Geetanjali Mukherjee

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How I Write: Authors on Their Writing Process - Mohana Rajakumar

Today's interview is with author and creative writing teacher Mohana Rajakumar.

1.              When did you first start writing?
When I was 10 years old or so I wrote a short story for a Language Arts teacher as a birthday present.

2.              What are your books about?
My books turn on a central question that is often looking at a cultural element like arranged marriage, or migrant workers.

3.              What led to your love for literature?
Going to the library as a child every week with my mom and brother established reading as a habit for me when I was very young.

4.              What's your writing process like?
I write a manuscript every November as part of National Novel Writing month and spend the next 8 months editing it to get ready for a July release. I absolutely spend a month or so outlining otherwise my story timelines get all tangled up.

5.              Who or what inspires you?
I want to take the reader into places s/he might not go otherwise; this can be countries, or experiences that are of people completely different from us. That is the magic of storytelling.

6.              Do you ever get writers' block?
I am a mother of two boys and teach university classes; I don’t have the luxury of writers’ block. If there’s two hours set aside for writing and I waste that, those hours won’t come around again for a week or so. Necessity is the mother of invention.

7.              What are some ways you get around it?
Whenever I feel low about a story (which happens at least once during every project) I try to remember why I wanted to write it in the first place. Why did I think it was important to tell? Does my reader need to know about this set of people/experiences? If I’m really stuck, then I watch a great movie or read a great book. When all else fails: take a nap.

8.              How do you make the time to write?
I have my days set up in a rotation of priorities. I love my kids, exercise, writing and cooking. I don’t do all four in one day – even quality time with the kids gets put into the rotation. That’s the only way I can fit everything in over a week.

9.              How much research do you do? What kind?
I do research for the next project every August-October; I read about the genre or subject, I watch television, movies – I immerse myself anything and everything that is topical about what I’m writing whether it’s Laos in the 1970s or what it’s like to be a migrant worker, or young Arab woman – I read, watch, and talk to as many people as possible.

10.           How much marketing do you do? 
I love book bloggers because they like to read and writers need readers! :)  

11.           What project are you working on now?
I’m working on the sequel to my first crime novel.

12.           What are you reading now?
Eleni by Nicholas Gage is entrancing me right now, all 400 pages. He chronicles the story of how his mother was killed by communist guerillas for refusing to turn her children over to be sent to Communist countries. In doing so, he tells the story of his birth village in Greece, and the aftermath of World War II.


 Mohana is a writer and scholar of gender, race, and writing. Her work has appeared in academic journals and books. She is the award-winning novelist of Love Comes Later and An Unlikely Goddess, among others. As the host of the Expat Dilemmas podcast, she peppers each show with reflections from a decade of living abroad. She teaches courses on literature, argumentative and creative writing. 

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