In conversation with Deepti Kapoor and Rosalyn D’Mello

Both authors’ books have at their centre older, somewhat illicit loves. D’Mello’s erotic non-fiction memoir, A Handbook For My Lover (Harper Collins India), archives her affair with a photographer who is 30 years older. Kapoor’s fiction, A Bad Character (Penguin Random House), is rooted in reality — the author went “a little off the rails” after losing her father, and had a turbulent relationship with an older man. “Then he died,” she says, “It had a big part to play in the writing of my novel.”

“I don’t believe my writing is about sex. It’s about desire and the articulation of desire,” says D’Mello. Kapoor’s book doesn’t have much actual sex; she finds its enormous scope for “failure, boredom, embarrassment, cliché” discouraging.

D’Mello dislikes being called an erotica writer: “The reader can judge for herself what genre my writing fits into.” Kapoor’s novel has been classified as a coming-of-age-tale. “In India, there’s a confusion about where to place the novel,” she says. Kapoor isn’t bothered by the outrage from chick lit devotees and readers expecting a “respectable mango and saris novel”.

D’Mello, who previously worked in the marketing and sales arm of publishing with Zubaan and Scholastic, quit her job and took up freelance work for the six years she spent writing her book; no publisher was willing to give her an advance. Goa-based Kapoor taught yoga during the early days till it gave her “enough money to live 18 months without working”.

D’Mello, 29, wanted to be a poet, but realised she “lacked the brevity and economy” for it and embraced non-fiction instead. Kapoor, 34, left her job as a journalist for The Week to study yoga in Mysore and Goa after her lover’s death. She wrote the novel seven years later. “[Through yoga] I cleaned my body and mind and decided I wanted to do it.”

Deepti Kapoor’s A Bad Character is out now

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