Mahesh Rao – Author November 23, 2018 – Posted in: Authors

Mahesh Rao was born and grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. He studied politics and economics at the University of Bristol and law at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics. In the UK he has worked as a lawyer, academic researcher and bookseller. His debut novel, The Smoke Is Rising, won the Tata First Book Award for fiction and was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Crossword Prize. His most recent book, Polite Society, was published to critical acclaim by Penguin India. We caught up with the author:


FC: What are the major themes of your work?

MR: I’m not sure that my work is driven by themes as much as characters and the worlds that can be constructed around them. A complex, flawed character is always my starting point.


FC: What do you think draws people to certain books? What do you look for when selecting what to read?

MR: I rely on reviews, friends’ recommendations and the treasures yielded by a good rummage around a bookshop. I have also been know to be swayed by a stunning cover, in spite of everything we’ve been told about this practice.


FC: Do you have any writing rituals? A favourite place, time of day, handwriting or typing?

MR: I have the worst handwriting in the world and so attempting to write longhand would make writing an even more dispiriting exercise than it often is. I am much better in the morning and my only real ritual is obsessively checking my word count (sometimes as often as every few minutes).


FC: What are you reading at present?

MR: I am reading Joan Didion’s ‘Play It as It Lays’, which is terrific but much darker than I thought it would be. I’m also reading Romain Gary’s ‘The Kites’, set in 1930s Normandy.


FC: An author you admire?

MR: There are dozens but today I’ll name Edith Wharton.


FC: If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title?

MR: “When Do We Get to the Good Stuff?”


FC: What’s the strangest or most interesting job you’ve ever had?

MR: Both the strangest and most interesting was being a bookseller in London. I made good friends, discovered great books, and gained many insights into the odder extremities of human nature.

Gurmehar Kaur at Full Circle »