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An afternoon with author Mahtab Narsimhan

March 26, 2013

Author Mahtab Narsimhan says she writes to explore subjects that she cares deeply about. In a wide-ranging conversation with our writing group, Mahtab shared her experiences and advice. “The most important thing is that you love your subject and the subject you tackle will determine the readership.”  The Silver Birch Award–winning author writes for Young Adult or middle grade readers, both currently very healthy markets. However, as Mahtab discovered when she wrote The Tiffin, the two audiences must not be confused.  She wrote the novel with a middle grade voice but included a scene with a prostitute that had to be removed because the edgy, mature theme was more appropriate for a YA novel.

Mahtab tries to write 1500 words every day and “strangles the editor” until she completes a draft. She wrote five of her books as “spontaneous discoveries,” knowing only what her final goal was. But one book didn’t work with that approach. “I wrote it twice and the plot wasn’t working and the characters were flat so I decided I needed to outline.” With another project, she wrote 55,000 words and threw them all away. She started from scratch, finally certain about where she wasn’t going to go with the story.

Mahtab recommends that authors finish a project before looking for an agent or publisher. When Dundurn Press picked up The Third Eye Mahtab found that the real work on her novel began. She had to learn to take time to absorb the editor’s comments before responding to suggestions for cuts and changes.  Mahtab says she is always learning and improving as a writer, but when she looks back at earlier work she’s happy if she can say, “It’s the best I knew how to write at that point in time.”

Mahtab is the author of:

The Third Eye Dundurn Press 2007
The Silver Anklet Dundurn Press November 2009
Her Mother’s Ashes, TSAR Publications, October 2009. (Anthology)
Piece by Piece: Stories about Fitting Into Canada, Penguin Canada, March 2010 (Anthology)
The Deadly Conch, Dundurn Press January 2011
The Tiffin, Dancing Cat Books, September 2011

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