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Book chat: Subin Bhattarai on what it takes to be a writer

Cilla Khatry

Cilla Khatry

Book chat: Subin Bhattarai on what it takes to be a writer

Subin Bhattarai is the author of the bestselling Nepali romance novels ‘Summer Love’ and ‘Saaya’. Summer Love, published in 2012, was translated into English and later adapted into a movie as well. In 2014, Saaya, the sequel to Summer Love, was reprinted in the same month as it was published. In 2022, he published his sixth and latest book, ‘Ijoriya’, which is set in the Maithili-speaking region of southern Nepal. Cilla Khatry talked to Bhattarai to dig deeper into his reading and writing habits. 

Do you have a reading or writing ritual? 

I’m not a disciplined reader. I read whenever I feel like it. There’s no pattern. But I must finish every book I pick up. Sometimes it takes two to three days to finish a book, and other times, it takes weeks. I enjoy reading when I have a lot of free time. I usually read in the morning and afternoon. It’s the same with writing. As a full-time writer, I’m always reading or writing so I want to wrap things up by early evening. I want to relax in the evening and night time—I might watch a movie or a series. 

Which books and authors have influenced you?

I’m a huge fan of BP Koirala. I wouldn’t have been a writer had it not been for his books. Reading him sparked my creative side. All his books are phenomenal but if I had to pick, I’d say ‘Narendra Dai’, ‘Hitler ra Yahudi’, and ‘Sumnima’ are my favorites. 

I have also been fascinated by the works of Dhurba Chandra Gautam and Dha. Cha. Gotame. Gautam’s short stories are marvelous and I love Gotame’s ‘Ghamka Pailaharu’. Other than these three writers, I enjoy reading writers who have a good grasp on language and wordplay. 

What books are currently on your TBR (to-be-read) list? 

I read a lot of contemporary Nepali fiction. I want to read all the books that come out. I might not always be able to do that so sometimes I make a list of all the books that have come out in the past six months or so that I haven’t read, buy them in one go, and read them back-to-back. I believe in recommendations. When someone recommends a book, I want to pick it up. 

There are also many English novels that I want to read. I have a copy of ‘It Ends with Us’ by Colleen Hoover. I have been meaning to start reading it for a while now. I want to read all her books. She’s so popular. I want to know why. I also want to read more English classics. ‘The Adolescent’ by Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky is high on the list. 

As a writer, how difficult is it to stay relevant? 

Every writer must think about this because unless you grow, your audience will outgrow you. A writer must change with and adapt to the times. For that, it’s important to be updated and read a lot. You must read everything, from non-fiction to poetry, to be able to write well. A fiction writer shouldn’t only read fiction. 

Time and experience are also excellent teachers. Life can teach you a lot if you let it as you will go through a rainbow of emotions—there will be joy, sorrow, anger, confusion, and so much more. Then, as a writer, you must never think you are a master of your craft. You have to take reviews and feedback seriously and hone your writing accordingly. 

How do you feel about the current publishing scene in Nepal?

I believe writers shouldn’t be in a hurry to publish their work. A book needs to go through multiple rewrites and rigorous editing. But there are many publishing houses and authors alike who are just in a rush to publish a book. This leads to many mistakes.

It takes a lot of effort and investment to bring out a book, and I feel that’s largely missing these days. There’s a lack of preparation. Our publishing industry, writers included, I believe, lacks patience. That’s not a good thing because rewrites are important—it will give you a chance to make the language sharper and flesh out the characters. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

To cut a tree in an hour, you have to sharpen the ax for six hours. What I mean by this is that it takes a lot of hard work and preparation before you can get a job done properly. Likewise, a story can’t be developed overnight. If you want to write well, you must do your research. You must read. You must have a lot of conversations, go through a lot of experiences, churn them in your head, and develop your narrative. Be prepared to put in the effort. 

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