A quick chat session with Priyanka Mookerjee,writer of the debut novel ‘Hedon’.
The term ‘Hedon’ is taken from the term Hedonism – which means giving into your desires, going headlong into doing whatever it is that you want to do. I never had another name for this book, I always had this name. The character was a hedon, she gave into all her feelings, whether that is good or bad it is to be debated. I knew the title even before I finished 80% of the book, because I knew the character I was going to write about..
It was not meant to be anything at all. Some stuff like the poems that appear in the book is the stuff that I wrote in school. It wasn’t meant to have any form or shape, it became a book. I just realized a lot of stuff I had written and just saw that there is a common thread of this person who comes to her own realization of who she is. So I put that in order and set some chronology to it. Real life is like that right? – It’s not like a story, it is more like different phases, different things happen. I always say this that feelings are one of the most translatable things ever, I don’t have to be in the same position or do the same thing to have felt the same way! You can feel angry for a different purpose than someone else does. It’s very easy to understand how a different situation would take that emotion in. So that’s the biggest thing about writing fiction – once you understand how to deconstruct emotion and write about it, the story can be anything.
Hedon is purely a work of fiction, basic research to make sure you are getting the names and facts and places correct but other than that not much really, like for example I hadn’t been to Amsterdam at the time of writing, so that part was a bit of fiction and so a bit of research on that front was done. But more than that I had a really great copy editor who made sure there were no discrepancies in facts, etc.
I don’t know about commercially, but critically it’s been good and has been well accepted. It’s there in India Today and other newspapers.
I was so young when I was writing it you know I was 19 when I was writing it and finished it at 24, and never really had any idea of selling it. I had no idea about how publishing worked then. Publishing and writing are two different lives. I didn’t think about target audience for Hedon, but my next book I am thinking a bit more and finding out that I am a very bad author and I cannot write for an audience as I end up narrowing my audience with every page I write.
It is and it shouldn’t be! I very strongly believe in this. I am saying this as a feminist but just common sense also. This translates to so many aspects of life – like if you are writing about pop culture and pop music and if there is this fashion and bubble gum stuff in your book then it can’t be weighty. Most of the reviews actually said that – they thought that the book started out and they thought it was going to be this happy funny romance but it turned out to be something else, something deeper, and something darker. Some people liked it, some people didn’t. But the fact that these things co-exist isn’t unique to me. It is a fact in many women’s lives. Women can be extremely smart, they can be doing PHDs and they can care about wearing lipstick and they can care about wearing pink and that doesn’t make them less intellectual or up there. For women specially but also for kids letting these two aspects co-exist is something that the world has missed. It is one of the things that I fundamentally believe and so it will be reflected in my writing!
No I don’t think so. Honestly, for me writing is like I know the characters in and out. I remember when I was very young I watched this interview with the director of Romeo Juliet – Baz Luhrmann and he said something that always stuck with me. He said “When you are creating something like when I am making a movie, it doesn’t matter what the person is – if you have a character right at the back, just moving a table, I need to know what he had for breakfast, I need to know my story that in and out, not just the main characters or stars.” I know my characters better than I know people in my life. For me once the book is done it is done. But there are other characters who are that alive and I want to write about them.
I have signed the next book with Penguin, and hopefully it will be out sometime this year.