In this episode, R. N. Roveleh (a.k.a. Helevorn), one of the co-hosts of The Nuts and Bolts of Writing, interviews writer Ashwini Gangal. Two of her short stories have appeared in our literary magazine “The Unconventional Courier”, namely Brown Gaze and Hotoli and Botoli. Her writings go deep into the human mind, and just when you think you understand the protagonist in their complexity, the story takes an unexpected turn and strikes you with the width of what there is yet to know.
After completing a rigorous master's degree in clinical psychology, Ashwini Gangal switched fields completely and worked as a media journalist at afaqs! India's most trusted b2b dot com, for 12 years, her specialty being advertising-and-marketing.
In mid-2022, she moved on from afaqs! to pursue her passion - poetry, fiction writing, academia and scholarship. She is currently enjoying a creatively energizing sabbatical, as she nurses her neuroses, eats through her savings and tries not to go completely mad. She has books to help her with that, as she is an insatiable reader.
Her own works of fiction have appeared in numerous publications including Danse Macabre, Piker Press, The Bangalore Review, India Currents, The Hooghly Review, and many more.
Check out Ashwini's stories for our literary zine, "The Unconventional Couirer":
You can find out more on Ashwini's website, www.ashwinigangal.com.
R.N. Roveleh asked Ashwini the following questions:
- One thing I love about your stories is that they blend realism – a minute attention to details in painting society and human nature – with an unexpected surrealism, and many of them have a dark edge. You take your stories in a bold direction and give them a thrilling twist while keeping the focus on character psychology. (Which I think is quite rare, we don’t often encounter this with contemporary prose. We either see a focus on the twists- a plot-oriented story, or a more static and mundane piece about human experiences). So I think your style is truly striking. Which makes me curious to know: what inspires you to write like this?
- I know you love reading. Have you got any authors or works of fiction that you draw upon when creating your own stories? (Can you say that you’ve learned something from each author and book you’ve read?)
- You have, so far, published with us the story “Brown Gaze” (a wonderful short piece about cultural identity). What was your inspiration for the story? Given that it’s more rooted in the real world than some of your other stories, would you say it’s more personal to you?
- Your next story which will appear in The Unconventional Courier is called “Hotoli and Botoli”. And, without giving any spoilers, I can say that, although it is also centered on the experiences of two women, it is very different from “Brown Gaze”. It has an almost mythical feel. What was the inspiration behind that one?
- How would you describe your writing process? Is it a more structured approach, like a writing schedule, or a more impulsive one, relying more on striking bouts of inspiration?
- I mentioned how your writings are deeply psychological. And I know, for one, that you’re interested in mental health. Could you tell us more about this? How does this reflect into your art?
- Another interest of yours is past pandemics. Which is interesting because even though everybody, I daresay, has had the chance to reflect on the topic of pandemics, lately, you go a bit deeper, don’t you?
- Where do you see your writing taking you in the years ahead?
- What are your current projects?
- Because this is a podcast where we also talk about how to approach certain aspects of the writing process: Have you got any advice for writers, especially those who want to blend the psychological with the surreal?
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