Tuesday May 21

ManthiramAnnam Annam Manthiram is the author of the novel, After the Tsunami (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011), which was a Finalist in the 2010 SFA Fiction Contest and in the 2012 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards, and Dysfunction: Stories (Aqueous Books, 2012), which was a Finalist in the 2010 Elixir Press Fiction Contest and in Leapfrog Press’ 2010 Fiction Contest. It is currently a Finalist in the 2013NM/AZ Book Awards. She is a graduate of the M.A. Writing program at the University of Southern California, and resides in New Mexico with her husband, Alex, and sons,Sathya and Anand. Please visit her website found here.


Annam Manthiram interview with Meg Tuite

Asha Ma is one powerful story. The mother/daughter relationship is brutal, painful. What was your inspiration for this story?

My mother and I don’t always get along, and I think it is because we are a lot alike, though we love each other tremendously.

After a recent trip to San Diego to visit both of my parents, I began musing more on the mother/daughter relationship—in particular, the relationship between two similarly-minded people who happen to be related, but in that very instinctual, visceral way that only mothers and their children can be. The story unfurled from there.

Tell me about your collection, Dysfunction: Stories.

When putting the stories together, I realized that there was an underlying theme of dysfunction. And it wasn’t just that—as the cover implies, dysfunction became something these characters needed—like food or water. It is essential for their survival. It is part of their DNA and in some cases, they want to escape it but cannot. In other cases they need it to move forward in their lives. It has become a part of themselves and their relationships, which as you read through the collection, is not always hindrance.

Where were you born and does place become another character in your tales?

I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My parents and some of my siblings are from India. Being multi-cultural is significant in my work: the issue of identity (which is its own force in some of the stories) is intertwined with the moral and social fabric of these characters. My children are biracial, and their unique challenges subtly influence my work as well.

What was a day in your life like growing up? Did you have siblings? Any great sibling story that you can share from your early days?

I am the youngest of five, so growing up was all about survival! Even though I am the only one who has chosen to pursue a creative career, my family as a whole is very creative. My brother used to be the “camera man,” and my siblings and I (and sometimes even my parents) would put on plays and short skits. Dubbed “The Annam Show,” we’d have pretend guests and improvised music. It was a lot of fun (though someone needs to find those VHS tapes and burn them!).

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I began writing very young, but it wasn’t until a professor in college told me that I had the talent and the guts to become a writer that I began to seriously consider myself as one.

Do you have a set schedule for writing?

I homeschool my children, so the only time I get to write is in the afternoon when the older is in quiet time and the younger is napping. That hour I get is lumped in with other things: responding to emails, answering queries, submitting, etc. so sometimes I might not write for the whole hour.

What are you reading now?

I just finished The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. I am in the middle of How Children Learn by John Holt, Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich, TransAtlantic by Colum McCann, and Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon.

What projects are you working on?

I am mostly trying to finish my novel, Amit’s Ability, which is about an Indian man with supernatural abilities. It is a modern take on a few of my favorite Hindu myths.

That sounds amazing! Who have been your inspirations as a writer?

My children and my husband inspire me to be a good person. I think it’s important to first and foremost be a good person before you endeavor to do anything else. Watching my children rapturously devour a book makes me feel as though what I am doing is important, as is the feeling of having a miserable day and knowing that there will always be a good book to come to no matter what.

My parents wanted me to be a lawyer; their misgivings about my career choice make me work hard to prove them wrong!

What do you see as the future of indie presses? Do you have an agent?

I am thankful for indie presses, and I think there will always be room for them as the larger publishing houses consolidate. People want to read good fiction; they don’t care where it is published as long as the distribution is there.

I don’t have an agent, but I will seriously be looking for one once I complete Amit’s Ability.

Give us a quote that speaks to you and gives you inspiration.

There are two quotes that guide me daily. One is important to me in my life as a whole, and the other speaks to me as a fiction writer:

“Journalism aims at accuracy, but fiction's aim is truth. The writer distorts reality in the interest of a larger truth.” – John L'Heureux

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him... We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Thank you so much, Annam, for being our featured fiction writer this mid-November issue.

Thank you so much for having me. It is an honor, Meg.


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