‘My Protagonists are flawed and vulnerable’: The weird women’s club author Aruna Nambiar    

Author Aruna Nambiar speaks to Devapriya Sanyal about her third novel, The Weird Women’s Club, 
the female gaze, and what makes her characters relatable

Published: 31st July 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th July 2022 12:44 PM   |  A+A-

The weird women’s club author Aruna Nambiar    

The weird women’s club author Aruna Nambiar    

The Weird Women’s Club revolves around three women with varying intentions and needs. Do you have a favourite?
All of them! All three are flawed and have their own vulnerabilities. That’s what makes them so relatable. They are all dealing with the loss of some kind, and are questioning their own identities, but by the end of the novel, all three are making choices for themselves. That’s what I would wish for all women, regardless of their circumstances.

Do the protagonists draw from real women you’ve met or are they figments of your imagination?
They’re most certainly figments of my imagination, although I might have filched a few character quirks from people I’ve known. And if I’ve done my job well, I hope readers will feel that they are real women, people that they might have encountered themselves.

How would you describe your own gaze while you were fleshing out your protagonists?
I would say it’s an honest, affectionate and firmly tongue-in-cheek gaze, and the protagonists have portrayed warts and all. Female characters are often depicted as forbearing, sacrificing, kind, polite and restrained, but The Weird Women’s Club captures, in a very light-hearted way, the messy emotions real women feel. Their vulnerabilities, however, are shown with humour and without judgment, and in doing so, I hope I have created characters who may not be perfect or aspirational, but are real, relatable, likeable and, more importantly, fun. 

Tell us about your writing process.
Each novel starts with the seed of an idea, and the initial stages of writing involve very little writing and a lot of gazing into the distance and surfing the Net under the guise of research. But once there’s a loose plot and the primary characters begin to take shape, it’s a question of toiling till it’s done. The plot, I always say, is a living thing that grows and matures as the story evolves. I usually edit, rewrite and polish as I go along, and even well after the manuscript has been commissioned––that’s when the finer nuances and details of the story get added, and the fluff is deleted.

The novel is women-centric. Did you write it keeping a certain audience in mind?
My focus is always on telling the story to the best of my ability. I’ve learnt that one can never predict who will enjoy a particular novel. Why would someone from Assam relate to the strongly South Indian setting and humour of Mango Cheeks, Metal Teeth? Why should a young college girl connect with The Monsters Still Lurk, which at its heart is a tale of family and ageing? And yet they have. And while The Weird Women’s Club is women-centric, I’ve been hearing from male readers, who have loved the humour and irreverence of the novel. I find that readers are far more open-minded and adventurous than one might give them credit for and it isn’t necessary to tailor your writing to a particular audience.

Why did you decide on Bengaluru as the setting for your book?
To be honest, for most of the writing, the setting for the story was vague. In my mind, The Weird Women’s Club was a big-city novel about educated, sophisticated urban women, and could have been set in any metropolis in India. That is, however, not ever true in India, is it? Each city, each region has its own culture. As the book unfolded, I found that a lot of Bengaluru, where I stay, had seeped quietly into the book. It was then, with a little nudging from my editors, that I abandoned the vague setting and embraced the sights and sounds of the city.

This is your third novel, after Mango Cheek, Metal Teeth and The Monster Still Lurks. What keeps you going?
Above all, I enjoy the process of writing––conjuring up characters out of thin air and making them flesh and blood, watching the jigsaw puzzle of plot fall into place, experiencing the joy of an inspired turn of phrase. Writing is also a way of digesting and making sense of life itself.


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