After I thoroughly enjoyed Melvin Durai’s debut book, Bala takes the plunge, I decided to take things further. I emailed the author a few questions and Melvin was kind enough to respond. Here is an interview with Melvin Durai. He has some interesting points, so do read his answers!
Q: You wrote your first humor column in 1994. How did that happen? What drove you to writing?
I was working as a newspaper reporter in America at the time. It was a small newspaper, so it was fairly easy to get a column published. I just got inspired one day when I read an article about women wearing men’s underwear as tops. People in the newsroom really enjoyed my first humour column. However, my second column didn’t get printed — and I didn’t try again for another year. In 1995, the newspaper hired a new lifestyle editor and after seeing a few of my humor columns, she gave me an opportunity to write them every week.
I was always interested in writing — and it came easy to me — but my mom wanted me to become a doctor, so it was only after I failed to get into medical school (and failed to become an accountant, one of her alternative careers for me) that I was able to pursue my passion.
Q: Why did you choose humor as your genre? Do you plan to branch out and try other genres?
I have tried writing literary fiction and even got a short story published in a literary magazine. But I realized some years ago that while I could probably get a literary novel published (if I worked hard enough on it), it would be fairly average. As a humor writer, I can do better than that, I believe. I enjoy making people laugh and hope to do so for a few more decades.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from for your humor columns?
Usually something in the news inspires me or something that happens at home with my kids or wife. I used to write a lot of topical columns, but am trying to also write columns that have a longer shelf life, that will still be funny a decade later. I’ve learned over the years that you can’t always wait for inspiration; sometimes you just have to write.
Q: Who are your favorite humor authors?
I’ve enjoyed Dave Barry, Stuart McClean, Andy Borowitz, Erma Bombeck, among others.
Q: What are you reading right now? What was the last memorable book you have read?
I’m reading “No Onions Nor Garlic” by Srividya Natarajan (my wife absolutely loved it). The last memorable book I read is Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. It should have won the Pulitzer Prize.
Q: How did the idea for your book take shape?
About a decade ago, I wrote some humor columns about matrimonial ads and marriage that were very popular. I felt that the topic was full of humorous possibilities that I could bring out in a novel. But it wasn’t until I visited India in 2005 (after a very long absence) that I got the necessary inspiration to pull it off.
Q: How did the character Bala come into existence?
Several years ago, when I was dabbling in stand-up comedy, I made a joke about Americans not being able to pronounce a long Indian name like Balasubramaniam. When I started to write the novel, for some reason, the name Balasubramaniam just seemed to fit. I had no idea what the character would turn into. I just kept writing, trying to make the book funny.
Q: What is the next step? Can we expect a sequel?
Not sure about a sequel, but I’m definitely working on another novel. I can’t say much about it, because I don’t know what it will be about yet.
Now the giveaway. Melvin has kindly agreed to giveaway a copy of his book to one lucky reader. I offer another copy from my side, so two of you can win a copy of Melvin’s debut book. Here are the rules.
1.Mandatory: Have a look at the past humor columns written by Melvin. Read something you like? Come back and leave a comment about it here.
2. You can improve your chances of winning by blogging about this giveaway, tweeting about it and posting it on facebook. Come back and leave a separate comment for each of these.
3. This is not mandatory, but I would like to know who is your favorite author in the humor genre. Indian or otherwise. This does not increase your winning chances, but would help me in expanding my knowledge base.
4. Contest is open until November 15th. I will randomly choose winners and contact them. Winners will have 5 days to get back to me with their contact details, failing which I will choose new winners.
5. Contest is open to anybody who has a postal address.
6. Enough already. Comment away and keep your fingers crossed.
PS: I am on a vacation till Nov 10th, so I won’t be responding to your comments. If you face difficulty in leaving a comment here, you can use the ‘Contact Me’ form and I will count that as a valid entry.