Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
Akhil Sharma is the author of Family Life and An Obedient Father, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award Stories. A native of Delhi, he lives in New York City and is an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark.
tgbc: Tell us about your typical day.
Akhil: I wake up every morning full of fear. I calm myself down by reading the paper or talking with someone, and then I start writing. My goal is to write for five hours every day. I write using a stopwatch. If a phone call comes I pause the stopwatch. If I check my email. I do the same. At some point I go to the gym. This is an ideal day and when it occurs, I feel great satisfaction.
tgbc: Who are your book mentors?
Akhil: Many people have helped me. The list is very long and among the living there are: Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen, Russell Banks, Tobias Woolf. Among the dead are the great Russian writers, Hemingway, Hardy, Cheever.
tgbc: What do you do when you are looking for inspiration, or facing a writer’s block?
Akhil: I restart and in the new beginning I find the old excitement.
tgbc: Who is your favorite character from ‘An Obedient Father’?
Akhil: Ram Karan so dominates the book that he has to be the most compelling of the characters.
tgbc: How did you come up with the title of ‘An Obedient Father’?
Akhil: My wife suggested it. It is from Lear.
tgbc: ‘Family Life’, your new book is inspired by the tragedy in your own family. Where did you draw inspiration for Ram Karan in ‘An Obedient Father’?
Akhil: From my own anxiety and guilt about having survived when my brother did not.
tgbc: What is on your reading list currently?
Akhil: Some minor Hardy. I want to read the full Canterbury Tales. I am going to reread Anna Karenina but just the Anna sections.
tgbc: Name one celebrity you want as your book fan.
tgbc: A favorite quote you swear by.
Akhil: Don’t give up before the miracle happens.
tgbc: What is the worst criticism you were given? And the best compliment you have ever received?
Akhil: Criticism: Nobody will read you. Why do whites want to read about Indians? Change all the names to white people names (from my mother)
Compliments: I don’t have a specific sentence that I remember, but praise from other writers has always been the most comforting to me.