The Jaipur Literary festival was where the who’s who of the literati converged from all over the world. Our correspondents, Shraddha Gupta, Janhavi Mittal and Rachita Murali caught up with Alexander McCall Smith, the internationally acclaimed creator of the Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency Series. Here’s what he had to say:
Q : Sir, there are a large number of your readers in Delhi University. Among them are a great number of budding writers in the varsity. Do you have any words of advice for them?
A: Oh , well everybody has different things that work for them, however my advice would be that its always best that you write from the heart. Also, its always good that you don’t write too much about yourself (chuckles). The third thing is that one ought to write about things you have some experience about.
Also, it is very important to be persistent for in a profession like writing, one needs to deal with rejection. In fact I would call rejection a part of the training process. So just remember that every single writer has encountered some speed bumps along the road; the trick lies in being able to just carry on. So the trick lies in being persistent.
q. Sir you say that one must not write about oneself, but isn’t there a bit of the writer in his or her book, irrespective of the genre.
A. Certainly, one’s own perspective is always there and it does have an impact on one’s work perhaps sometimes to a greater extent in some and lesser in the others. What is crucial is that the writer needs to be careful about how far their personal opinions influence their work.
Q. Would you mind narrating a single discouraging moment in your literary career that almost made you want to change careers?
A. Well , probably nothing as drastic, but as a writer one really difficult experience is when you have been shortlisted for an award and during the final moments you are waiting with your fingers crossed but the presenter announces someone else’s name. However, you have to be an adult about it. But disappointment to a grown man probably comes as naturally as to a six year old (smiles).
Q.Cliche’d as it may sound, have you ever suffered from a writer’s block?
A. Touch wood, but I haven’t suffered from such a thing as yet. In fact, I am not even sure that such a thing exists. Perhaps, it is another word for depression. Personally, it may even be a state experienced when one doesn’t really have anything to say (laughs again).
Q. Sir you mentioned depression. Is that something intrinsic to a writer’s profession?
No, I wouldn’t say so. In fact I think good humour helps the creative process. While suicide may be a good career move in case you are interested in posthumous critical acclaim. But yes, maybe writers are more sensitive to the suffering in the world. Yes, the world is a difficult place but all writers need not be sad individuals.
Sir, thank you so much for your time. It has been wonderful talking to you.