One of our favorite stories from 2012 was Gargi Mehra’s “Social Not-Working.” Gargi’s writing made an immediate impact on us, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with her and discuss a new project. Here’s what she had to say.

BS: Gargi, it’s been a few years since you appeared in Bartleby Snopes. Catch us up to speed. What have you been up to  Gargi Mehraduring that time?

GM: Writing and getting published, though not as regularly as I’d like! It’s taken me a few years to develop a constant pattern of getting down words every single day. My story getting published in Bartleby Snopes, which has always been one of my favorite literary venues, gave me the impetus I needed to keep going.

BS: Tell us a bit about your involvement with Distant Echoes. How did this collection come to be?

GM: Around the end of 2013, I was in the throes of writing a story when it occurred to me that if only I could commit to writing one short story each month I’d have a substantial body of work by the end of the year. Luckily my brilliant writer friend Radhika Meghanathan had the same idea but was ahead of me. She had formed a group, and all I had to do was join in. She laid down the ground rules, established deadlines, and we were off!

BS: Distant Echoes seems like a fascinating project. I haven’t read the entire collection yet, but your story “A Matter of the Heart” really struck me. What was the inspiration for this piece? Distant_Echoes

GM: Many years ago, I read a newspaper story about a woman abandoning her infant and husband, and eloping with a man she’d fallen in love with. I wondered under what circumstances a mother and a wife would do such a thing. This story is my version of that news item.

BS: I can’t help but notice the connections between the main character and your own life. You’re both programmers and both mothers. Obviously there’s a line that marks the difference between the writer and the narrator. How does personal experience impact your work? 

GM: Most of my fiction is based on “write what you know.” I chose to set this story in the place I know best – the office, and to some extent, Singapore. What was difficult was imagining a mother leaving behind a reasonably stable life in pursuit of a man, but I hope I’ve captured her mental and physical journey appropriately.

BS: Other than your own story, of course, what’s your favorite piece in this collection?

GM: I really like Shruthi Rao’s story “Fuddy-Duddies.” The ambiguity of the protagonist’s gender gives the story a certain spin. It’s a great look at the attitudes of policemen in small-town India.

The other one I like is the first story of the collection, Vrinda Baliga’s “Paying the Piper.” I love stories set in the software world and this one puts forth a brilliant idea that is scarily enough not too far from the real world.

BS: What do you see as the value of lit mags in today’s publishing world?

GM: For writers lit mags are gold. They’re the best places to gain a foothold in the writing and publishing spheres. It gives confidence to a writer just starting out when their work is accepted by someone other than family and friends.

As a reader I love the daily dose of stories I get through lit mags. In fact I might say that more of my reading is on lit mags nowadays, maybe more than novels and nonfiction.

BS: What writers have influenced your own work?

GM: Among the writers of classics it would be Jane Austen and PG Wodehouse. From the modern writers I adore the works of Eoin Colfer and Jasper Fforde. I admire that Alexander McCall Smith writes a thousand words of publishable fiction per hour. The short stories of Lavanya Sankaran, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alice Munro and George Saunders inspire me to try and match their standard.

BS: So what’s next for Gargi Mehra?

GM: More short stories, essays and I’m also outlining a novel. I have written two novels earlier but I have consigned them to the department of ‘practice novels’ now. I hope the third one does the trick!

BS: Thanks for taking the time to chat about your writing and your life. Good luck with Distant Voices and whatever is coming next.

Nathaniel Tower

Nathaniel Tower is the founding and managing editor of Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press. Find out more about Nathaniel at nathanieltower.com.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebook