Anita Rau Badami’s author talk began with a reading from her book Tell it to the Trees. She introduced the passage by talking about the “snoopy writer character” whose death is central to it – and to whom she relates the most (though she hopes to avoid the same end!). The audience was very entertained – the text she read might have been about the dead, but was also infused with a warm, wry humour, and room focussed right in.
Moving in to taking questions, Anita spoke about whether her books are drawn from life: not in any particular way, she says (except her first novel), but she added: “I collect people and images and characters… they stay with me and I find a way to put them in a book.” She’s an engaging speaker – the audience was completely swept up in stories and anecdotes about her writing life. Speaking about her process and her relationship to her characters, she said that she always knows when a story is one she can stick with for the long haul of a whole novel: it’s when events and characters unfold before her, and it’s easy to imagine what comes next. The “a-ha!” moment for her comes when there is no longer any psychological distance between author and characters. And she addressed the title of the talk, “The Writer as Goddess”, pointing out that the writer can cook up people, and do anything to them… it’s like having divine powers!
She also spoke about reading – a common theme among today’s writers, both of fiction and of blogs, has been that reading=writing: you must do the one to excel at the other! But today’s writers certainly have different writing styles: where Daniel Kallan said he prefers the computer as a writing tool, Anita says that a pen and a notebook can make writing feel very immediate to her. She also spoke about her other passion – art – and the fact that she is now pursuing it, calling a career as a visual artist “the road not taken” in her life.