Giselle Mehta has Masters’ degrees in International Relations and English Literature. For 10 years, she was an officer in the Indian Revenue Service. Thereafter, she made the shift to personal independence and the stimulation of a creative life.
Her diverse interests and immersions shape her fiction. It reflects the passions and animations of an ever-evolving persona.
Her debut novel ‘Blossom Showers’ was on the bestseller list for fiction with the Landmark chain of bookstores in India in 2011.
‘Vectors in the Void’ is her second novel.
TBE: To begin, I want to express my appreciation to Giselle for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us a bit about your book ‘Vectors in the Void’?
Giselle Mehta: You are most welcome, Bookish Elf. One might say “Vectors in the Void” is a single novel comprising multiple stories. At its core, it is the eventful tale of Zara, which is turbulent right from the circumstances of her conception, and later on her birth.
There’s also a geopolitical aspect to the story – it would be rather unusual for a single individual to be impacted both by the Holocaust in Europe and the Partition of India, but the birth of three nations (India, Pakistan and Israel) indeed shape her life’s path.
The saga stretches to the interesting lives of Zara’s progeny: intense dramas of family life that incline towards the dysfunctional lend the novel a profoundly psychological dimension. At the same time there’s a philosophical undercurrent running through the book. All of this makes for quite a stimulating mix.
TBE: In Vectors in the Void, you weaved together a captivating narrative of an Indian girl named Zara as she navigates through many pivotal events that changed the course of India and the globe. What was the origin of the idea?
Giselle Mehta: I held a launch event for my debut novel “Blossom Showers”, for which the then Israeli Consul General in Mumbai, Ms Orna Sagiv was Chief Guest. I committed to her that my next book would touch on her country and the history of her people. That was indeed the starting point for my novel: the story of a teenaged girl in undivided India who falls hopelessly in love with a French Jewish man sheltering from Hitler’s atrocities in Europe and having to deal with the consequences of this short-lived relationship. Her tale, with its twists and turns, takes off from this poignant juncture.
TBE: When writing this book, what kind of research did you conduct?
Giselle Mehta: I had some non-fiction reference books in my possession, like “Freedom at Midnight” which furnished an idea about events like the Partition of India. Having been a quizzer in my college days, I have a very keen nose for scenting and chasing up information. I entered into correspondence with those who enjoyed an intimate acquaintance with the past, or took notes from their reminiscences. Finally, the internet is happy hunting ground for a writer, offering access to innumerable open information sources.
TBE: What do you consider to be the single most difficult aspect of writing the book?
Giselle Mehta: The most difficult aspect was to split each chapter with the initial spotlight on another character and the following segment with Zara’s intensely personal narration. Maintaining a linkage between these two components while making the story move smoothly onward was indeed quite a challenge.
TBE: Your characters are so well-depicted. Do you have them clear in your mind before you start writing chapter one? How do you get such a fine level of detail about your characters, their thought processes, and their lives?
Giselle Mehta: Thank you for your compliment! I might at best start out with a rough template for a story, and very tentative sketches of individual characters. They develop with the story, and I might revisit the rough sketches innumerable times to flesh them out. I get into their skin, so to speak, to conjure up their thoughts and emotions.
TBE: Why, or how do you think stories are able to create that kind of reaction in people, where they touch something viscerally inside of us that relates to our own past?
Giselle Mehta: The visceral impact you speak of is achieved when a story feels real or plausible. People enjoy stories that touch their empathies and transport them into a compelling alternate space, drawn there by characters and situations capable of effecting a strong connect.
TBE: One of the things I appreciate about your story writing is taking a metaphorical idea and boiling it down into a story that we readers can understand contextually. Is that a subconscious thing, or do you find a concept that moves you and write a story around it?
Giselle Mehta: I would say it is probably a bit of both: the story seeks out a concept to anchor it, and later the concept furnishes the story’s coherence.
TBE: Did you have any goals for this story when you wrote it? Any particular theme you want to explore?
Giselle Mehta: When I write a book, it is with the urge to tell a powerful tale. One of the things I was keen to do was to have strong female characters. Indian fiction, I feel, enjoys enormous scope to explore the depth and breadth of the feminine persona, not just as weak or oppressed in patriarchies but as independent, intelligent, intriguing and complex. I also wanted to explore identities and cross-cultural interface, which is a recurring theme.
TBE: Ultimately, what do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Giselle Mehta: I like to give readers the experience of a page turning story, while also illuminating them with the interesting and lesser known on a variety of subjects, and to furnish deeper insights into life. It is great when I hear that they relate to the ups and downs of my characters, as they would to the predicaments of dear friends. I’d like them to take in different strands in the fabric of the tale, and the intricate crafting in how it seamlessly falls in place.
TBE: How was your publishing journey with Leadstart?
Giselle Mehta: My publishing experience with Leadstart has always been positive. The co-ordination between different desks in various aspects of the publishing process is incredible. As an author, it feels good to experience a responsive and adaptive approach to my vision.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Giselle Mehta: I am still consumed by the fictional cosmos of “Vectors in the Void”. But I might for a change take flight on the wings of Magic Realism for a completely different kind of tale.