Tiger and Vineetha Mokkil – A Happy Place and other stories

Her new book is called A Happy Place and other Stories and is published by Harper Collins. With closer to life characters who respond naturally, more lively and realistic, Vineetha Mokkil is a charm to read. This is what happened when Vineetha talked to Tiger as a part of our author interviews where we catch up with famous authors and their books. Read on…

Hello Vineetha! Welcome to Talk to Tiger. Are you ready?
Hello Tiger. Thank you for the call. I am ready.

Tell me about your childhood, parents… where were you born?
I did my schooling in Calicut, a seaside town in northern Kerala. Lonely Planet will tell you that the last exciting event that happened there was the arrival of Vasco da Gama back in 1498. This is mostly true. The rhythm of life was – and continues to be – quite laidback there, so my childhood too followed that pattern. I belong to a family of academics so schoolwork and studies were supposed to be the most important part of our lives. I did manage to find time to read books that were not part of the curriculum though — novels, stories, magazines — anything I could lay my hands on. Give me a story and I’d turn into a happy, happy child.

What and where did you study? What were your dreams like when you were a kid?
I completed my BA English Literature and MA in Humanities from New York University. I always dreamt of being a writer. The world seemed to be bursting at the seams with stories and I wanted to tell them my way, in my own words. I loved music and cinema too because they could tell stories in such magical, moving ways.

Can you tell us something about your new book – A Happy Place?
The stories in “A Happy Place” were written over the course of about two years. A conversation with a friend or a stranger, a small item in a newspaper, a seemingly random event in everyday life — all of it worked as inspiration. The city I live in — Delhi; the places I’ve spent quality time in — New York, Kashmir, Barcelona, affect me. Their stories seep into me without asking for permission.

How did you come with the title – A Happy Place?

“A Happy Place and Other Stories”. There is a story titled “A Happy Place” in this collection which was first published in the Santa Fe Writers Project Journal, an excellent literary magazine. I began to seriously think about putting together a short story collection after this story was accepted by the journal. Also, this title captures the mood of the collection perfectly. No matter where we live or who we are, aren’t we all desperately on the lookout for an ideal “Happy Place?”

How are these stories different? What can the readers expect?
This collection of stories are rooted in urban life. Many of the things that happen to the characters in their daily lives have happened to the reader as well. In that sense, the reader will find it easy to identify with the characters. At the same time, the stories have quirky twists and an element of surprise to them, which you only find in a fictional world. So the reader can expect to be entertained as well as to take a closer look at the complicated reality of life in our time.

I have to agree with you that most of the things in our lives are complicated. How is the book doing? 
A Happy Place (Harper Collins) has just reached bookstores and online sites. So I’m not sure what the sales figures are yet. I am hoping that the book will appeal to a wide range of readers. And that all of them will pick up a copy of their own!

How is the response to the story? Any fan mails yet?

The first critical review of A Happy Place has just been published in Kitaab, a journal that focuses on south Asian writers. The reviewer says that the characters are fleshed out well, the plots are convincing, and that each story offers a kind of hope. I am very happy to hear that.

What are your future plans? What are you exploring?
I am currently working on a novel which I hope to complete this year. Ideally I would like to devote all my time to writing — so I’m hoping to find a fellowship which will let me pay my bills while I slave away at my laptop on a manuscript. I would also like to travel a lot more, go around the globe in the next five years.

Can you tell us about your family? What kind of support you get from your family/friends?
My sister who is an academic is patient enough to read everything I write.  My aunt is a great storyteller and the stories she shared with me are a wonderful childhood memory. My parents and uncles have found their own ways of making their peace with –my often unconventional–writing life. I have a great bunch of friends who are family to me. I can’t imagine life without their love and unconditional support.

How do you get over the writer’s block if you ever experience it? Any message for aspiring writers? 
Keep writing. The world isn’t going to create perfect conditions for you. The trick is to keep on trying, every day.

Do you have a favourite author? What do you love to read?
The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje. This is the perfectly written novel if there ever was one. I never tire of reading it.

Thank you Vineetha for your time! Good luck with the Happy Place. Waiting for the new book. Cheers!

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