Please welcome Sunil Patel to The Qwillery. “The Gramadevi's Lament” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the thirteenth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here. GENIUS LOCI has been funded and there is less $2000 to go to the Deluxe format of the printed edition!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Sunil: In short fiction, every word counts, and the economy of language is key (even though you are frequently paid by the word, wordiness is not advised). You must say much with little, convey worlds in sentences, paint characters with phrases. As far as writing short fiction, I’m a pantser, though I am trying to be more of a plotter to keep from flailing around so much.
TQ: You are a playwright. How does this affect (or not) your writing?
Sunil: My Kickstarter reward is a one-hour writing workshop, and I answer this very question! Writing plays has absolutely helped me hone my dialogue skills and find the natural rhythm of conversation. Plus envisioning story scenes as play scenes gives me a good sense of space. I’m also an actor, and I can draw on my experiences feeling a wide range of emotions in a controlled environment when describing characters.
TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
“As a man, how do you write good female characters?”
Well, sir, I grew up reading The Baby-Sitters Club, and also I think women are people, it’s not that hard.
TQ: Describe “The Gramadevi's Lament”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
Sunil: Tuldara is full of corpses. The village spirit has been alone for decades. Now you approach, and she tells you about a girl named Pooja.
TQ: Tell us something about “The Gramadevi's Lament” that will not give away the story.
Sunil: I did a lot of research to write this story, and my favorite part was going to Curry Up Now and buying a bottle of Limca so I could describe how it tasted.
TQ: What was your inspiration for “The Gramadevi's Lament”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
Sunil: “The Gramadevi’s Lament” is one of those stories completely inspired by the anthology theme: I had never heard of a gramadevi before Googling to find out what the genius loci in India was. I figured there was untapped story potential there. The story itself stemmed from an image in my head of someone going to an abandoned village to find out what happened—I modeled the village after my father’s village—coupled with my apparent ongoing obsession with telling stories about the relationship between a woman and a non-human character (usually coded as female). I’ve never encountered a genius loci myself, but there are some places where the history feels palpable: not the manifestation of a particular spirit, but the psychic energy of centuries of life and death and atrocity.
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “The Gramadevi's Lament”.
“I am every particle of dust, I am the quiet, I am the swing no longer creaking.”
TQ: In which genre or genres does “The Gramadevi's Lament” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
Sunil: I’d say “The Gramadevi’s Lament” fits best under dark fantasy, but even that doesn’t seem right, though it is a fantasy story that is dark. “Dark fantasy” conjures up images of monstrous beasts and murderous witches, but I’ve never read a story about a gramadevi before, so maybe it’s its own genre, who knows. Genre classifications are still useful for the works that do tidily fit into them; genres are a shared language, and their conventions let a reader know what to expect. But many of the best, most interesting works mix genres, and that’s what makes them fun and original.
TQ: What's next?
Sunil: I have stories coming out in Fireside and The Book Smugglers, and I’m writing a story for Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, an anthology co-edited by Jaym Gates. I am nearing the end of the first draft of my first novel, a YA superhero novel starring a teleporting Indian teenage girl, and I’ll be attending Taos Toolbox this summer in hopes of making that second draft better. Finally, I have a secret project! Because all the cool writers have things they can’t announce yet. Though this isn’t actually a writing project. (A CLUE.)
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Sunil: Thank you for inviting me, and thank you for your support of Genius Loci!
TQ: My pleasure!
About Sunil Patel
Sunil Patel is a Bay Area fiction writer and playwright who has written about everything from ghostly cows to talking beer. His plays have been performed at San Francisco Theater Pub and San Francisco Olympians Festival, and his fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Saturday Night Reader, Fireside Magazine, The Book Smugglers, and Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place. Plus, he reviews books for Lightspeed. Find out more at ghostwritingcow.com, where you can watch his plays, or follow him @ghostwritingcow. His Twitter has been described as “engaging”, “exclamatory”, and “crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery.”