Women in the Arts Interview.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, poet and author, talks to TC's Anjana Nagarajan about her new book, her personal brand, the business of writing and her definition of success.
"Before we visit the Goddess"
It’s a three generational story about mothers and daughters. The grandmother Sabitri lives in India. The daughter Bela comes to America under mysterious circumstances and the granddaughter Tara lives over here all her life and what happens is that there is a lot of conflicts between them and it is also a story about heritage and about women searching for the answer to the question “what makes a women successful?”
Finding new angles to stories
I try to keep reading and new books inspire me. I read new authors all the time, especially really good authors, prize winning authors and try to see what they have done that is original and with each book, I set myself a new challenge. So, for instance ‘Before we visit the Goddess’ is a novel in stories and that is a form I have never used before.
Getting published takes time
Yes, it was very hard to break in. I wrote for years before I got anything published. I got lots of rejection notes. So you know, slowly as I wrote and revised, I got better and then I began to publish, first in magazines, then poetry books and then fiction.
When I became a writer
I only started writing some years after I immigrated to the United States. So, in some ways immigration made me into a writer. It gave me a desire to tell my story and the stories of women like me. It also gave me the need to look back at India and write about it.
What success means to me
That is a complex question. I think it changes all the time. Right now in my life, I think success means being a good person in the world. Changing the world in some way that is positive and not having to depend on anyone to do so.
The business of being a writer
I just focus on writing the books. I really haven’t had much to do with the movies. In fact, the movie directors have always approached me; directors and producers and they have just taken it and written the script and produced the movie. I’m there for consultation but I don’t do anything in order to try and get movies made out of my books and I don’t interfere in their process either. I’m delighted when they are making movies but really, I think it is a lot of other forces coming together.
The key to success
I think a lot of it is truly God’s grace and the support of my family and friends. Beyond that, I think it’s hard work and just sticking with it. Just staying with it and not giving up and not kind of finishing too soon; like editing, revising and you know, not being satisfied with second best. That is really important to me as a writer.
How do you promote Brand Chitra?
I don’t know. I have a website, I have a blog. I do manage my website myself. And because I am very, not tech savvy, I am so proud of this that I manage my website myself. And then you know, with Facebook, it’s just a wonderful way to connect to readers and I do love connecting with my readers. I am interested in what they have to say. I learn things from their feedback that they give me. Twitter is just fun. I write about literature, I tweet quotes that I love. I put up funny cartoons about writing. Its just a way of expressing what it means to a writer; the very, many levels. So, I am just happy that so many people follow me.
What is Brand Chitra?
I haven’t given it much thought. I’m just being my own self. I think it is very important to be a genuine person and like I said, a person who is looking at the world, not in terms of what can I get out of this but, what can I do to make things a little better. And my books are a gift to the world. They are the best part of myself and I want to share them with people. Books have transformed my life. I believe that books have the power to transform lives and I hope that my books transform some lives.