Author Interview with Sweta Vikram
ULM: What inspired you to write Louisiana Catch?
It wasn’t one thing that inspired me to write Louisiana Catch. Between the time spent on social media, the increase in reportage of cases of rape and sexual assault on women, colleagues and friends talking about their bad online experiences, the shame I sensed in so many of these conversations, it all came together over 5-6 years. There were ideas. Those ideas developed into short stories or chunks of work. And, over the years, it all came together and turned into Louisiana Catch.
ULM: What was the emotional journey Like in creating this debut novel?
The thought of writing 70,000 plus words and creating these characters out of your imagination, was both exciting and nerve-wracking. On one hand, I didn’t want force myself to finish a book in X no. of days—have a day job as the owner of a wellness company, NimmiLife, and a nurturing but demanding personal life; on the other hand, being a part-time writer made the process seem more daunting and endless in the beginning. So, I set I realistic expectations. I believe in trusting my instincts and the organic development of the story. And I know that I am a disciplined writer. My strategy was to have a vague outline and meaty chunks of micro stories ready within a certain time. Let them stew as I worked on other creative projects. Slowly, the book evolved and a lot of those stories made it to Louisiana Catch while others got the boot.
Another thing: Because my writing focuses on women, wellness, identity, and multiculturalism, I knew at least one women’s issue would be in the book. Sensitively approaching topics like marital rape or cyber stalking and cyber bullying were high on my agenda. I tell you, writing about the darkness in the world can take a toll on your own emotional health. That’s why I make it a point to meditate, practice yoga, and surround myself with nurturing people. You can’t help others from an empty place.
ULM: How much different was it writing fiction than your usual poetry?
Poetry—to me, anyway—is simple. A theme haunts me; I start work on it. The first draft, almost always, is completed within a month. Poetry is so much more about the emotion and language. Fiction is more nuanced in terms of the process and time commitment. The several drafts of writing and editing can change the way your final book “looks” from when you initially started to write it. Also, the scales are so different. Poetry heals and has a niche audience. Fiction can reach in spaces you never thought your work could. I have noticed that fiction can be more easily personalized so evokes a stronger reaction.
ULM: Which characters did you enjoy creating the most within Louisiana Catch?
I enjoyed creating each and every character, honestly. Some more than the other—like Ahana—because she is the underdog. You get mad at her for her vulnerabilities but you also root for her as she unravels the mystery of the two men and finds her own power. Creating and sharing her story was very empowering. Rohan and Naina have this element of southern charm in them, which I loved writing about. But I have to say, writing Jay’s character was most emotionally and psychologically demanding. He is such a complex character and we don’t see his truth for a very long time. I interviewed psychotherapists to ensure I was doing justice by Jay Dubois.
ULM: Using three words only, how would you describe main protagonist?
Ahana is flawed, strong, and beautiful.
ULM: What themes can readers find in your book?
Louisiana Catch touches upon themes of marital rape, which is both sexual assault as well as domestic violence. It also brings to light the power of social media in bringing social change and the dark side of the Internet: cyberstalking and cyber bullying. There is multicultural romance as well as grief and healing. You can expect to read about human relationships and friendships that make you believe in yourself and the human spirit.
ULM: Tell us, a little bit more about the grieving daughter.
Ahana loses her mother—her strength and core of the support system—very suddenly. Her mother is the one who helps Ahana walk out of a dangerous, personal situation. With her gone, Ahana thinks she is powerless and all alone. But as Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” After her mother’s death and over a period of time, Ahana develops a realistic perspective about her own strengths and the shortcomings in the relationship she shared with her mother. For an adult to not have healthy separation from their parent or for the parents to be over-involved in their adult child’s life, can lead to an unhealthy emotional dependence, which can prove to be crippling.
ULM: What was it like writing about an abuse survivor?
I have written books of poetry about female survivors of violence (for which I interviewed survivors or their families), and I also teach yoga to female survivors of trauma and sexual assault. Trust me, even after all these years, writing about one human being hurting another, isn’t easy. Just when you think you have seen it all and heard the worst, you are unpleasantly surprised. I personally know women who are sexual abuse survivors. In Louisiana Catch, Ahana, the female protagonist is a survivor of marital rape. Being violated by the person who vowed to love and protect you in sickness and in health, can take a toll on an indescribable level. I had to address Ahana’s PTSD, triggers, courage, and flaws. She grows as a person, and we want to root for her and see her come out victorious at the other end. But writing about these elements means you are thinking in stages: five steps forward and then the one trigger … and five steps backwards.
ULM: What other projects do you plan to create next, if any?
I have spent six years bringing Louisiana Catch into the world. I want to enjoy this moment and share the book as well as its journey with my readers. Once the book tour is completed by May end, I am going to take some time and focus on my family, friends, and my wellness company, NimmiLife where I have launched a wellness stories section where real women share their inspiration for wellness. Ideas for a new novel are planted, but I don’t want to jump into it right away. But then who knows with a writer what happens when creativity strikes.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
Thank you for this lovely, interview. I enjoyed it. My website, www.swetavikram.com, has a list of all of my works, events, and latest news.