Meet Divya Kumar: a columnist turned author

Divya Kumar, a writer based in Dubai, launched her book, The Shrine of Death in Chennai recently. Here, she talks about her book in conversation with D Ramalingam.

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DR: How did you select Chennai for your characters and the plot itself?

DK: Chennai was always my first choice. I grew up in Oman, due to my father’s profession, and then I spent time in the US studying. After that, I returned to Chennai and began working as a reporter with the Metroplus supplement of The Hindu. During that time, I got opportunities to go to different places, move with people, get to know them and write about the events. I grew familiar with various parts of the city, such as T. Nagar, the famous shopping district. and the Marina, the world’s second-longest beach. Chennai has its own character, charm and culture. It has always been my favourite city.

DR: That idea of idol theft happens to be the central theme in your book. How did it occur to you?

DK: The Hindu did a lot of in-depth coverage on the idol theft and the bust of an international smuggling ring while I was working there, and I thought it was a fascinating subject for a book.

DR: What made you to write about It?

DK: As a writer, I always wanted to write a novel. I’ve been a journalist, and a blogger too – I’ve been blogging for about ten years at divyakumar.com. When I got the idea for this idol theft plot, I began to work towards turning it into a novel.

DR: How long did you take to write this book?

DK: Three-and-a-half years. During that time, my daughter was very young, and I was a full-time mother. I was also freelancing for The Hindu, and writing a light-hearted column called ‘Toddler Talk’ for the Metroplus. My husband was transferred to Dubai on his job. So, I wasn’t writing the book continuously. But once I finally completed it, I got a promising response from relatives and close friends and decided to try and get it published.

DR: I believe the book is your new venture. What does your experience here as a columnist helped you here?

DK: Working for The Hindu really helped me hone the craft of writing. As a reporter, you have to write every day, and you learn to use words accurately and economically.

DR: Writing about art galleries, your main character Jai is a gallery assistant, other characters Sneha, Prabha, Anita, et al are involved in Arts. How come your interest in Arts?

DK: While I was writing for the Metroplus, I wrote extensively on contemporary art, visiting art galleries and interviewing artists. A lot of those experiences found their way into this book.

DR: Chennai has been your centre stage. Do you have plans to write more about it using it for your plots?

DK: Yes, certainly. Jai, Prabha and Gerard are my three main characters, and will return in the planned trilogy, as will the city of Chennai.

DR: How did you find a publisher?

DK: With the help of my agent, Kanishka Gupta, in New Delhi. He sent out my manuscript to different publishers, and finally I signed a contract with the international publishing house, Bloomsbury.

–D Ramalingam

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