a) What influenced or inspired you to write a story connected to and set in India?
” As a teenager I volunteered for four months with a charity working in an impoverished area of Hyderabad in Northwest India. It’s such a beautiful country with so many extremes. Then, ten years later, I researched and wrote an ethnography – a study of the culture – of the Hindu minority living in Lusaka, in Zambia. The families I worked with over five years told me stories of their migration, and I ended up researching and writing a lot about ideas of ‘home’ and ‘belonging. When I began to develop the characters for Tiger Skin Rug, it felt natural for me to write about a Hindu family moving to a new place.”
b) How did you research/find out about India?
“When I was in India, I travelled across the sub-continent, keeping a journal and writing screeds of letters home, packed with descriptions of the tastes, smells, sounds and colours I encountered. When I wrote Tiger Skin Rug, I revisited my old diaries and letters. The ethnography I wrote was for a PhD thesis – a big piece of work! – and involved a huge amount of research, which all helped in my fiction writing.”
c) The house called ‘Greystanes’ that the siblings moved to in Scotland is quite distinctive. Was it inspired by ANY buildings you know?
Greystanes’ is based on two houses in Scotland that I know well – one of which is a very beautiful Anglo-Indian bungalow. Some of the descriptions also draw on childhood memories of my aunties’ house and their magical attic. There are a few other buildings across Scotland that fed into my thinking as I was writing – Dunrobin Castle is one.
“Naniji let out a cackle of unexpected glee. The bungalow wasn’t an ordinary bungalow. It was huge and looming, with a deep verandah wrapped around its side like old houses in India, and a towering front door. The name ‘Greystanes’ was etched onto a pillar and a date – 1836 – chiseled into the stone above. ” p3
“I pressed in close to the glass. The wisps danced across the tigers skin. It was clear this time; this was no tick of the light….” p22” The curtain flapped a little as if there was a breeze. I held my breath as the tiger began to shimmer and move.” p38