It was so much outside the realms of possibility in my head that I still can't quite believe it. I hadn't kept track of the Booker calendar, had no idea that they were announcing the longlist that day: and then there was this email from my publisher in which they were talking about champagne.
It's a bit like a wildcard player in the Wimbledon reaching a quarter-final with one of their idols - this being in a longlist with writers like Marilynne Robinson and Anne Enright. I know these shortlists and longlists are matters of chance, a kind of fluke, and I'm just grateful and happy that this time round I've been lucky.
I think it's a good thing the prize is open to the Americans: not sure, but I think this makes it the only literary award in the world that is open to everyone writing in English. Some prizes dramatically affect sales. Others don't, that much. But all of them help bring the work to the notice of people who might otherwise not have known about it.
It feels like forever that I have been writing Sleeping on Jupiter: In terms of actual writing, I suppose it is about three years, but it's been around with me since 2008. It started as a long short story sometime after An Atlas of Impossible Longing (2008) was published. I put it aside for the The Folded Earth (2011) but I kept thinking about two of the subsidiary characters in it, and their back stories. The structure took a lot of doing because of the multiple storylines and shifts in time - I wanted it to retain a certain jaggedness, suggestiveness and mystery, areas unknown maybe even to the writer. I wanted to preserve the elusiveness and concentrated power of the short story in a novel. I've had many conversations about this kind of telling with my French translator, Myriam Bellehigue, who is one of my oldest friends and always reads my drafts. She insists that novels have to leave things for readers to do and not tell it all: maybe she's influenced me too, over time.
Christopher MacLehose, my British publisher, is my editor. He read multiple drafts right from the short story stage, and inhabited the world of this book as if it were his own. He needed infinite patience, I think, and had to persuade me against abandoning it many, many times. It was published simultaneously in the UK and India and will be published in 2016 in the US. Actes Sud, my French publisher for the other two books will do the French. The other language rights are still being negotiated.
The stunning cover was made by the wonderfully gifted designer at MacLehose Press, a young artist called Monica Reyes who made a painting in floating ink especially for the book. I think she captured the book perfectly in one image.
Yes, I do a lot of different things: There's book designing for the publishing house my husband Rukun Advani and I run. There is pottery and some amount of painting. And there are many dogs: three of our own, including a puppy we just picked up from the hill highway because she was about to be run over.
The dogs, of course, scoff at the idea that there is anything that needs more attention than they do, which is as it should be. For the rest, I know I'll sound clichéd, but it's doable entirely because of Rukun - he is often much more charged up about my pottery or painting or writing than I am. Because he used to write and sometimes still does, he knows how it is at times - so when I need to do particularly intensive stretches of work he takes over ever everything else.
|Sleeping on Jupiter; Hachette India, Rs 425. Cover design by Monica Rayes, MacLehose Press.|
(As told to Jaya Bhattacharji Rose.)