Mahtab Narsimhan Answers the Hungry Novelist Questionnaire

Mahtab Narsimhan is the award-winning author of four novels for young people: her first, The Third Eye, won the Silver Birch award, and her latest, The Tiffin, was named a Book of the Year by Quill & Quire magazine.



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What’s going on in your writing life right now?

Doing a lot of promotion for my latest book, The Tiffin, published by Dancing Cat Books in August 2011. Also working on a futuristic YA novel which is an extrapolation of our current condition with overdependence on technology, dwindling energy resources and bizarre weather patterns. Simply described, it’s Matrix meets the Amazing Race.

What’s your writing routine?

I’m normally up early in the morning (5.30 am-ish) and write for about two hours from 6am to 8am. When writing a new draft, I give myself a daily quota of about 1500 words a day. I didn’t start out with this number but gradually worked my way up to it. This really helps in providing me with the discipline to write every day and by the end of the week I have added a substantial word count to my manuscript. If I’m revising, I still give myself a quota of a certain number of pages I have to complete in a day.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

Whole-grain toast with cream cheese and lemon/mint tea.

What good books have you read recently?

Sanctus by Simon Toyne. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Divergent by Veronica Roth.
Just finished Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. It was fantastic!

What did you eat for dinner last night?

Jamie Oliver’s Mediterranean Chicken Breast with Sundried Tomatoes, Feta Cheese and Parsley with a Green Salad with Ginger Dressing, pictured here:

Writing rules you live by:

When writing a new draft, have to write 1500 words a day. When not working on a draft, have to do some writing related activity such as research, thinking of new ideas, or catching up on my reading. Love that last rule the most. It’s so much easier to read someone else’s work.

Foodstuffs you’re fiending these days:

Smoked Gouda, Castello’s Mild Blue cheese with Jacob’s cream crackers, Pickerel rubbed with Indian spices and served with Quinoa. And as always,chocolate.

A scene or piece you’ve written that features food:

I love descriptions of food and so all my books (The Tara Trilogy and The Tiffin) have descriptions and scenes featuring food, but used to depict different scenarios. In my latest novel, The Tiffin, I’ve used food to introduce the lecherous cook, Badri. The setting is the kitchen where large pots of goat curry, boiled rice and sambar are boiling away, and Bardri lurks in that cloud of steam waiting for the protagonist.

Favorite restaurants:

Crazy Sushi
Fin Izakaya Super Japanese Tapas
Oliver & Bonacini. Great variations on the usual fare.
Bamiyon Kabob Best Afghani food I’ve ever eaten

Three formative books from your youth:

1) Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
2) The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
3) Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein.
4) The Faraway Tree Series by Enid Blyton (Sorry, had to add this last one: loved it!)

Three formative books from your adulthood:

1) Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
2) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.
3) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Dishes/recipes in regular rotation in your cooking repertoire:

Mutton Biryani, Jamie Oliver’s Roast chicken, Pork chops, and my ultimate favourite, chicken curry:

I also love fish and experiment with making it in every possible way, baked, fried, grilled and in a curry.

Random bits of writing advice

• Believe in the process of writing
• Trust yourself when starting something new. It will work out in the end.
• Set a small but achievable target on a daily basis. It will help you stick to it and you feel so much better when you have accomplished something every day.
• Learn to love revisions because as we all know, writing is basically rewriting!
• Have fun. If writing seems like a chore, find something else to do.

What do you do when not writing, eating or reading?

I love to walk but that’s also because I normally have my iPOD with a few audio books loaded onto them. So really, I’m never far from books, except when I’m sleeping!

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading?

Comfort food is a spicy chicken curry topped with fresh cilantro and a dash of lime juice served with cumin/onion rice and yoghurt.

Comfort reading: the Harry Potter series. Fantasy is my favourite genre of all (as you can probably tell from my reading list.). This series, especially the first four books, never fail to lift my spirits. I can read them at any time. In fact I probably would if there weren’t so many other great books that I had to catch up on.

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