Interview with Rehana Munir – Author of Paper Moon.

Interview with Rehana Munir – Author of Paper Moon.

About the Author:

Rehana Munir ran a bookshop in Bombay in the mid 2000s, a few years after graduating with top honours in English literature from St. Xavier’s College. An independent writer on culture and lifestyle, she has a weekly humour column in HT Brunch, and a cinema column in Arts Illustrated magazine. She is also an occasional copywriter. Rehana lives in Bombay among food-obsessed family and friends. She is a local expert on migraines, 1990s nostalgia and Old Monk.

Interview:

: What made you write this story? What inspired you to write this amazing plot?

Much like the protagonist of the book, Fiza Khalid, I too ran a bookshop in Bombay once. The basic premise comes from there: a woman in her early twenties gets the opportunity to run an independent bookshop. I moved the time around from the mid-2000s to the early 2000s, and the location from Santacruz to Bandra. But the excitement of those days remains.

1: As the story is based in Bombay, tell me the thing you love and hate about Bombay?

The sea is what I love most about the city, followed by the public transport. Both connote a sense of freedom, a sense of possibility. The state of chaos and lack of accountability that mars civic life is what I dislike most about the city. And, of course, the social forces that relegate the vast majority to unhabitable conditions.

2: If not Bombay, where could the story have been based?

Nowhere else, I think. This is as much a book about the city as it is about books and becoming oneself.

3: What are your interests other than writing?

 Reading is what holds my life together. That apart, food, music, wandering. I’m also very interested in people; I spend a fair amount of time socialising. Much more than any self-respecting writer would admit.

4: What inspires you in life?

 People who remain kind, compassionate and capable of lightheartedness despite the difficulties they face. I’m lucky to have such people in my close circle of friends.

5: How often do you write?

 Something every day, more or less. I have a weekly humour column for HT Brunch, so that keeps the discipline. Plus I’m a copywriting consultant for a design and branding agency. Then there are features for various publications. As for fiction, that’s a treat. I write when I find I just have to write and luckily for me, that’s been frequent since I began a couple of years ago.

6: Do you have a set schedule for writing fiction, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired? 

 For my first novel, I stuck to a loose schedule; I wrote 1200 words whenever I sat to work on it, usually in the morning. But then there were no fixed days. Now that I’m writing my second novel, I’m a bit less fussed about keeping a schedule. I’m not sure whether that will help or not.

 7: What other genres do you enjoy reading?

 For years I was a fierce fiction fan. Of late, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction, too. Science, psychoanalysis, music, history, memoirs, etc. I even made a nervous foray into economics recently.

 8: Which of your novels best describes you as a person?

My debut novel, Paper Moon, captures a lot of my interests, and some of my qualities.

9: What made you start writing, what made you take writing up as a profession?

Being taught English literature at St. Xavier’s College by Eunice de Souza, whom Paper Moon is dedicated to, was what shaped my worldview and pointed me in the direction of reading and writing. I’ve never been able to imagine a life without books featuring prominently in it ever since.

10: Tell me about the authors and books that you loved when you started reading.

 Like for all lit students, the classics were the canon in my college years. When I was younger, it was Enid Blyton, Lucy Maud Montgomery and other western writers that I was exposed to. Tinkle and Archie comics were the staple when it came to comics. As a teenager, I began seeking out a wider range of authors, inspired by my older sister, Kausar, who was studying literature herself then. From EM Forster to Vikram Seth, the world seemed to open up in unexpected ways.

11: Can you tell us about your current projects?

: I’m currently at work on my second novel – very different in tone and setting from the first. It features a transgressive female protagonist and I’m living in her faraway – and yet so familiar – world these days. Apart from the Brunch column, I write a cinema column for Arts Illustrated magazine, edited by the multi-talented Praveena Shivram. I’m also at work on a coffee-table book on shipping and am trying hard to avoid tired maritime metaphors.

12: If you were to change your genre, which one would you choose?

 I would love to write a rich and lively comic novel, something that Zadie Smith and Jeffrey Eugenides do so well. I’m trying to develop the rigour; it’s easy to get distracted by one’s own jokes.

 13: Five books one must read in Life-time?

I’m wary of prescriptive lists, but five books that have been impactful for me are Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Oliver Sacks’ Migraine, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Iris Murdoch’s A Word Child and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.  

14: What does literary success look like to you?

 The privilege of being able to write what you believe in and enjoy, and making a decent living out of it.

 15: One thing everyone must try when they’re in Bombay?

The Special Ullundu dosa at Anand Bhavan in Matunga.
 

16: A quote that keeps you going?

“If you get tired, learn to rest and not to quit.” It’s a quote attributed to the subversive British graffiti artist, Banksy.

17: A message for our readers?

Let’s be kinder to one another. And read more books.

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