In Conversation with Neeru Iyer – Author of ‘Of Bridges Among Us’

Neeru Iyer was born in Chennai, India. Exchanging her engineering career for a life of writing, she has poetry and short fiction published/forthcoming in several national and international journals including The Adirondack Review, Kitaab, Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, and The Equator Line. Of Bridges Among Us is her debut collection of short stories. When she is not writing, she spends her time being inspired by slice-of-life manga or exploring Pittsburgh with her husband and can be reached at writerneeruiyer@gmail.com.

Tell us something about yourself.

Neeru Pic

First of all, thank you so much for having me here at My Bookshelf! I’m from Chennai, India, and I’m a writer of poetry and fiction. I studied to be an engineer, but I gave up my career without hesitation to take on a life of writing. Of Bridges Among Us is my debut work of fiction. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me in the kitchen cooking and baking or huddled in a corner of the bed with a book. I live in Pittsburgh (incidentally called the City of Bridges), United States, with my husband.

The title and cover page of the book are very interesting. How did you come up with the title and cover concept?

Like most good ideas, the title came to me when I was in the shower. When I looked for a single thread connecting these 10 very dissimilar stories, all I could think of was how each story was built on some kind of a relationship, romantic, platonic, or spiritual. I explored various metaphors and thus “Of Bridges Among Us” was born. The cover idea followed when I mulled over it a bit more and built upon the title, and then it was all in the artist’s skillful hands.

The characters and plots of your stories are very realistic. Are the story ideas based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Thank you. I’m glad you think so. The stories are based on not just one, but a lot of people I know! There’s a little bit of things I’ve seen, heard of, or read about in real life everywhere in the book. Some of the stories are based on conversations I had with friends; for example, “The Best Mango” came about after my friend and I had an interesting (and rather strange) exchange about how best to relish a good mango.Launch 1

In your stories, women hold a very strong and special place. Any particular reason for that?

Male or female, I like to pay a lot of attention to creating believable, multilayered characters. Honestly speaking, it wasn’t a conscious move on my part to create stories with central women characters. But I consider myself fortunate to know a lot of strong women, people I personally aspire to emulate someday, and it is only natural that I model my female characters after some of the very real, wonderful people I know.

In your opinion, what’s more important: characters or plot?

If I were to take the easy way out, I would say one could not exist without the other. But truthfully, I enjoy creating characters more than plotting, and I know that, deep down, I firmly believe that if I could create honest-to-god characters with unique quirks, just like all the people who surround us, my plot would resolve itself. Even a perfectly ordinary character must have some powerful traits altering the course of the story in some way.

While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters? Which story is closest to your heart?

These stories were all written over a fairly long period of time, so at each point, I felt connected to the story I was working on. But looking back, I’d find it near impossible to choose between “Moonwalker,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and “The Reunion.” I feel I’ve left behind a little more of myself in writing these stories.Neeru Iyer - OBAU - Banner

Which books have influenced your life most?

I read everything from science fiction to slice-of-life manga, so I tend to draw inspiration from everything I read. There are way too many books that influenced me, so off the top of my head, I’d say Stephen King’s The Shining, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, and Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Be it short stories with a twist or novels with loads of character, I have learned a lot from each of Stephen King’s works. His On Writing is a textbook for every writer.

Do you ever get writer’s block? Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

Of course! Though I believe a writer’s block is all in the writer’s (very tired) mind and that discipline and writing regularly can cure everything, it’s hard to put into practice. Switching things up (as opposed to a fixed routine) works for me, as do reading and googling abstract images.

Do you have any published work other than “Of Bridges Among Us”?

I’ve got poetry and short fiction published/forthcoming in journals such as The Adirondack ReviewThe Rusty NailThe Equator Line, Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, and Kitaab. I also occasionally write romantic fiction in Tamil, and one of my early novellas was published in a bi-monthly called Kanmani way back in 2006.

What are your upcoming projects?

I’m currently working on a Tamil romance. Simultaneously, in English, a women’s fiction trilogy and another short story collection are in the early planning stages.

 

 

May also like to read

2 Responses to In Conversation with Neeru Iyer – Author of ‘Of Bridges Among Us’

  1. Lakshmi says:

    Nice interview! Good luck Neeru!!

     
  2. Megha Gupta says:

    wow i would love to try out her book, it seems interesting for sure

     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *