with Kiran Bhat:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Kiran: I started writing when I was 17 as a bid to deal with depression. I was dealing with the fallout of having been outed to my parents, and no one in my high school was taking my side. In order to combat my solitude, I turned to poetry. People ended up reading it and seeing it as quite good. I started learning more as to what it meant to be a writer. I started reading John Updike, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Jhumpa Lahiri in my school library. While I’m quite distant from these memories, I feel a warmth inside of me when I think back on them. I find gratitude in the power of literature, from saving me from the darkest of thoughts that were once inside of me.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Kiran: What influences me “today” is a good question. Previously I would have said that I’m influenced by the realist Russian tradition, ancient Vedic literature, and the modernists. I loved meaty big books like Moby Dick or the Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace or the Mahabharata that give the reader multiple worlds inside of one text.
That being said, these days I am working as not only a writer, but also a translator, and so I’d say I’m becoming influenced more by different cosmologies, or ways of seeing literature. I think there’s a lot of unique ways of framing consciousness inside of Mayan thinking, as well as Aboriginal Australian. I don’t know if it’s easy enough to pin on one particular book like the Popul Vuh. I’d say travelling and meeting with and learning from these people have been a great source of inspiration for me.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Kiran: For me, writing has felt more like a calling rather than a culmination of a particular decision. Clearly one important moment was being outed by my parents. I would also say that moving to New York as an NYU student influenced me. I worked with a lot of amazing teachers who taught me how to take my art seriously. Finally I went to Spain on a year abroad. Living in a multinational and multilingual environment like Madrid made me realise how much globalisation had changed our world. I had a vision in a mosque-church-synagogue in Segovia that made me realised I wanted to imagine a literature for our planet, and a novel that collapsed all of it into one book. That’s what kept me travelling for the last eleven years, and has kept me on this path, towards globalising the novel as an art form.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Kiran: That’s also a good question. I guess I could mention certain mentors from my undergrad years like Irini Spanidou, but honestly I haven’t kept in touch with them for almost a decade. Most of my writing is done by myself and for myself. If I need help I might contract a freelancer editors to help me shape the book, but otherwise, the vision is my own, and my writing is my own.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & have any travels away from home influence your work?
Kiran: I grew up in Georgia in the USA, and while that has absolutely influenced my subconscious, I’m not sure yet how it has influenced my work. I haven’t lived there since I have 18, and I have been living all over the world while most of my writing was formed. I will say I wrote the best drafts of my novel we of the forsaken world… in Malindi, Kenya and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I was inspired to write poetry in Mandarin while suddenly visiting Tianjin and having a line of poetry come to me in that language. I am always in debt to the city of Mysore for inspiring my love of my mother tongue Kannada and always inspiring me in the background, as well as the city of Mumbai. I’m also grateful for the city I currently live in, San Cristobal de las Casas, and the Mayan cosmologies I have learnt from it.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Kiran: I’m currently working on a digital streaming novel entitled Girar (‘to turn’ in Spanish), which aspires to capture the flow and feelings of daily life across 365 different places on our planet. The stories involve an archetypal Mother and Father, living a content and settled life all the while trying to make sense of Son, proudly gay, living far from them in a foreign country. Each installment reimagines the essences of Mother and Father into a new cultural context and nationality. By reading all of the installments at once, Girar not only gives the reader a unique and intimate portrait of all of our Earth’s imagined countries; it tells the tale of a family coming to love each other despite their disagreements.
Girar is currently a project releasing its stories through a newsletter service at www.girar.world. The website is currently being redesigned, and will be relaunched in September, but the goal is to release stories digitally until the end of 2029. I think Girar is a project which if actualised correctly can change a lot of our conceptions of literature and how it should be published in the globalised era. I’m really hoping that once the website is once again up and running, more people will subscribe and also enjoy the storytelling behind it.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Kiran: I’m so bad at relaxing! I am a little bit of a type A personality so I always have to be on the move. That being said, I’m a big gamer, and that does help me destress. If I’m not in the mood to deal with my emotions, I plug myself into my Switch, and I play my thoughts away.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?
Kiran: What an interesting question! It’d be so hard for me to pick my own favourite quote from my own writing, honestly. So instead I’ll give a quote from the Vedas.
“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam;” the world is one family.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Kiran: I think I’m most excited for Girar, which I’ve already mentioned above. I also will have a book of poems published by Red River in India next year, so I’m excited for that. I’m currently in Chiapas where I translate Mayan Tsotsil, Tseltal, Ch’ol and Q’anjobal literature into English, but none fo those books are ready to send yet.
So I’ll point people out to my novel published last year, we of the forsaken world… If you’d like to find out more information, please check it out over on Goodreads, or Amazon, or just by Googling and finding out more.
“Whether he is glowing with ornaments or wearing the snakes, dressed in the great elephant skin or robed in silk, with the skull in his hair or the moon for his crest, no one comprehends the form of the Body of the Universe” – Kalidasa