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Raymond Carver and me

Suspend belief for a moment. Imagine Raymond Carver didn’t succumb to lung cancer in 1988 and is still walking and writing among us. He’d be ten days off turning 74 and likely would have continued to shape the modern short story, solidifying himself even further as one of last century’s most important writers. And now imagine, upon hearing about Sincere Forms of Flattery, he agreed to do an interview with Indian writer, Kailash Srinivasan, who idolises Carver and his creative genius and chose Carver as his author for SFOF. Imagine, imagine, imagine.

We think the interview would have done a little something like this…


I’m sitting on this yellow couch, in this otherwise sparse room, waiting for Raymond Carver, and frankly, hyperventilating. Then all of a sudden he walks in, like an elephant, unperturbed and towering over everything in the room, including me, in a flannel shirt and khakis. His feet are bare. I tell him almost immediately that he looks a bit like Sean Connery, and he says, “That’s nice, thank you.”

I feel like giggling and weeping at the same time. I can feel it rising up to my throat, like vomit, and if I don’t vocalise it, it will manifest itself in some way or the other, so I blurt it out.

Me: Will you please adopt me, please?

Carver: I have always been broke. I still am. Think about it.

Me: Please, please, please teach me how to write like you. Will you? Please say yes. Yes?

Carver: (Laughs) Why would you want that? I want you to write like you, not like me. Would you rather be known as Carver Junior or Kailash Srinivasan? I like your name. Sounds intellectual. Wish I had a name like that.

Me: Would you tell me what you think of this story I wrote?

Carver: (Puts his glasses on, glances through). Cut these words in the opening paragraph, these in the middle and at the end.

Me: But it’s only 1000 words long anyway. It’s down to five hundred now.

Carver: But now, it pierces the heart with more force.

Me: Do you think I should take to drinking, work crap jobs, become a young dad, and go broke to write better?

Carver: (Laughs, again) There were these long periods of time when I did not write any fiction. How I wish I had those years back now! If I hadn’t turned to the bottle in that time, I might’ve been richer, possibly, and might’ve had a much larger volume of work.

Me: Where do you get your stories from? From your own life?

Carver: None of my stories have actually happened, but there’s always something said to me, or that I heard or witnessed, which, if it stays with me, becomes a starting point for a story. Stories can’t come out of thin air, they’re mostly referential. Everything we write has a small part of us in it.

Me: I am only allowed to ask you five questions, so I’ll have to leave now. I don’t want to.

Carver: Well, you can always email them to me. You can, of course, hang around. I can make you a Tuna sandwich, if you like. I promise not to answer any more of your questions, but I will tell you a thing or two about writing short stories.

I fall at his feet, crying, “Yes, of course I will. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t. And thank you, thank you so much for talking to me.” Then we talked of the time when he published his first story, Pastoral, and how he and his wife had driven around town with the letter of acceptance in his hands. And how that letter had given their lives some much-needed validation.



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Title Wars: The Battle Between Publisher and Author Over a Title

How do authors settle on a title? Surely, it is not as difficult as facing the dreaded blank page. You have already made past the desert and have found the oasis. The manuscript, like a pimple, is ready for a home. Rather it already knows where it wants to go. If only one can decide upon a title.

I am no genius, unlike some authors, whose advice is to have a title first and then write the story. To me that sounds more like opening the parachute even before jumping off the plane. Why should I vote without knowing the candidates contesting in the elections? I need my story first.

So I have the story. Now what? Then my job is to identify the core theme of the story. Let’s say the story is about a spinster. The recurring theme could be her marriage. Now I try and figure out what is it that is holding it all together? Is it one special moment? Something that the protagonist says or feels or experiences? Or should I use a metaphoric title that represents the story in the best manner? And so on.

It certainly is not nuclear research, this title settling business. Mostly, it will be apparent, like indigestion. But with some pieces you will have to work a bit more to get there and occasionally, a short story or a novel will make you work the hardest that you ever have. Presently, I’m going through one of those “occasions”.

My second book is almost ready for release. It has already gone through several acid tests and from an original eighty-five thousand epic masterpiece, has sat on the gas long enough to boil down to a much muscular sixty-thousand words.But  the hardest part for me hasn’t been writing the book, for two reasons – one, I wrote this much quicker than I wrote my first. For the obvious reason that the former was a short story collection, while this is a novel. And secondly, the story almost wrote itself. The hardest part, in fact, has been deciding on a bloody title.

Why has it been so hard to decide on a title for this book? I have no clue. I know the story. I understand the characters. I bloody well wrote it. Just when I’d think, Ah, this is an appropriate title, my publisher gets back saying, I’m sorry. I don’t think this works. Look at this, instead. She and I have been going back and forth over this. She has been rejecting the ones I have been sending her and I have been discarding hers.

