Winner of the 2002 QWF McAuslan Award for her first book, Blues from the Malabar Coast, Nalini Warriar spent her childhood in Assam and Mumbai. She worked as a molecular biologist before turning to writing. She lives in Napanee, Ontario. Her latest novel, Fireflies in the Night, has been chosen as ‘Best Indie Books 2016’ by Kirkus Reviews.
Here’s Nalini’s story:
I set my first novel, The Enemy Within, in the scientific world I’m familiar with. I wanted to portray the inner workings of a federally funded scientific research center and took all the liberty the setting allowed me to. I tried to keep the science part to a minimum but the story got away from me. I followed where the characters and story took me.
The novel is set in Canada-in French Canada-with a female protagonist who is a minority within a minority, a situation perfectly suited to the unique social and political climate in Quebec. I had plenty to work with, inspiration coming at me from all sides: my workplace, the malls and the community. It took me more than six years to find a publisher, partly because I was so out of the literary world in Toronto. And I wrote in English. Local presses did not ‘read’ English, in Quebec City, I must stress. The editors told me they didn’t know what to do with my book. Translation did not come to their minds. Plus my novel was not the story of the ‘immigrant experience.’ With a name like mine in Quebec City, they expected a story steeped in hardship, poverty, violence and I don’t know what else. I was unique. My book is unique. This was too much uniqueness for me to handle. So I moved away from Quebec and now am happy to call Ontario my home.
My second novel, Fireflies in the Night, was published in 2016. Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review and it was chosen as ‘Best Indie Books 2016.’ It is a finalist in the Foreword Reviews Best Indie Books 2016. I couldn’t be prouder.
My latest book, Green Monkeys is a cozy mystery, and is about clinical trials and drug research.
I worked as a cancer researcher and around the time I hit my very own mid-life crisis, I remembered a forgotten dream: writing. I’ve loved books and the places they took me. As a child, I devoured fairy tales. Novels set in far off places are my adult fairy tales. In a house full of family and noise, words spoken in a language I hadn’t heard in decades, set off a series of memories. Working in a lab was a perfect balance. In science, the writing is factual, short and concise. And above all, there were guidelines in order to prepare a manuscript for submission to scientific journals. I found these same rules in the literary world as well. They were familiar, un-daunting.
Organization skills and discipline were a few of the other characteristics I took away from my science job and transposed into my writing. In the lab, I followed a protocol; I established parameters; analyzed the results and drew conclusions. This required organizing and following a timetable. At the end of the experiments, I wrote the article with a synopsis, and conclusion. Pretty standard stuff. I did the same with my writing: I organized pretty notebooks and pencils; booted my laptop; and poured over my notes. I always kept one in my lab coat pocket. I observed all the other stressed out crazy scientists, the rooftop terrace that I had my lunch on; and made notes about whatever and whoever struck. This was my raw material.
At home, after dinner, I sat down at my desk, plugged my ears with music and wrote with no obvious purpose. I like novels with good structure and a consistent voice. I disliked change of tense within a paragraph or chapter and I hated it when authors jumped from the first person to third person in their books. So I did none of the things I disliked and embraced everything I admired, aiming for a structurally sound base and strong characters.
Balancing science and writing came easily to me. I put up with science as it gave me the liberty to obsess about writing. I never thought about my science when I was creating. And science never gave me as much pleasure as writing. In the end, I ditched science and opted for writing full time.
Find Nalini Warriar on Facebook. Her books are available through all worldwide outlets of Amazon.