Monday, March 03, 2014

What do great writers like to read? Gary Henry and Mohana Rajakumar

Image courtesy Mary Okeke Reviews
This week, two very different authors answer my unscientific survey of best sellers.

Gary Henry is author of the urban fantasy novel American Goddesses and a collection of short stories, What Happened to Jory and Other Dark Departures.

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is author of a number of literary novels that explore such as Love Comes Later (excerpted two weeks ago in Written Words), An Unlikely Goddess, The Dohmestics and Qatari Voices, among other works of fiction and non-fiction. Over to you!

Name three characteristics of books that you like. What makes you keep reading a book? What are some books that you weren't able to put down until you finished them?

Gary Henry: I like simplicity. It should be easy to follow the narrative and stay on top of what's  happening. That doesn't exclude plot twists and turns. But I don't like having to backtrack to figure out what's going on.

I like character description so that I can get an idea of what the characters look like, in addition to what they say and do. I call that — what characters say, do and look like — the character triangle.

I like books written in active voice and with vivid verbs.

Mohana Rajakumar: I love books that give readers insight into culture they wouldn't otherwise have; features strong women behaving in empowering ways; are a mixture of history and imagination.

Responding to the voice of the author (if non-fiction) or the characters who the story is about; of course not knowing what will happen next is always a plus.

Right now The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber is my current favorite read. She remembers everything and there are recipes included!

Do you consciously try to emulate these books? If so, what form does that take: plot, structure, characters, settings, author's voice and word choice?

Mohana Rajakumar: I am thinking about how to revise my own memoir to be more compelling! Readers have loved it but some have found the essays disjointed. Diana's takes a chronological approach so I'd have to go back and create a lot of content if I hoped to adopt her style completely.

Gary Henry: I do. It's these kinds of books that inspired me as a kid to want to write books like them. Specifically, books by Robert E. Howard (Conan), George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman) and Len Deighton (too many to name). Biggest influence on me has been their handling of characters and word choice — active voice and vivid verbs.

Do you try to avoid any of the techniques or conventions followed by your favourite writers?

Gary Henry: No. I just try to avoid overtly copying. I have turned to favourite writers during my own writing at times to see how they, Fraser for instance, might have described a woman's face, and try to follow his technique, but draw the line at lifting copy.

Mohana Rajakumar: Not yet but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen in the future.

What rules of writing do you intentionally break?

Mohana Rajakumar: Staying in one point of view the entire story; sometimes if you have an interesting cast of characters, it's better to hop around and give readers a 360 experience.

Gary Henry: I've broken the rule about introducing important characters late, but that's not something I'll make into a habit. Rules are good, especially when we're getting started as writers. Always remember, though, it's your story, and if you don't please yourself with it, it'll be hard to please anyone else. Take that rule with a generous bit of salt, too.

Gary Henry is a writer, runner and dog dad, who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with wife Karen and canine kids Lambchop and Sophie Jones. He is managing editor at Durability + Design Magazine, a glossy print monthly covering architectural design, technology and construction. He is the author of AMERICAN GODDESSES, a sexy super-powered paranormal fantasy thriller for e-book readers, available on at  

Visit his blogs, Honest Indie Book Reviews, and his new Indie Universe. Follow him on Twitter @LiteraryGary. And visit his Author page on Independent Authors International.

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. She has since published seven e-books including a mom-ior for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me, a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories, and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace

From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later, a literary romance set in Qatar and London, won the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day to day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.

Visit Mohana’s website  or follow her latest on Twitter @moha_doha, on Facebook, Youtube or Pinterest.

You can visit Mohana’s Author Page on Amazon. Also, visit her Author page on Best Selling Reads.

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