In the afterward to In The Convent Of Little Flowers you make mention of how either a news story or a casual remark was the inspiration for some of the stories. It sounded like this wasn't a way you had worked before. Where have you previously found your inspiration for your work?
The stories of In The Convent Of Little Flowers are contemporary, so their sources are those you mention.
My first two novels, The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses, are based on the life of Nur Jahan, a seventeenth century empress of Mughal India. Her story I stumbled upon while I was in graduate school (though I ought to have known this better from my school days; I was an indifferent student of history). One evening, homesick for family and friends in India, I went to the university library, typed in “India” in the subject keyword at the computer, and went to the section that housed books on India. I returned to my apartment with an armload of books, one of which was a book on Mughal harems and Nur Jahan. It wasn’t until I had finished my first two unpublished novels, that I began to think of what I had read about her, checked out that book again, researched her life more thoroughly and wrote The Twentieth Wife and its sequel.
When Deepa Mehta was filming Water -- a movie about the harsh ways in which widows are still treated by some elements of Indian society -- she was attacked (literally) by extremists. Do you worry about any, or has there been any, backlash in regards to some of the stories in this collection?
Some of the topics I describe in this collection are, by their very nature, somewhat taboo in Indian society. But they exist. And I would like to think that there is a growing awareness and openness in India today that will allow some thought, some dialogue about the stories because we all will have to confront this either within our own families or in our communities at some point in our lives.
Having said this, I did not put Convent together for the controversy; I rarely analyse my fiction thus before I write, or indeed after I have finished a story. Consequently, most of the stories in Convent were written from a strong emotion, whether anger, upset, outrage, or pain and sorrow at what I had heard or read. This (the emotion) has always been the most basic premise of all of my work.