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Global Indians

Introducing Kamala Nair

By Tarana Rana , 21 Nov, 2014
  • Introducing Kamala Nair

Readers should keep an eye out for Kamala Nair. This London-born writer made her debut with the highly popular novel, The Girl in the Garden in 2011, which was hailed as a lush and fascinating coming-of-age tale by critics.

“I have been writing stories for as long as I can remember,” says Nair, who spent her childhood growing up in New York, Vermont and Minnesota.

Although writing remained her passion, Nair never thought it would amount to anything more than a hobby. “I had been taught to believe I needed to choose a more straightforward and practical career path, so I applied to and was accepted into law school after college,” she says. However, Nair soon realized her heart was not in it, and decided to apply to Trinity College in Dublin for a Masters in Creative Writing.

“I had the opportunity to focus exclusively on writing fiction without distraction, and was surrounded by like-minded people. [This] made me realize I wanted to take a risk and make this my career,” she shares.

Nair’s determination definitely paid off, as it was at graduate school where she began working on her first novel.

Set in a remote village in India, The Girl in the Garden tells the story of a young woman who revisits the events of one fateful childhood summer in her memories – the time when her mother whisked her away from her home to their ancestral home in India. It is there she discovers a spellbinding garden, one that harbours a terrifying secret. 

Q&A with Nair

Q: What was your inspiration for writing The Girl in the Garden?

A: The idea for The Girl in the Garden came to me one night during a trip to India. I was visiting the rural village in Kerala where my father grew up, and was inspired by the culture of superstition and folklore, as well as the lush, green surrounding landscape. While visiting a temple with some relatives, a cousin pulled me aside and pointed out an old stone well in an empty field. She told me the villagers believed the well was haunted by a yekshi (a ghost) and that no one dared tear down the well as a result. That night I had a dream about that field and the well, but in my dream I saw a giant tree with branches full of red flowers.

There were two young girls huddled under the tree as the petals drifted down around them, and they seemed afraid of something. I woke up and could not get this image out of my head. I wanted to find out who these girls were and what they were hiding from. The story unfolded from there. I was also inspired by my childhood love for The Secret Garden, as well as my passion for 19th century British literature and Southern American gothic novels.  

Q: How has your life changed after the novel? Is there any change you see in yourself?

A: The biggest change was that my writing went from a secret passion I toiled away at on the side to my profession. Publishing made me feel more confident in my identity.

Q: What advice would you give to individuals who aspire to be writers?

A: To be disciplined about it. Don’t wait around for inspiration to strike. Treat it like a job [which is] advice I need to remember myself!

Q: What are some of your other interests?

A: I’m a voracious reader. I can’t get enough of fiction. Also, I love exploring New York City, where I’ve lived for the past nine years, and traveling. I recently visited Thailand and Turkey.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I’m working on my second novel, The Year Without A Summer, which is a fictional re-imagining of the early life of Mary Shelley and what inspired her to write her iconic novel, Frankenstein.

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