Revathi Suresh, the author of Jobless Clueless Reckless, was interviewed by Aishwarya Subramanian, writer, columnist, editor and frequently misspelt person.
AS: The basic, easy questions first. Who are you (okay, maybe that one isn’t that easy), what do you do, why did you decide to write a book?
RS: I’m actually very easily summed up. Why did I decide to write a book? Because I was jobless for sure. Totally clueless. Somewhat reckless.
AS: Kavya reads a lot, and among the things she reads are the big recent teenage blockbusters. Did you also read the Twilight and Gossip Girl books while/before writing this, and what did you think of them?
RS: No. I don’t read much at all.
AS: So how did you have Kavya come to her conclusions about these books? Did you eavesdrop on teenagers, or look them up on the internet, or…? You have children, don’t you?
RS: Does Kavya come to any conclusions about Twilight and Gossip Girl in particular? I eavesdrop on teenagers all the time…I have nearly two at home. But in this case it didn’t help because they haven’t read these books either. So I guess my answer would be or…
AS: Does this also mean you didn’t immerse yourself in facebook, textspeak and Katy Perry songs in the name of authenticity? I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved!
RS: I’m immersed in facebook all the time…I practically vacation there. I had help with the textspeak and Katy Perry. Ok I’ll admit. Also with facebook.
AS: Kavya and her brother obviously miss their dad a lot, though his absence is not foregrounded in the plot. What were your thoughts about the way you wanted to portray that family, and were these difficult relationships to write? I’m thinking particularly of Kavya’s relationship with her mother.
RS: That makes it sound like I had ideas in the first place when the truth is that a lot of the time I’d start off with no clue about how things were going to develop in Kavya’s life, and what she and the others around her were going to do. I was pretty much a spectator who went ‘Shit. Really? Now what?’ and end the day with my head in my hands, thinking ‘Now see what you’ve gotten that kid into stoopid!’
The mother in the beginning was a regular mom-figure but I wasn’t having fun with that at all and she wasn’t helping in terms of pushing the story forward. Actually the fact that she turned out the way she did made it easier to write because she was so far removed from what is familiar to me that I didn’t try to explain her actions even to myself. After all, you don’t always know what motivates people to do the things they do.
AS: Poor Kavya. At least nothing too life-threatening happens to her. The book opens with something of a mystery regarding Kavya’s childhood best friend. You take this from a somewhat different angle than a typical detective story- was that intentional?
RS: Mmm…not intentional, but I knew I couldn’t do the conventional detective thing because frankly I wasn’t feeling that clever and neither was Kavya. For the longest time I didn’t know what to do with Manisha. The book opens with her and so I knew I had to take her somewhere but I wasn’t sure if I wanted the story to be about that. Then I gave her something of a conclusion and had readers who loved that version and those who wanted another. Also, when I fiddled around with Manisha, I found that Kavya also seemed to change and I wasn’t comfortable with some of the qualities she acquired as a result. Some prodding pushed me in what I think turned out to be the right direction. Of all the characters in the book Manisha probably took me the longest time to tie up.
AS: Board exams loom rather large in Kavya’s life, for obvious reasons. The structure of our exam system has changed a bit in the last couple of years- did that happen while you were writing the book, and did it mess up your plot at the time?
RS: First of all, congratulations on finding a plot. The book is, at best, a series of unfortunate events, I think. As long as I don’t have to take any exams I try not to think of them at all but are you referring to the tenth board exam being optional now? It may be, but the funny thing is that most of the parents and kids I speak to tell me that they actually prefer to go through with it so no, I can’t say that it changed anything for me. In Kavya’s case, she needs to take that exam, right? Because where are her grades going to come from otherwise.
AS: I think we should talk about boys. Specifically Kiran. I like how un-judgemental that particular aspect of the book was. What do you think of him?
RS: Kavya seems to like him. I suppose there are girls who’d go for a guy like that and girls who wouldn’t. I had both reactions from those who vetted the ms. I don’t think I struggled too much with keeping my tone un-judgemental—hopefully right through the book. The fact that you don’t really ‘hear’ the author at all helped keep it that way. If I’d been writing it from my point of view, who knows, we may have had a slightly hysterical danda-wielding aunty shrieking her way through the book.
AS: But would you? Do you think you would have had a crush on him as a teenager?
RS: I wish I’d known someone like him when I was young, then I’d feel better able to answer that. Let’s just say that I can see what one might like about him. Also what one might not.
AS: Friendship: would you pick Lara, Manisha, or Indu? Or, indeed, Kavya?
RS: All of them. And none of them. They aren’t my age group, I can’t see myself hanging out with them.