London-based author Laxmi Hariharan talks to Verve about her writing, inspirations and her second book The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer
After being in marketing for over two decades, what inspired you to write?
I have been writing since I was five. New experiences, cultures and travelling are what fascinated me early on; so I lived and worked in a few countries. The turning point was having a bad miscarriage a few years ago when I almost died. I had the possibility of new life and this time I had to use the time wisely. So I stopped running and started writing. I launched The Destiny of Shaitan in 2012, an epic fantasy novel that won gold at the global eLit awards.
Why describe yourself as a young adult, old soul?
The hero of my story is always a 17-year-old girl on the brink of adulthood. She is very confused inside, not wanting to grow up and face the world. When I dip inside me, I am always transported to the tumult of being a young girl on the brink of coming of age in an unforgiving society. Yet, in my head I have always been someone who separates the right from wrong very clearly. My sense of that which is true has always been clear. Hence that is how I write — a young adult, old soul.
How much of your writing derives from your Persona?
I always start with something I saw or heard — something that came across my path but stayed with me, because it touched something inside me. Often there are these fragments of life, which lodge themselves in me and never shake free. That is my starting point. And then I build on that, exaggerate, fictionalise, drawing further from experience and finally imagination takes over completely and it is transformed to something which even I can’t believe came from me.
The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer is focussed on Bombay. What made you choose Bombay as the centre of your work?
No one is more surprised than me. I have a love-hate relationship with Bombay. And it is Bombay for me not Mumbai, which is apt for I am creating stories in a fictional city, one that does not exist anymore. I am fascinated by the image of a futuristic Bombay – a dystopian Bombay. In the west dystopia is the future. But in Bombay, dystopia is today. What better setting for a conflicted Ruby Iyer, than the conflicting canvas of Bombay? A tough, urban, unforgiving city, which fills you with enough angst to last you many lifetimes?
Is there a discipline you follow when you write?
I see writing as the red thread that has run through my life. I try to imagine that regardless of all the ups and downs in my life, as long as I can be back at my desk at night and write a few words every day everything will be all right. Doesn’t matter what happens this will still be there?
How do you ensure a connect with Gen Next through your works?
Well I tend to write fast-paced, thrilling novels. My characters are conflicted inside, and manifest this by making wrong decisions at breakneck speed and then everything goes wrong. I am under no illusions that Ruby Iyer has to hold her own in a cacophony of noise pollution. I have tried to make her leap out of the pages; so once the reader has entered her mind they can’t let go, until they have reached the last climactic, cliff hanger.
I am working on The Second Life of Ruby Iyer, the sequel to The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer and a novella for Vikram Roy — Ruby’s sexy, mysterious cop, so he can tell his side of the story.