After reviewing Urmilla Deshpande’s second novel Kashmir Blues we were curious to hear more from the author. Although busy writing her third novel and a book of short fiction at her Tallahassee, Florida home she found time to answer few questions for Curious Book Fans.
Urmilla Deshpande: I didn’t suddenly decide on “Kashmir” as the setting. This book was written in 2003-2004, not recently. I was interested in individuals who decide to stand against a power much greater than themselves, such as a government. I didn’t know much about it. The other thing I would like to say is that no matter how closely fiction is based on, or resembles reality or the real world, it is fiction. The Kashmir in my book is no more real, I think, than is the Alexandria in Durrell’s quartet or the London that Sherlock Holmes lives in.
CBF: The theme of wealth for protection is unusual. How did you happen to decide on that?
Urmilla Deshpande: Wealth, power, and distribution of resources is how the world works. Most rebellion takes place where there is an unequal or inequitable of resources. Anywhere in the world, the group with the most wealth has the most protection. I don’t know if it is an unusual theme for a novel – I don’t think it is – but it is certainly not an unusual theme in the scheme of things!
CBF: As most writers are asked, are any of the characters in Kashmir Blues based on people you know?
Urmilla Deshpande: Every character is based on people I know, or have read about, or have encountered in life, movies, even heard about. Most are composites of all these, and myself too. Leon is the one I identify with most. Naia, slightly aloof, impenetrable, a catalyst more than a doer, came out just right for me. Many readers complained that she was a “cold, unlikable protagonist” – but that’s how she is, cold and unlikable. And I don’t think the book has a single protagonist. But she represents many people I have known, and found hard to reach, or just plain disliked.
CBF: What inspires you most when you start to write? Is it a person, a newsflash? What?
Urmilla Deshpande: Hard to answer this question. I think all through life we watch and absorb and think and react – and all of that comes into a book as it gets written. Usually I start a book because of a feeling I have. I’ve written just two, and the starting points for both were quite different. The first – Kashmir Blues – I just wanted to tell a story. The second, A Pack of Lies, had a lot of my own experiences as a starting point. The next book I’m working on is almost a challenge from my editor – she wanted me to edit an anthology of erotic short stories – and I said, after hearing what editing meant, “seems easier to write it myself” – and she said I should! I have just finished editing a book of anecdotes from the students of IIT Bombay about their life there in the ’80s – and am starting on the short stories. It’s not easy… but I am enjoying the work. And, I have to deliver the manuscript by the 30th of November.
CBF: Who are your favourite authors?
Urmilla Deshpande: The list is long, I’ll make it short – Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, Borges, Marquez, Jane Austen, Steinbeck, Asimov, Lawrence Durrell, and – did I mention – Jane Austen!
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