Connecting with other authors on social media has been incredibly helpful to me as I prepare for my own book release. They have all been amazing but finding a fellow Canadian that writes the same genre and is a genuinely wonderful and supportive human being was a major bonus I received when I connected with the lovely Anita Kushwaha.
Anita’s debut novel – the deeply emotional Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters – came out earlier this year and I simply couldn’t put it down. It was Anita that first starting doing Q&A’s with other authors and I happily
stole borrowed the idea after doing my own interview with her.
Please enjoy reading this interview and then go and order her book. It’s a wonderfully emotional read that will provide you with a welcome escape during these trying times.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think for me it was always more organic. I was playing make-believe and telling stories long before I could read or write, and often got into trouble for it, which is something I have in common with my protagonist in The Escape Artist. Next, came a fascination with constructing my own books and journals out of old cereal boxes and envelopes. I always loved the feel of books, and still feel delighted when I pick up a new book or journal, anticipating what I’ll discover inside, and what it will reveal about myself.
Having said that, a defining moment for me goes back to when I was nine years old, the day that I took one of the poems I had been working on from my journal and writing it on the back of my bedroom door with a Sharpie (I didn’t know what indelible meant at the time, ha), underneath a poster of a band that shall not be named. 😉 That was the day that I knew I wanted to share my work with others, but the memory is also quite indicative of how challenging it is for me to make myself vulnerable and put myself out there. Classic introvert.
How long did it take you to write your debut novel?
It’s different every time. For my literary novel Side by Side, the process from start to finish, writing and publishing included, took me eight years. For my Women’s Fiction debut, Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, probably closer to six years. Writing and publishing take so long!
Which is part of what makes launching and promoting a book right now with the advent of COVID-19 so disheartening. A book represents years and years of hard work and dreaming that no one can see but you. One thing my project all seem to have in common is that live with my ideas for years before they make their way onto paper. For instance, in the case of my novella, The Escape Artist, some of the themes I explore in that piece have been with me since I was eleven years of age, but it took me until I was thirty to find the right plot to allow me to say the things I wanted to say. I guess I’m slow, haha? Having said that, when I’m trying to finish a first draft, I take King’s advice and write as quickly as possible, averaging 2000 words a day. Then I’ll spend years refining that very rough draft into something readable and artistic, something beautiful that touches the heart and the mind.
What does your writing schedule look like?
I’m the type of person who likes to feel productive every day and who also loves structure. I suppose my approach to the day is my habit. A typical writing day starts early with a cup of tea. I try my best to stay away from social media until I’ve gotten a couple of solid hours done. Then I usually like to go for a run or a walk. After lunch, I’ll either write for a couple more hours or review what I wrote earlier in the day. Not glamorous, but it gets things done. In terms of where I write, I like to give myself the ability to wander, but having said that, I do most of my writing at our beautiful handmade dining room table, mostly likely in the company of our cat, Noodles.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk or habit?
I get really controlling about what I read when I’m writing. If I’m writing about grief, I’ll only read books about grief. For instance, for my current WIP, which is about a complicated sisterhood, I only read sisterhood novels. As I revised, I kept re-reading Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet because I love her perspective and lyricism, and the themes she deals with. I was in such a good flow, I thought I’d break the spell if I switched and started reading something else. Quirky!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
Part of the surprise for me is seeing how ideas and themes develop from one draft to the next. Writing really is rewriting. I’m always surprised by how I’ll think a draft is finished, only to realize weeks or months later that it needs more work. I would also add that holding the finished book is equally surprising, especially that moment when you think to yourself, “Who wrote that?” And one last point based on something that happened to me last week – when a character emerges out of nowhere! And suddenly you can’t imagine the story without them. Talk about surprise!
What is your biggest writing-related dream?
Being close personal friends with my High Priestess Margaret Atwood, obviously! JK! The dream changes over time. When I first started out, completing a novel from beginning to end was the greatest dream. Then it was finding a fantastic agent. Then getting published with a big pub. Every stage felt as monumental and unlikely to happen to me as the next. I suppose as we progress, it’s natural for the dream to grow, but I find it incredibly grounding to look back – especially when I feel disheartened about how my career is progressing – and remember how far I’ve come. Really, the greatest dream is being able to connect with people through writing. The fact that another person would take hours of their finite time on earth to read something I’ve written is a gift and a privilege. I know how fortunate I am to be able to do this every day and I don’t take it for granted.
ABOUT SECRET LIVES OF MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS
For readers of Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s “Secret Daughter” and Nancy Richler’s “The Imposter Bride,” a breathtaking novel from Anita Kushwaha about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together and the secrets that tear them apart.
Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—when the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly to Asha, the young woman on the cusp of adulthood who links them together.
On the day after her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness, leaving Asha with only a letter.
Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.
Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.
Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life. Three mothers, bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all.
Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.
AVAILABLE NOW IN PAPERBACK, E-BOOK & AUDIOBOOK!
ABOUT ANITA KUSHWAHA
Anita Kushwaha grew up in Aylmer, Quebec. Her road to publication included a fulfilling career in academia, where she studied human geography at Carleton University and earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers creative writing program, her work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Quill and Quire, The 49th Shelf, Open Book, Word on the Street, and Canadian Living among others. Her first novel, Side by Side, won an Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Silver Medal for Multicultural Fiction in 2019. She is also the author of a novella, The Escape Artist. Her latest novel, Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, released in January 2020 by HarperCollins Canada, was named a “Books With Buzz” by Canadian Living, chosen as Word on the Street’s March Book of the Month, and a Most-Anticipated Spring Fiction selection by The 49th Shelf and Savvymomdotca. She lives in Ottawa.
Author Website: AnitaKushwaha.com
Facebook: Anita Kushwaha, Author
Goodreads: Anita Kushwaha
Publisher’s Website: harpercollins.ca