For better or verse the ‘shinie’ star

Critically-acclaimed fiction writer Shinie Antony is busy with her Bangalore Poetry Festival, which is kicking off today. Amid her busy schedule, she speaks to Deccan Chronicle about her preference for short stories over novels, and how the voice within her guides her novellas. As an editor of Chetan Bhagat’s works, she defends the bestselling author’s books, saying he has his own grammar and style of writing, which is dialogue driven. She tells Aksheev Thakur that Lit Fests are important and each one is unique.

Like filmmakers, most writers during the early part of their careers dream of writing novels. But for acclaimed author and editor Shinie Antony, the preference is for short stories over novels. Her first book, Barefoot and Pregnant, was a novella with interlinked stories. “Short stories are fun and I prefer them over novels. They interest me a lot. Once the draft is ready, the labour begins,” she says. “The story whether it gets published or not is secondary. One should not worry about it, but continue writing. I don’t think about publication of my works when I sit down to write,” she explains.

She calls herself an intuitive writer, drawing inspiration from real-life incidents, which she says are lodged in her sub-conscious. “My writings can be bracketed as speculative fiction, where readers wait for the characters to talk to them.” On a writer's choice of works, she says, “For a novelist, the issue is not whether it is a long or short story. The subject itself chooses its word length and genre. The story demands a telling and that decides the length.”  On the source of her inspiration, she remembers her grandmother with whom she shared a room till she passed away. She calls herself a woman who is sarcastic and never minces words if she does not like something.  

“Even when I wrote as a teenager, I had a faint female voice bordering in me who was indifferent to a gender. There is no religion to that voice and sometimes I feel she talks to me. She was very brutal and honest and that seeped into my mind and it helps me in my writing. I am told by a lot of readers that the characters in my stories start talking to them very early,” she explains. Shinie, who is known for editing Chetan Bhagat's books, brushes off the criticism that the bestselling author’s works are not of great quality. She says that Chetan has a grammar of his own and his works are dialogue driven. 

She points out how recent novels flooding the market are full of grammatical errors as publishers do not believe in editing. “The writing should be flawless and grammatically correct, and one cannot blame the author if it is not. The editor should take the blame as a book is edited at three levels,” she says, defending the authors. At a time when readers do not spend even five minutes on newspapers, a perception has been created that vociferous readers have disappeared. But Shinie disagrees, saying, “Different readers have different tastes, depending upon which they pick their books.”

She says that Chetan Bhagat’s books have created a space for fiction writing and created the genre, Indian Writing English (IWE). “Once upon a time, people who studied English literature preferred reading books from the West. They were vociferous readers and their writings were shaped by that. Today, IWE is written by authors for whom English is one of the languages and they are not too much into literary," she elaborates.  Shinie is now busy with her pet project, Bangalore Poetry Festival, starting Saturday, for which she is a director. She is of the belief that authors get to witness another version of their books at Lit Fests. “All the festivals across the country are different and new chemistries are formed in each,” she adds.

The Poetry Festival of previous years has been a success and have witnessed attendance of over 5,000 poetry lovers. This year, the team has invited internationally acclaimed poets. Ms Antony says the festival will have workshops that will provide an opportunity for young poets to learn from accomplished ones.

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