The other day she emailed me another suggestion for a title and seemed excited about it. She said the title was suitable because it highlighted the love interest of the protagonist and showed her importance in his life. Also, she said, the title was different and new. Though initially I was drawn to it, I didn’t act on that impulse straight away. I slept on it for two days. I asked around, checked with my friends and got a mixed response. One said it was interesting, the other said it was a run-of-the-mill title. I said the publisher thinks it was the most unconventional title ever, to which the friend said, As a reader I won’t be much intrigued. Someone said, Eeeks. And though they had no idea about what the book was about (partly because I haven’t revealed much), they vehemently commented on the choice of title.

The title is vital. It is the first thing that a reader lays his eyes on. Gives him a glimpse, if you will, a gist of the novel in one to four words. He will then look over the cover design. Then he will flip to the back page of the book, read the synopsis and if he likes that, he will arrive at the first page, but will carry on further only if you hold his interest in those first few lines. And so, the title attains a great importance.

The more I thought about her suggestion, the more I felt it was not for me, not for my book.  Two days later I told her I wasn’t comfortable with her title choice, and with that, I sent her another list of probable titles. In reply, she sent me a long e-mail explaining in great detail why she thought her title was better than all the ones I sent her. She even took the trouble to break the title in parts and explain the relevance of each part. She said, Trust me. People will pick up your book. She said, I only have your best interests at heart.

In a way, it is quite heartening that she is taking such an interest in the project and not treating it like an oh-no-not-another-one. So much so that it almost feels like we are competing with each other and trying to vilify the other’s choice of titles. Why should she get to decide? As a publisher she has a say but shooting down all my ideas! Not cool.

I never expected so much discussion with her over this. I was gearing up for a grand battle when her edits had come in. But they were fine in a very anti-climax sort of way. They were aimed at enhancing the story. I didn’t have much to protest about. In fact it was her edits that transformed a Betty into a Beckett (From Castle, for the uninitiated).

So now I am gawking at this title and don’t know what to do. It seems okay but doesn’t seem okay. It looks like it is going down the chick-lit road, and that’s my biggest apprehension. I’m thinking of agreeing and also trying to come up with a few more titles of my own at the same time. But I am blank and freaking out. She said I had to reply ASAP as she was going to print a catalogue soon with all the forthcoming titles.

“Priya and Other Do-Withoutables” (Publisher’s idea). Go or No Go?

FYI, Priya is the love interest of the protagonist and though he feels she can be done without, it really isn’t so. So sort of an underhanded humour in the title.

Going with the title, Just Another Do-Withoutable

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Twelve Yarn Read

Indian writers who write in English have grown by leaps and bound. Added to this list is Pune-based Kailash Srinivasan who has come out with his first debut novel titled What Happened to that Love, a collection of 12 short stories which cover almost a range of human emotions and issues.

Set in India and Australia, the novel is a difficult genre, in Srinivasan’s words. A communications manager at an automotive design school, Srinivasan has completed his Masters in Creative Writing from Macquarie University, Sydney.

•   What made you write this book and how would you define it?

I have wanted to be a writer ever since I can remember. I tried to get over it, but the urge kept getting stronger with every passing year.

Finally, I went to Macquarie University, Sydney, to do a Masters in Creative Writing. I wrote a lot during this period, which in more ways than one, helped in shaping me as a writer. This short story collection was my thesis. I would describe the book as a collection of stories that explores life, death, love, ache, greed, hope, destiny, alienation, fallacies, and the nature of rural and urban life, and the changes that come to us all.

•   Is it fiction or partly based on your experiences?

Inspiration for most of the stories in the novel, just happened to come from the most unlikeliest sources. For example, there is a piece, Anytime Now, about an old couple. The story gives the readers a little glimpse into their life.

I happened to go for a stroll in Eastwood (where I was staying at the time), when from across the street I see an old man slumped on the ground. He was struggling to get to his feet. His wife was backing her car. She was about to hit him and I could see him panic a little bit. I bolted down the road and helped the man. The inspiration for Ganga, which deals with poverty came from a song I was listening to.

That line just struck a chord with me. Similarly, I was quite disturbed with reports of  farmers committing suicides. Giver of Feasts is about zamindari system. Then, at the time the media was rife with reports on attacks on Indian students Down Under. Brownies sprung out of that. So not much of a personal experience, but rather a moving encounter or a strong image or something I heard on a train or a bus that has been the origin for most of the stories in this book.

•   Any particular story which you have connected the most with.

I have enjoyed writing every piece in this book, but if I have to pick one, it would have to be Anytime Now.

•   What makes writing special for you?

Writing for me is therapeutic. It is liberating. I can be what I can’t be in real life. At times, I find things about myself through my writing.

•   Your take on the current breed of Indian writers in English…

There are some great books that are being written and then there are some atrocious ones. Some are selling millions of copies with absolutely no substance in their books and claim to be the voice of India. But in a way I don’t blame the so called “writers”, I blame those who buy such sub-standard, mediocre literature and read it.

