KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – In a move that speaks of the bold character that she is, Lavina Melwani Valiram has reacquainted herself with her long lost love – writing. The result of this is her debut novel, Part Star Part Dust; a book that has made waves on Amazon well ahead of its release in Malaysia this week.
The Binge sat down with Valiram to talk about her novel, and what pushed her to finally get down to it.
How It All Began
As a teenager in Hong Kong, Valiram’s interests veered away from those of her cohort. Instead of fashion and makeup, her passion ran towards the written word. Through sheer determination, she landed a job as an editorial assistant with a newspaper even before her ‘O’ Levels had concluded.
“I started a business somewhere in my 20’s, and that’s all I did after that. I think being an entrepreneur became pretty significant in my life,” she describes how writing took a backseat.
“I have been a closet writer for the better part of my life, and I kind of forgot for 20 years in-between.”
It wasn’t until a close friend prompted the rekindling that it clicked, “And then it just became this idea that got stuck in my mind. The journey began, and I don’t know what it is, but it hasn’t stopped.”
Re-Learning the Art of Writing
In discussing the challenge this book posed, Valiram explains, “Actually, I jumped in in a very arrogant sort of fashion. I thought if you can describe a house and the clouds you can write a book because you know the correct vocabulary; and your sentences are beautiful.”
“But it turns out, that’s not how you write a book.”
“You can write a book if you can describe who lives in the house, and what happens in that house. And you can create conflict, and you can create people. The more I learnt about the techniques and the tricks of the trade, the more I fell in love with the craft,” she elaborates.
The book itself is set in India, and we were curious as to why that is. Despite being born in Mumbai, Valiram was raised in Hong Kong.
But the annual summers spent in her country of birth had clearly left an indelible mark, and made it a natural choice for the novel’s setting, “I felt most comfortable writing about a story that happens in India, simply because it felt more authentic. And so I did what I felt resonated with me, although I’ve never lived in India.”
While each character’s journey is crafted to perfection, the most difficult to mould was the male protagonist’s, “I wanted the train of thought to be very authentic. How does a man think? How does a man perceive the situation? In essence, it became a study of gender differences almost, and personality.”
“I had to work very hard to get into his mind and have him enter mine, and make him come alive.”
She strongly believes, though, that it is this challenge that led to her creating a character that will resonate with most people. “He was the hardest to write, but in the end, I think his story is the one many will relate to because Gaurav‘s battles within himself are very relatable, common.”
“His journey has to do with money and love, decisions and choices, and trade-ins. The trade-ins we make for the things we want.”
What’s To Come
Part Star Part Dust is a self-published endeavour because Valiram was not willing to compromise on either the premise or artistic license of the book.
It was a very personal journey on her part, one several people have questioned because she has been out of the game for so long, but it is a true labour of love.
“I feel very honoured if people are willing to invest a few hours of their life with the book; and I have written it cognizant of the fact that somebody is going to pay money for this, and give me a few hours of their life to be immersed in the story.”
You’ll be happy to hear (especially after you’ve inhaled this book) that there are two more novels in the works.
What We Thought
This is a book that is an ideal candidate for binge reading. You’ll be torn between wanting to read it in one sitting, and drawing it out so that it doesn’t end. And that right there is the hallmark of a great book.
While there are clear influences of quintessentially Indian authors in terms of the writing, the story is one that unfolds beautifully and takes you to unexpected places in your mind.
The choice of employing Time as the narrator is an interesting one that helps with how the story jumps across the continuum. It’s a useful construct to navigate the confounding issues that are inherent in books such as The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Valiram masterfully brings together a multitude of themes without them seeming contrived. It is a tale of love, heartbreak, fate, and degrees of separation. More importantly, it is a tale that each of us will find ourselves and our innermost aspirations in.
Simply put, it is the tale of all of us. – The Binge
Part Star Part Dust will be on shelves in MPH bookstores this week.