Take a bowl of an Author, add a spoonful of Classical Singer, then add a pinch of Jazz Musician, pour some Songwriter into that and finally sprinkle some Column Writer. Mix it, Shake it and then take it out. You have Radha Thomas, the multi-talented author of “Men on my Mind” and the lead singer of UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble. We got the opportunity to interview her.
BookGeeks: What inspired you to write ‘Men on my Mind’?
Radha: I used to write a column called ‘Between The Sexes’ for Bangalore Monthly (now http://www.bangaloremag.com) and it was all about the unique way in which men and woman attack the same issue. The Mars and Venus dialogue, if you will. I just felt like a book would be a nice thing to do. So I developed characters, drawing heavily on some friends and family (they don’t really know about this so keep it a secret, please) and the book emerged. Once I began it was hard to stop. I tend to go on and on.
BookGeeks: The cover of your book depicts a girl wearing a sneaker and a heel. Tell us more about it and the idea behind it?
Radha: The credit goes to Pradipta Sarkar and the other wonderful ladies at Rupa Publications. They have a super graphics department it seems. I had some thoughts on the cover but their ideas were far nicer. I think the sneakers and the high heels are a sort of mnemonic for the way women feel. A little of this and a lot of that.
BookGeeks: What were the major challenges you faced as a debut writer and how did you overcome them?
Radha: I guess the biggest challenge was that no one wanted to publish my book. Not a single person or company. For more than a year. Close on two, if I recall. My agents, Jacaranda Publishing headed by Jayapriya Vasudevan kept telling me someone would break down if I only gave it time. She’d tell me not to call it quits. It was a bit depressing – getting rejected so much. I’m both a singer and a writer and my ego is very fragile. So it took quite a walloping till Rupa said, “Not only do we love this one, but we want you to give us two more.” I didn’t believe them at first but then the contract and advance arrived so I knew they weren’t lying
BookGeeks: You are a multi-talented person. Tell us something about your love for Jazz?
Radha: I’ve been singing professionally (and for free) for many years. I love music and especially jazz although I’ve also been trained in Indian Classical music. Jazz and now more and more my own compositions keep me going. I have a band called UNK: The Radha Thomas Ensemble, with some super musicians whom I’ve grown to love, respect and admire so much. We released an album last year in September 2012 called, ‘I Only Have Eyes for You,’ and we’re done a fair bit of touring around India at clubs and festivals. The point at which writing and music intersect for me obviously is when I write songs. Songwriting is much more rigorous than writing a book. There are a lot of restrictions. But that’s the challenge.
BookGeeks: You have had the opportunity of growing up in diverse cultures and geographies; tell us has it helped you in life?
Radha: Most certainly, having different influences and perspectives increases your body of knowledge and when you’re a writer, it’s invaluable. Absorbing (and rejecting) different cultures I suppose the basis for a lot of the little anecdotes in my book.
BookGeeks: Who is your favourite author and why?
Radha: I’ve always been a big fan and follower of William Safire, speechwriter for President Nixon and New York Times columnist. He wrote a column called ‘On Language’ which I devoured. I like the English language, etymology, slang etc. and I am drawn to any material on that subject.
BookGeeks: India is a country where numerous languages are spoken, read and where literature and publishing are still unorganized and scattered. What in your opinion can be done to make it better?
Radha: I suppose the only thing is to get books translated into many languages, provided you have experts who can capture the idiom in both the original and the translated version. I don’t know that it’s even necessary though. The different languages and cultures in India are what they are, and that’s the way they’ll be. There’s no real reason to change it. Unification? That’s not going to happen. Anymore than you can unify Germany and France.
BookGeeks: Your message to the readers.
Radha: Buy my book!!!
BookGeeks: Special message to bookgeeks.in
Radha: I hope you like my book. And if you don’t, well just wait, I’ll write another one