•   What sort of responses are you expecting for your debut book?

I expect my work to engage people emotionally, intellectually.

•   Your favourite authors…

An incomplete list would be Junot Diaz, Raymond Carver, Chekhov, VS Naipaul, Salman Rushdie.



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First-time author Kailash Srinivasan talks about first book and his creative inspirations

with his first book

“THE only reason why I chose the jobs I work for is because they involve writing, which I feel is essential to my being.” Born in Delhi, but now based in Pune, 30year old author Kailash Srinivasan was in school when he started writing essays, letters and poems. But he became serious in 2006. “I felt the need to study creative writing, but there was no such university course being offered in India. Thus, I went to Macquarie University, Sydney, but I seriously started considering myself as an author when I won a Cambridge University Press prize in fiction,” he says. His collection of short stories called What Happened to that Love? was released recently in the city.

Writing is a hobby for Srinivasan. He works primarily as a communications manager in a city-based firm and doubles up as a freelance ad-man. His book has 12 short stories which are all, except for a couple that deal with an Australian context, based in India. They all also bear a similar theme, but Srinivasan denies it is by design. “When I started writing these stories, I was not looking at any particular issue. But as I went on, I discovered that I had written on what I felt needs to be addressed in human society. My stories deal with superstition, witch hunts, the zamindari system and racism. One of the tales, with an Australian backdrop, deals with the anguish an elderly couple faces when they are neglected by their children. I feel strongly that the independence enjoyed by the children in the Western world actually works against them in many ways,” he says.

As a newcomer on the literary scene, Srinivasan quotes a bias in favour Indian authors based in the West. “We tend to not appreciate our own authors as much, till we get a Western stamp of approval. There is a lot of talent in the country, but unfortunately it is only those based outside India who are considered good authors in English,” opines Srinivas. He attributes this attitude to a need to categorise. “When one or two fail to deliver from the country, a generalisation seeps in that creates a bias in the minds of publishers.”

Now working on a still-unnamed second book, Srinivasan, who cites Raymond Carver, Anton Chekhov and Ernest Hemingway as his inspirations, says that other forms of art help him remain creative. “I’m very passionate about music and acting; I sometimes act in plays in the city and am a trained vocalist. Being immersed in these arts helps me explore new themes as an author, and keeps my creative instincts ticking,” he smiles.

SOURCE: http://epaper.indianexpress.com/IE/IEH/2011/02/19/ArticleHtmls/19_02_2011_586_030.shtml?Mode=1


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Praise for “What Happened to That Love”


Review by Seema

Saw glimpses of mine in ‘My hand’. ‘My black and blue birthday’ brought tears to my eyes. Jake and Jim (in What happened to that love) really makes one think about human relationships and filled me with sadness. ‘Gilligilli-jillijilli’ and ‘The giver of  feasts’ sent a chill up my spine..eerie. ‘Gratitude’ was a bit melodramatic subject.. Gopal in ‘What do I do’ was a very good portrait, complete with minute observations and humor.

All in all i liked the stories. All the best for your next release.



Review by Pierre Beaudoin

I was pleased to read your book, in one single sitting. I found you have an active, succinct and direct style which helps move on the narrative (isn’t this what short stories are all about?) and is a perfect match to the short story form.
There is definitely quite a lot of material to draw from in the Indian culture, especially it facing modernization and the contradictions, and I am certain that Western readers would be thrilled to read more of your stories.

Best of Luck.


Review by ajay
the cover: brilliantly dark and intriguing.
the stories: deliciously dark. I am still smacking my lips. The synopsis and the cover is what got my attention. I am so, so glad I picked this up. Can’t wait to read your second book.

Wow. what beautiful writing.
Review by kala
I cried my eyes out after I read the first piece, Anytime Now. So moving, so nicely written. I love the way you write. Can’t wait to read the other stories in the collection. ; )


Review by swarita
engrossing…kept me hooked for as many dayz as it took to finish it..each story amazingly different n unpredictable. d only grumble- its a lil stark..a lil bleak. more happy endings plz!


An excellent read!

Review by Gopi
A fantastic effort. Surprised to see a first time author display such maturity in handling complex themes. A must read and a must have for every short story aficionado.

Go buy your copy today

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My First Book

Cover of my book

My short story collection is finally out.

All you folks out there who like to read quality fiction, check out my first book, a collection of short stories.

I can do with some support:D
You can go to any of these following links to buy your copy:




You should purchase my book: –  If you are an avid reader and are always on the lookout for quality fiction;

if you are tired of “wannabe”, atrociously written books by IIM and IIT pass outs who should stop writing and switch to an office job;

if you love short stories

I hope you will read my book as I am very keen to know what you think about it.

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