I’m very pleased to welcome Radhika Swarup to the blog today. I have read some really lovely reviews of her book, Where the River Parts, and intend to read it at some time when my to-be-read list is a little more under control! It was published by Sandstone Press on 18th February. You can order a copy here: Where the River Parts
First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?
As the daughter of an Indian diplomat, I spent my childhood in India, Italy, Qatar, Pakistan, Romania and England. I worked in the City for years before leaving it to pursue writing. I live in London with my husband and two children, and steal time to write while my young ones are in school. My debut novel, Where the River Parts, about a couple caught up in the India-Pakistan Partition, was published in February 2016 by Sandstone Press. I also blog for Huffington Post India.
What inspired you to start writing?
I didn’t train to be a writer. I read Economics at Cambridge University, after which I began to work in Investment Banking. Cue 16-20 hour work days looking at endless computer screens. It seemed as if writing, or indeed reading, was a thing of the past.
And then at a private equity conference in Frankfurt, I found myself surrounded by industry veterans crowing over the latest Financial Times article to call them vultures. I realised I hated finance. It was my 26th birthday, and a moment I remember with absolute clarity.
I began to write that very evening, and eventually gave up my job to devote myself to writing.
Tell me about your journey to publication
I began by writing short stories, and once I was certain of my voice, I began to write longer fiction. It has taken a few years to write Where the River Parts and get it to a place where I’m happy with it. Once my agents went out with Where the River Parts, we were delighted with the offer made by Sandstone Press. We agreed terms in January 2015, finalised the novel by autumn and the book was published in February 2016.
In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?
Where the River Parts follows a Hindu Muslim couple caught up in the traumatic Partition of India and Pakistan. They are separated during the process, and don’t see each other for the next fifty years. It is only half a decade later, as both India and Pakistan are testing their nuclear weapons, that the two meet again in New York and face an impossible choice. Where the River Parts straddles half a century and three continents, and has been described as a timeless tale of love, loss and longing.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I was toying with different names for the book, and initially thought of You Follow Me, which is a song that runs through the book. Then my publisher and I began to brainstorm, and we realised that the river is a constant throughout the book, not only as a geographic marker, but as a metaphor for the life of a woman of that generation. And so we arrived at Where the River Parts.
How do you plan to celebrate/did you celebrate publication day?
Publication day fell in the middle of half term for my kids. So the morning was spent fielding emails, looking at reviews and blog tours, and then the day itself was spent at a soft play facility. The following evening was the book launch, and here we celebrated the book and the journey it involved.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I’m working on my next novel, which examines a woman’s response when the world she knows changes forever. It’s an internal exile, if you will, as compared to Where the River Parts’ epic journey. It’s in the early stages of planning, but I’m really looking forward to delving into my protagonist’s life.
What are you reading just now?
I’m reading Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (Feb 2016). It’s a non-fiction title on whether the advances we have seen in medicine are allowing the elderly and the terminally ill a dignified end. It’s a beautifully written book that is making me think about the role of family and community.
Tell me about your reading habits: book or kindle, bed or bath, morning or evening?
Always paper book over kindle. There is something about the sense and the smell of paper that a device cannot compete with. And I read wherever and whenever I can; in the bath, in the kitchen, in the tube, and in bed when I should be sleeping!
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I have always felt an affinity to Lucy Honeychurch from A Room with a View, not only for her love of Florence, but also for her passion, her impulsiveness and her absolute abandonment to her senses. It would be impossible to live in the way she did, and certainly impractical, but it would be wonderful to imagine it to be possible.