The Three Rs: Roopa Farooki

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Roopa Farooki‘s fifth novel, The Flying Man, was longlisted for the Orange Prize 2012. She has written four previous novels to critical acclaim, and which have been nominated for the Orange Award for New Writers and the International Muslim Writers’ Award, and longlisted for the Orange Prize and Impac Dublin Literary Award. Her novels have been published internationally and translated into a dozen languages. She lives with her husband and four young children, aged seven and under, in south-east England and south-west France.

When did you first know you wanted to write?

From when I was very young indeed. It wasn’t even that I wanted to write, it’s just that I did. When I was at school, I wrote poems and short stories, and filled a whole exercise book about the mythical land of “Apoor Ikooraf” (read it backwards), inventing its history, culture, language. I was always getting lost in imaginary worlds, and when I was fifteen, I wrote my first full length novel, and sent it optimistically to every publisher in town. I never made a conscious decision to become a writer, because I always thought that I was one already.

What does your day look like while you’re writing a book?

I write every day, and normally spend a couple of hours working every morning while my boys are at school, and my twin 2 year old girls are either at playgroup or with my husband. Then I take over the twins, give them lunch, do a bit of admin and ineffective tidying while they nap, and then pick up the boys from school, and look after the kids until bedtime. Once they’re all asleep at 8ish, I get back to work for about four or five hours, although I’m much less effective in the evening, and spend much more time editing than writing new material. Occasionally I have to do a library or bookshop event, or a literary festival, and when that happens, my husband takes over the kids, and I do my writing on the train journey. And in the autumn, I teach a creative writing class, so for a couple of times a week, I swap two hours of my writing time for teaching time.

Do you type or write?

I always type, as my handwriting is appalling. When I have to make notes on paper, if I’m teaching a class or abroad without my laptop, I struggle to read back what I’ve written. And I can’t handwrite quickly enough either; my hand is always playing catch-up with my head.

Half Life

What do you read while you’re writing?

I usually only read the research material that might be helpful for what I’m working on, which is always non-fiction. I never read fiction while I’m working on a novel, as I’m too worried about being influenced by another writer’s tone of voice.

What have you read recently that you really loved?

Something that I read recently as part of my research, but which turned out to be a huge pleasure, was “An Intimate History of Humanity”, by Theodore Zeldin. The case studies were drawn from contemporary French society, and were described with great sympathy, finding something extraordinary and universal in the lives of ordinary people.

What are your all-time favourites?

My favourite novels are Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Homer’s Iliad, and AA Milne’s Winnie The Pooh.  These are the books that moved me as a child, the ones that taught me to love reading and want to create my own stories.

Corner Shop

You can either write or read for the rest of your life – but not both. Which do you choose?

I’m afraid that I would write. I read because I love to read, but I write because I must. It’s not even to do with enjoyment – it’s closer to addiction or obsession. I would miss reading my favourite books though – I suspect that I would start to rewrite my own versions from faulty memory just to keep them close to me.

What’s your third R, and why?

Relationships, and by that I mean family relationships in particular. I find endless inspiration in the different aspects of family, the relationships between wives and husbands, parents and children, sisters and brothers, and all the other complicated connections that occur in extended, dysfunctional families. My own experience of family has helped nurture my craft, especially my experience as a mother of four young children, and so I never think of my kids as an obstacle to my work; they help forge my imaginary worlds, and they always remind me that life is more important than art.

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