Author’s Background: Award-winning, accomplished Author Jayanthi Sankar, born and brought up in India, lives in Singapore since 1990, Highly acclaimed collection of short stories – Dangling Gandhi, was the winner out of the seven finalists in the category of fiction: short story in 2020 International Book Award American book fest. The Literary Titan award is another international award it bagged with apart from a few nominations. She has participated in panels of literary festivals such as (Asia Pacific Writers & Translators) APWT 2018 at Gold coast, Singapore Writers Festival, Seemanchal International Literary festival, ASEAN- India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Writers Festival. A watercolour artist, she has been a freelancer for more than a decade and a half, with three years of experience in journalism. Her novel, ‘Misplaced Heads’ has the final list of Greece based ‘Eyelands book award,’ in the published novel category, along with three from the USA and one from the UK. The result will be out on 30th December 2020.
Neel Preet: First of all, Big Congratulations to you on your book, “Misplaced Heads,” you’ve achieved something remarkably huge! What responses are you getting from this book of yours? Please share your experience with this book.
Jayanthi Sankar: Thank you. I am getting various kinds of responses from different types of readers from ‘refreshing,’ ‘monumental’, ‘masterpiece’ to ‘heavy read, difficult to understand’, ‘requires second reading’, ‘not my kind’. Creating this unique world has brought in me a lasting experience of joy and pain and taught me more to handle wider canvas better.
Neel Preet: After reading your book, I found out that it’s a ‘Historical Fiction’ with an immense amount of research done in the plot; So, my question to you is what inspired you to write a novel like this?
Jayanthi Sankar: Mridula, a dancer friend, moved to Australia a year ago, was the inspiration. Not only did she share things about her search for her roots, but she also earnestly wished her life adapted into fiction. Although the skeleton was in my hand, I could not possibly barge on the topic without proper research as I knew only the basics of the temple dancers’ system just as anyone would. I loved learning so much about them.
Neel Preet: You have given an exciting title to your novel, which is undoubtedly very catchy as well as thought-provoking. I felt the same as a reader, so what made you go for this title for your book?
Jayanthi Sankar: When the Novel unfolded intensely, during the alpha state of my sleep, along with a flash of the mythological story, the title flashed in me. After a couple of days of mulling over it, I felt the metaphor it rendered suited my novel. I felt my fiction could not have had a better title, and therefore I stopped considering a few others I had listed out.
Neel Preet: Your story is very much based on the art of dance and the dancers who carry out this art very gracefully. So, while writing this novel, what your mind-set was?
Jayanthi Sankar: I was full of reverence for the dancers, art, and heritage while researching and writing. I was overwhelmed by the richness at the beginning of my research, but I got over it slowly to respect and took longer to go to my fiction. I used less than one-hundredth of my research material.
Neel Preet: One can see the immense amount of research you’ve put in your plot and that’s why the book is so much appreciated too; So, what was the impetus behind this work of yours?
Jayanthi Sankar: My desire to know more about the system, its status, its rising, its falling, and the impacts of abolition drove me to research extensively. I was beginning to live the lives of those hereditary temple dancers.
Neel Preet: While reading your book, I found that your story has some powerful emotions inside them, which had much impressed me, and thus, I would like you to explain the overall theme of your book!
Jayanthi Sankar: Talking much on women’s sensitivities, this historical fiction with post modern storytelling has a contemporary thread that acts as the backbone. The contrast between them when swapped brought about a refreshing reading experience. Since the backdrop, primary and secondary characters are mostly women, the novel has become more feminine and feministic than I had intended.
Neel Preet: Ma’am, your writing seemed to be impeccable, and you were bold with the plot in your book, which I appreciate. Therefore, I was hoping you could tell us about some of those writers who had inspired you and whom you follow!
Jayanthi Sankar: As much as I enjoy reading fiction by writers like Jose Saramago, Haruki Murakami, Gabriel García Márquez, I have never been influenced by any. I have never had to be careful not to adapt their styles like many writers are known to be doing. When I read, I am an earnest reader, and when I write, I can only be original.
Neel Preet: Is there any message which you would like to convey to your readers? Or any piece of advice which you would like to give to the readers out there!
Jayanthi Sankar: Misplaced Heads is one of that fiction that required focus, efforts, and participation from the readers. Some readers are saying it deserves & demands a second read.
Neel Preet: Are there any other books being worked on by you? Please let us know about your future projects.
Jayanthi Sankar: I am working on my dream novel that should have come out before ‘Misplaced Heads’. It will be a Singapore based fiction, aimed for 2021 end.
Neel Preet: Thank you so much for answering all the questions. All the very best to you for the future and your book too!
Jayanthi Sankar: Thank you, and thanks also to criticspace.
Title: Misplaced Heads
Author: Jayanthi Sankar
Interviewed By: Neelpreet