Manu Joseph is the author of the new novel Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous. He also has written the novels Serious Men and The Illicit Happiness of Other People. He is a columnist for The Mint, and he lives in Delhi, India.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous?
A: One of the protagonists in the book is a prankster. I wondered what she would call this book, and when the title came to me it seemed flippant and cinematic, and I liked it.
Q: You tell the story from various characters' points of view. How did you decide on the novel's structure?
A: The innovation in the novel is its very structure and I don’t want to give it away.
As for the many voices, there is nothing remarkable about a writer using many voices except that one of the voices is that of a woman and I don’t believe men write women as well as they think they do. There is this charlatan view that many writers have — that writing the other gender is a matter of conjecture, like most of writing.
Yes, conjecture is the most underrated talent in writing but some things are beyond the grasp of conjecture; they require experience.
So I liked the sense of doom of the task — in my experience if one strand of my writing requires me to be unsure, hence humble in a complicated way, the other strands work out well. Otherwise, writing is such a confidence game, you have too much swag to watch your back.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: That, all said and done, in some abstract way, in some form, even though I don’t seem likeable, they love me.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My first journalistic book. You can see that I am trying to avoid the word “non-fiction,” which has to be the most foolish word, especially as journalism, which is in the business of words, is unable to find a decent word to describe its own books. Instead it describes itself through what it is not.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: The book will soon be a Hindi TV series.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb