So the minute I finished reading “Daddy’s Girl” by Swati Chaturvedi, I had questions for her. I needed to know how the book come about, etc. What better place to get in touch with an author these days than social media? I for one couldn’t stop turning the pages of this book. It was classic mystery, part literary fiction and part investigative journalistic style that shone, given Swati has been a journalist for 20 years.
Here is the interview with her:
How did the book come to you? Why this topic? Was it influenced by the Talwar case (sorry to ask you this, given how many people must’ve already asked)?
I have been an investigative journalist for 20 years. While I enjoyed working in TV doing my own one to one show where I was considered very nasty and aggressive after five years ennui had set in. All my life reading has been my solace, craving virtually a drug. I always wanted to write and since I started out as a crime reporter where I covered many murders including doing exclusive news breaks on the Naina Sahni tandoor murder I wanted to write a thriller a insider account of the interplay of politics, media and the police?
I think the Arushi case which I did not cover has become like the Nirbhaya rape case – a kind of touchstone of gory murder. This book is not based on the Arushi Talwar case it has elements of murder cases I have covered earlier.
“Daddy’s Girl” must not have been an easy book to write given the sub-narratives and complex threads to it. How did you manage it? Was it cathartic in a lot of ways?
Writing Daddy’s Girl was brutal. All journalists are trained to write to a world limit and a deadline. It was incredibly daunting to write fiction where the pages just seemed to menace me and find me wanting. Also as a reporter you are trained to be factual so during the process while I was still writing stories and analysis I had to re-boot for Meera and gang. It made me relive some experiences I have had as a journalist but, catharsis no. I was too busy fretting over the plot.
At some points in the book, I was beginning to doubt Meera’s intentions. Did you intend it to be like this for the reader? Meera’s character has a lot of shades of grey to it. How was writing her character then for you?
Meera is fiery, feisty and unpredictable like most human beings. She’s idealistic but, at the outset of the book incredibly naive and trusting while fancying herself very clever. The book is also a kind of coming of age of this young reporter who loves black and white and sort of realises that most of life is shades of grey. She becomes a full-fledged adult by the end of the book. But, I think her defining characteristic is an incredible hunger for the story and a huge idealism.
Do you think we need more books such as these that link closely to the political scenarios of the country? Is it because you had first-hand information to so many cases that it was easier to write this?
You are spot on as a journalist you have a privileged ring side view of what’s actually happening and access to the players because of the kind of stories and interviews I do. I find it very interesting and plan to keep on writing about it. So it was easy but, also hard to disguise the people concerned. But, as it’s fiction they are a bit of a mix of the people I know and my fairly vivid imagination.
Swati as a writer. What is your schedule like? Do you have any writing superstitions?
Swati the writer is as anal about writing as she is about most things. No superstitions but, a huge amount of shoulder aches and the sheer amount of time and the physical effort. Writing wrings you out and leaves you exhausted. I also hate revising here I had no choice. I can write anywhere which is a blessing after years of noisy newspaper news rooms.
Swati the reader. What are your favourite top 10 recommended reads? Tell us a little something about each of them.
I am an omnivore reader. Top ten would include:
My absolute favourite Jane Austen, I love the characters the plots and the wonderful story telling. I keep re reading them.
A Suitable Boy: I’ve have re-read it so many times that I have lost count. Love this particular book for its very Austen qualities.
Sea of poppies by Amitav Ghosh: Loved this one was rather disappointed by the sequel.
P G Wodehouse: From Bertie Wooster, aunt Dahlia, Aunt Agatha, Jeeves and the entire Blandings castle cannot get enough.
Agatha Christie: Still love the cozy, very British murders and Hercule Poirot.
P D James: Again love the suspense the plots and the very real characters.
Read a lot of history and books on architecture because I am a history student and am fascinated with design. All Mughal history is riveting.
Lionel Shriver: From double fault to we need to talk about Kevin. Amazing lucid story telling.
Antonia Fraser: Love her historical books as it’s brilliant compelling writing.
Wendy Donniger: Beautiful writing and a unique take. Plus love how it bothers the lemmings who actually don’t read.
A debut is always the toughest to venture into. Did you at any point think you would never be able to do this?
No I always finish what I start. Was terrified yes but never thought that I would not complete it. Was even more nervous about the reception. So the kindness that people have shown and the fact that it’s selling and people like it is incredibly reassuring and thrilling.
One empathizes for the Nalwas and yet this bickering sense of unease when they crop up in the book. Why do you think that happens? Was it intentional?
Yes I would say it was my intention as they represent seriously flawed and deviant people. You feel for them but, together they are toxic and resent each other yet are yoked together by this awful secret.
Do buy the book wherever books are sold. It is a great read.