• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
BW Businessworld

'The Hope Factory Crosses Many Landscapes'

Photo Credit :

Why this book? And why do you think should a reader pick up this book?
The Hope Factory is the story about modern India — so chaotic, captivating, bewildering, heartbreaking — that had to be told.

The crux of Anand’s story — a good, capable man, fighting to keep his head above water— clarified for me late one night after, of all things, a television program. I was watching a National Geographic special on American pioneers and what it took for them to survive and succeed in such a hostile environment – and that’s when it clicked. I realized I was seeing something similar all about me: for years, I had been watching Indian business people struggling to build world class businesses in an environment that didn’t support them in any of the crucial ways. When a government is corrupt and inefficient and does not deliver on its basic promises, it leaves its citizens in a fearsome, dangerous and lonely world – and those who succeed, like those rugged pioneers, are the exceptional individuals, hardy, uncompromising, uncomplaining.
Kamala’s story, the awkward, wonderful, fiercely protective relationship between a single mother and her 12 year old son, had a different genesis. It was born in a single moment one rain-filled evening. I had just fired a maid in my house for repeated absenteeism. She pleaded for another chance; I told her I simply couldn’t; she was a sweet woman but I needed someone reliable. It was an awful, uncomfortable conversation, both of us repeating our statements until there was nothing left to say. When she turned to leave, I saw her son waiting for her at the open door; he had heard every word. He, this young boy of twelve, looked at me as if he hated me. He picked up her bag and, his arm protectively about her shoulders, walked his sorrowing mother across the street into the rain. I have never seen him again, but he has stayed with me, and I knew his voice the minute I wrote it.
The Hope Factory
By Lavanya Sankaran
Pages: 368
Price: Rs 550

Tell us a bit about your writing schedules: When and where do you write?
I like to start my day with reading, not the newspaper but a book. It can be anything picked from my shelf: poetry, fiction, non-fiction.

After breakfast, I go to the neighbourhood coffee shop; it’s right next to a medical college and always bustling. For some reason, that colour and noise helps me write. I plug in my iPod, keep the volume on low, sip my coffee and plunge into my writing.  After lunch I break for a bit, I get my exercise, get on the phone with friends, relax, do chores and emails.

Early evenings I spend with my family; we eat dinner together early at seven pm — and then I write again after dinner between 7 and 9 pm, this time in my study.
What according to you makes a book a really good read or a bestseller?
My favourite books have great characters in compelling situations; combine wit and insight, use language beautifully and precisely, and provide me with deeper insights into life.
How did you find a publisher for your first book?
The Hope Factory is part of a two-book deal (including The Red Carpet, 2005) that was brokered by Lane Zachary of Zachary, Shuster Harmsworth in New York. The auction lasted over three days and involved nine publishers and was written up in Publisher’s Weekly and other trade magazines. My publishers are Random House (USA), Headline (UK) and Hachette (India).
What's the hardest thing about being a writer?

The Hope Factory crosses so many landscapes: social, political, industrial, familial, a changing world full of growing pains. I wanted to capture all the nuances very carefully and also structure this complex, multi-layered story very tightly. The writing of it took me six long years — and a necessary discipline as a writer undertaking a long work of fiction is to keep that vision that only you can see for that length of time.
What are you reading now?
The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers. The best fiction book I have read on war, written from a soldier’s perspective. The writing is haunting, the setting, Iraq in the throes of war, both horrifying and beautifully rendered, and the hero, a young American soldier, utterly heartbreaking. And The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. David Mitchell tells a fascinating and intriguing story, set in a Dutch trading concession in Japan in the late 18th century. The book combines mystery and mysticism and love into a compelling read.
E-books or paper formats?
Both. I love the smell and texture of printed books — and love the vision of rows of books upon my shelves. I also download books on to my Kindle — and then end up buying them again in hardcover if I really enjoy them. I’m a publisher’s delight — and books are my biggest indulgence.
So, what’s next?
I have already started work on my next book, a novel — and am also working on a couple of short stories.