Author Prajwal Parajuly says short stories should be encouraged as they really help one evolve as a writer
There are people who spend their life dreaming of writing that magnum opus —one book that will change their life forever. Prajwal Parajuly claims he is not one of them. “I never thought I would write fiction. I just strayed into it and got lucky.”
But this doesn’t change the fact that he is the youngest person to have signed a two-book deal with Quercus, London and has already released one, The Gurkha's Daughter — a collection of short stories. His next book, a novel, Land Where I Flee, is slotted to release sometime this year.
Born to an Indian father and Nepali mother, Prajwal spent his early years in Sikkim. “Growing up was a lot of fun. Gangtok was just awakening to its tourist potential back then and it was still a small town with simple people leading peaceful lives.”
Prajwal, who was in town for the launch of The Gurkha’s Daughter, did, in fact, start writing pretty early. “I started writing for Sikkim’s first newspaper while I was in the eighth or ninth grade. I guess, those articles kick-started my writing career.” He then took a degree in communication from the Truman State University, in Kirksville, Missouri but decided not to become a journalist. “I don’t know how journalists do what they do. I think I would have become a very corrupt journalist.”
Instead he chose to work as an advertising executive with The Village Voice. “It was a glamorous job — a very good one indeed for a 21 year old straight out of college.” Yet the sheen soon faded. He found himself in a rut. So he quit his job and began to travel.
After travelling for a bit, he settled down to write in Manali. “I lived the impoverished writer’s life for sometime there before returning home to Gangtok.”
As he progressed through his book, he got more serious about his writing and thought of pursuing a course in Creative Writing at Oxford. Being from a non-literature background made him rather nervous about the upcoming Oxford interview and he decided to assuage it by googling up the names of famous writers. It was during this research that he came across an advertisement for the London Book Fair and he decided to attend it.
It was here that he made his first break into the world of literature. A rather serendipitous encounter with Susan Yearwood of the Susan Yearwood Literary Agency (SYLA), ensured that his potential was recognized and he soon went on to land a multinational book deal. “I don’t know what would have happened if it hadn’t been for Susan. I was very naïve to the world of publishing back then. I now know how difficult it is for writers to get published. “
Though his stories are mainly about English-speaking Nepalis like himself and often have shades of real people, he says his stories are not autobiographical. “I try to be realistic and allow each character to live his or her life.”
While he found it easy enough to publish his anthology of short stories, he feels it is unfortunate that it is usually not the case. “I’ve never understood why publishers do not like short stories. This genre should be encouraged. It is a great form of writing and really helps one evolve as a writer.”
Although often his stories are strongly associated with it, he insists he is not part of the Gorkhaland movement. “I am not part of any movement, I just have a story to tell. The fact that social and political issues are included in these stories goes on to say how deeply it is ingrained in people’s lives.”