Meet 1/7 of The Koyal Writers, Mala Schneider

Hello dear readers and welcome to the next 1/7 Koyal interviews!

This week we have Mala Schneider in the hot seat, giving us a look into her identity and thoughts as a writer. Sharing thoughtful reflections and taking us across the globe with her bookshelf faves, we get a real insight into a brilliant mind! Thank you Mala!

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1. Pitch yourself as a writer in seven words.

Natural conversational tone, light-hearted, relatable and poignant.

2. What personal creative project are you working on at the moment?

I’m scribbling away at a Scratch Art of the Taj Mahal – it’s black paper, where you scratch carefully with a fine needlepoint nib, along lines of a pre-drawn image to reveal a shimmering colourful silhouette of the iconic architectural icon. It’s so detailed, I think it’s making me long-sighted, but it will produce a piece of art so beautiful that it will make me look and feel like an actual talented artist (when in reality my go to drawing style is stick people).

I’ve also volunteered to perform in a morning assembly at my child’s school, at its inaugural “Musical Concert by Parents”. As long as there aren’t any professionals performing, I’ll go ahead with my pre-school rendition of “Match of the Day” on the same recorder I’ve had since I was 7 years old!

3. Name seven books that are a permanent fixture on your shelf.

I chose these books based on those books that I would never want to give away, either because I would re-read them, or because I wanted to cherish the memory of the stories, when I looked at the cover on my bookshelf.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. It’s actually a series of books consisting of the most addictive exploration of the nuances of a loving but painful female friendship, set in Naples, covering youth through to old age. 

An interesting backstory is the writer wrote under a pseudonym, but a journalist was so devoted to revealing her identity it ended up as a witch hunt in the media. That infuriated me, that a writer couldn’t write, without someone wanting to try and analyse the impact of their actual life and reality on their writing and inspiration. Does it matter?

The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I read about the stories of mafia gangs as a teenager and it’s stayed with me ever since as one of my top five reads. I think there might be an Italian theme here?….

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This is a book that felt like a once in a lifetime read, and I wonder if it felt like a masterpiece to the author, that couldn’t really be followed up. I have read her subsequent novel which was also enthralling, but the rest seem to be taking their time – it reminds me of the impact of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird”, whose success was also never replicated by the author.

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten. It’s YA fiction which I bought for my children as I want to ensure they read a variety of authors, with books set in different countries about varying cultures. Once they read it, I was told  “you have to read this Mummy” so I did, but what I didn’t expect was a book with such an incredible twist I couldn’t see coming, and one that meant I had to go back and re-read the book, to fully appreciate the incredible complexities that the author had woven into her absolutely gripping book. Set in Jamaica, it is a powerful story of broken ties of family and friendships but if you have to define the genre,the pervading one I would label it with, is mystery.

Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapoor. It’s not common to find a plethora of published writers from an Asian heritage to choose from in a bookshop, which I find incredible when I read books like this. It’s a story set across three generations of related women and the similarities and differences they encounter, struggle with and overcome, in their time.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I knew nothing of this element of Japanese culture and the hidden intricacies, obligations and sexism that pervades society subconsciously through tearooms, until I read this book. It has both haunted and fascinated me ever since.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi. An unforgettable story powerfully evocative of working class life in India. Told from the perspective of a mehndi artist almost unintentionally aspiring to move upwards in society and overcome preconceptions of a single working woman, set against the complex backdrop of a culture mired in tradition, hierarchy and obligations.

I had to add an eighth book as I realised I love biographies and autobiographies and the above list doesn’t include one. Also, when I’m travelling, I like to read a book whether fiction or non-fiction, set in that country. 

So, when I went travelling in Vietnam, I read “The Girl in the Picture: The Remarkable Story of Vietnam’s Most Famous Casualty” by Denise Chong. If the history of the Vietnam War and the sights, monuments and tourism created from that wasn’t harrowing enough as a tourist, when I read this true story of a child victim against that backdrop, I still have not forgotten it, twenty years on.

When I read the above list now I’ve finished writing it, I’ve just realised a definite theme of feminism pervading my reading preferences!

4. What are you reading at the moment?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It’s so heartbreaking, because the injustices and racism are all true recantations from a lawyer, and much of it took place within our lifetime. I have it ongoing along with other books to temper the trauma.

I read a lot of YA as my kids are that age, and I want to be able to engage with them conversationally, so another book I’m currently reading is Boy Everywhere by A.M. Dassu. It’s about the life of a Syrian refugee forced to escape his middle class lifestyle into poverty on his journey to England, as told from the perspective of a teenage boy.

5. Borrowing from Hemingway’s concept, but with our thematic twist, tell us a seven-word story.

My guilty pleasure is I’m a catfisher.

I’ve recently immersed myself in podcasts told from the perspectives of victims of catfishers and I simply cannot get my head around the psychopathic behaviour, personality and minds of catfishers. It’s rare to ever hear from their perspective so maybe that would make a good story? Hmmm…(grabs notebook and pen).

6. This group is named after a bird. If you could spread your wings, take flight, and go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

Thailand. Personally, I find it one of the least judgemental places to visit, and quite liberal for an Asian country, although not without its political issues. You can’t help but feel totally overwhelmed there in only a positive sense because of the vastness of experiences you can have. Aromatic food, bustling cities, beautiful scenery, peaceful temples, ancient history, stunning sandy islands – contrasting with sweaty underground Thai boxing matches, sexualised versions of ping pong, ladyboy performances,a mellow drug scene and being subjected to X Factor wannabee singers in every hotel. 

For inspiration, escapism and to feel free as a bird, it’s a place I would return to explore again and again.

7. Using seven words only, share a golden nugget of writing advice.

A muse is not to be underestimated.

Sources of inspiration from various people you’ll come across in life are an inevitability for a writer – it’s creative gold.

***

Hope everyone enjoyed this week’s blog as much as we did. That seven word story though! Come on, Mala. That needs to be your next project.
Until next time lovely readers!

Published by thekoyalwriters

We are a South Asian Collective and totally passionate about writing. We are a virtual writing group. Between us we are authors, teachers, spoken word artists, play wrights, novel writers, flash fiction writers and poets.

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Sidra Ansari

Award Winning Author|Creative Writing Workshops|@Ladybirdbooks|@beaconbooks|@penguinwritenowlive|

The Koyal Writers

A Collective of South Asian Female Writers Based in the UK

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