Arundhati Roy: “I wrote the way an architect designs a building”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy, born in Shillong, India in 1959. She was raised by a single mother and left home when she was 16. She lived in a squatter’s camp, went to architecture school, wrote for television and film, and worked as an aerobics instructor.

One day an image came into her mind: a pair of twins sitting in a sky-blue Plymouth in the middle of a Marxist parade route. She wrote that scene, and she didn’t stop for four and a half years until she had the manuscript of her first novel. She said: “It was the way an architect designs a building. You know, it wasn’t as if I started at the beginning and ended at the end. I would start somewhere and I’d color in a bit and then I would deeply stretch back and then stretch forward. It was like designing an intricately balanced structure and when it was finished it was finished. There were no drafts.”

She gave the manuscript to an acquaintance, the writer Pankaj Mishra, who worked for an Indian publishing house. Mishra was so enthusiastic that he sent it immediately to three British publishers. All wanted to publish it; one publisher called Roy after reading 30 pages and offered to sign her immediately. Roy told him that she needed to finish the book first. Two days later, he got on a plane to India, and she sold her book. When The God of Small Things was published in 1997, it sold more than 6 million copies and won the Booker Prize.

Her next novel came out 20 years later: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

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