Meena Kandasamy has been shortlisted for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction for When I Hit You. We caught up with Meena to find out a bit about her writing process and why writing in a cafe soothes a writer’s block.
Where do you write?
In multiple places—I absolutely lack the discipline to have one workspace, or even one particular time where I write. I used to write in bed—it started as a habit in my teenage years, when everyone at home was asleep, and in the dead quiet of the night you don’t want to make any noise or wake up anyone, so you lie on your stomach in bed and begin writing/typing away. Now that I’m older (and like to think that the intervening years have left me little wiser)—I see the essential need to step out and get out of home to be able to write. So, I write in a lot of cafes. Costa, especially because their staff are so polite and won’t chase you away even if you are sitting with one cup of coffee for five hours. There was a very beautiful cafe that has just recently shut down, All You Read is Love, about fifteen minutes from where we lived in Leytonstone—I used to drag myself there whenever I had a writer’s block.
What do you have on your desk?
My desk should ideally have my laptop, my notebooks, some paper to scribble, and a place to put the pens. I achieve that state of zen once a year—and very quickly, things begin to clutter, and I can no longer see the table under all that rubble.
Which is the most inspiring object in your workspace?
There is an Olivetti Lettera 32—I just like the look and feel and earthiness of these machines, I don’t use it for writing, though I wish I had the commitment to do that. It’s a good luck charm, or something similar. I thought myself typing on a dysfunctional mathematical typewriter that my mother had in her office way back in the 90s, and any typewriter fills me with that familiar awe.
What can you see from your window?
Flowers in bloom, a fat old squirrel, my neighbour’s festive-looking shed, the tube. On the other side of the house—there are these passive-aggressive car-parking wars that I find hugely entertaining.