’s Shame and Midnight’s Children, Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel and moved to tears by Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan.
- Favorite Asian celebrity: The Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan. I can’t explain this one.
- Best thing about being a writer: I can let it all out. Be myself, to myself. And if I work really hard, then also to my readers.
- Worst thing about being a writer: Over thinking instead of living life. Seeing everything as a plot, or message. Instead of just really living!
- Day writer or night writer: Both.
- Drink and snack of choice (while writing): coffee! I don’t eat while writing. But a sandwich break is always good.
- Number of short stories/poems submitted each month (av): When I wasn’t trying to be published, but just contributing to social media groups, I could submit a poem almost daily. Now however, I write, rewrite, sleep on it and send maybe half a dozen a month. I am new to this, so I am still trying to get my nonliterary life organized, my children’s education, household duties and so on. I am planning to improve my output.
- I dream to be published with/in (publisher/publication): I am blushing. Will it happen in this lifetime? A short love story in the NY Times.
- Most active on (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram): Facebook
- Self-published, traditionally published, or both: I have no published book of my own yet, though my poems are out in about a dozen anthologies and perhaps twenty or more online journals so far.
- Currently working on: I am building up a collection of short stories, which are centered around my years of growing up in a residential colony of a British multinational, With the influence of a brilliant affectionate mother who was also gravely ill, and later on my experiences as I travelled within India, following my job, and my husband, finally as a housewife and stay at home mom to two boys. My birthday is on the 17th and quirkily, I want to write 17 short stories on my life.
A writer from India and mother of two boys, Amrita Valan loves dabbling into the folklore and mythology of her rich culture and traditions. She has been published in several online journals and anthologies, under this name.
Twitter : @amritavalan
Read some of the Mythical Creatures drabbles published online here.
Read more Author Spotlight interviews here.