Guest post – Athira

Athira, who blogs over at Reading on a Rainy Day is one of those bloggers I love reading because she always manages to infuse a good dose of personal tidbits into her posts, be it a book review, a travel post, or the recent posts and pictures about her baby’s arrival (due next month, I’m told). That is why I was very excited when she agreed to be my guest for this month’s blogger interview.

C0BFEA90-F3ED-4FAF-9300-208DB32A70AD 1. Who are you?

I am Athira, originally from India and living in Virginia in the United States for about seven years. I work as a software programmer and read/blog/write/knit/watch TV in my free time. I’ve been married to my darling knight in shining armor for more than three years and we have a spoiled pampered Jack Russell/Pit Bull mix who bosses us. Currently, we are waiting to welcome the pitter patter of little feet in July and cannot be more excited about life than we are right now.

2. Why do you blog and what is your blog about?

I did start out blogging because I wanted to be a part of the book blogging world. Thankfully, I blog for entirely different reasons now. I have always wanted to write and blogging to me is a great way to do it. I also love to read, so blogging is a great way to mix those two interests. My blog is primarily about what I read, how those reads affect me, and their reviews. But I have reached a phase where I want to talk about more than books. With a little one waiting around the corner, I can already see how much my blogging interest is going to transform soon.

3. Favorite books/authors/genres

Three favorite books I will happily gift someone:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Sure, this book could have been done with a better cover and a lot less hype, but once you read this story of a bunch of little-known cells and the family that didn’t get any compensation, you will be completely amazed by the fact that this science book amazed you.
The Dinner by Herman Koch.
How interesting can a book set through a dinner from the first course through dessert be? “The Dinner” will make you answer “very” to that question.
Blankets by Craig Thompson.
Didn’t think a graphic or illustrated book can move you to tears? Read “Blankets” and you will be surprised at how much it moved you.

Three favorite authors:

José Saramago
Now, I have only read two books by this author. But I always look forward to his stories and his strange writing style.
J. K. Rowling.
I always feel guilty when I say Rowling is a favorite author. But truth is, I love her brand of sarcastic humor and character insight.
Emily St. John Mandel
Mandel sure knows how to tell a story. Even dreary depressing ones without losing you at all.

Three favorite genres:

Literary fiction
Magical fantasy
Epic sagas. Bonus if they are set in Middle-earth.

4. Kindle or paper book?

If I was asked this question even a year ago, I would say paper all the way. Even today, I am a big fan of paper books and will not hesitate to buy a book in paper format but will think twice before snagging an e-book. But, I read e-books faster than I do paper books. Maybe not seeing the size of the book and being able to escape into a book anywhere, even in the presence of company, makes me prefer e-books. Plus, I like being able to go on vacation without dragging with me a case full of books. And bonus, not taking any books to vacation gives me a little more space to buy some during the vacation.

DFBC1498-3735-4556-9FEC-EC7CA6D91B5F 5. Three things you learned from a book.

a. How I want to express my religion is my decision entirely. Just because you choose to wear a burqa doesn’t mean you are oppressed. Just because you walk around with a rosary doesn’t mean you are superstitious. Just because you credit every success to God and every failure to humanity doesn’t mean you are a blind devout. If I cannot respect your approach to belief and religion, then I am being intolerant. (Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah has a teen protagonist who is modern and independent, but when she starts wearing a head scarf, every one begins to wonder if she is being forced or oppressed by her parents. Plus, the school she goes to despises her decision because it makes her different and “violates” their uniform code.)
b. The human spirit is one of the strongest things in this world. You can break a human body as much as you want to but it will still survive and come back stronger than ever. Have faith in yourself even when faced with the worst the world has to offer. (Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand about Louie Zamperini, who survived unimaginable horror during WW2.)
c. How not to write a book and why gleeful torture should be eyed with distaste. (American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis about a psychopath who relishes chopping people. Or did it all happen in his head?)

6. Best book to take with you on a desert island.

This is a tough one. I should realistically take a book that will help me survive on the island. And I’m sure if I knew I was heading to an island, I would pick such a book. But, if I could take one more, I am pretty certain I will take one or all seven of the Harry Potter books with me.

7. Best book to use as a doorstop.

I honestly can’t think of one. To me books are purely decorative (they do dress up my shelves) and functional (they are just for reading and ogling at). I think it a scandal to use a book as a doorstop! Though in all seriousness, I would happily use Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts as a door-stopper. I hated trying to read that book!

8. Favorite quotes.

People keep telling me to do yoga. I tried it once at the place down the street. The only part I liked was the part at the end when the teacher covered you with a blanket and you got to pretend you were dead for ten minutes.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill.

“I love chocolate cake for breakfast,” Peggy stalls, “it sets me up for the day. A little decadence is good for the soul.”

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag.

And my favorite one of all:

Percy wouldn’t recognize a joke if it danced in front of him wearing Dobby’s tea cozy.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling.

9. Three tips for bloggers.

– Don’t stress yourself out if you cannot stick to a routine. Your blog should be your retreat, not something that comes attached to a calendar and a to-do list.
– Put something of yourself into every post you write, even if it is a review or a meme. People love reading personal stuff. People will keep coming back for it.
– Don’t feel guilty if you have to step away from your blog. Your readership is always going to fluctuate even when you are blogging regularly. You should blog when your fingers are itching to write or type something – the best blog posts are born that way. But if your blogging mojo has gone to the beach, then go with it and enjoy something else. It will come back to you when you are not trying too hard to compel it back.

10. Best/worst blogging experience.

I haven’t had a blogging experience yet (touch wood) that has upset me. But I do want to mention one of my most memorable ones. I had only been blogging for less than a year (so I was still relatively new in bloglandia) when my brother got sick and was in the ICU for almost a month. Until then, I had been blogging every day. When I finally returned to blogging, I posted about what happened and how depressed it made me. When I hit the Publish button, I was expecting some condolences from some bloggers who visited me often. What I didn’t expect was an outpouring of comforting words and sharing of similar experiences, even from bloggers who didn’t often visit my blog. This is what always stumps me. I am not a person who is comfortable with displays of emotion. I struggle to find the right thing to say to someone who is suffering. I also struggle to talk about the things that bother me. And yet, when I saw all those responses to my post that day, I felt immensely grateful for being a part of the book blogging community.

11. You are also a writer. Tell us more about this.

When I was a kid, I used to read a lot of fan-fiction. There was one college story that I loved but the writer didn’t finish it. Feeling unsatisfied by the lack of closure in the story, I set out to write my own version of that story. If I had published that story, it would be obvious plagiarism, but I wasn’t planning to put it out in the public at all. I was just so impressed by the impact of reading a story that made me want to write my own story, even if it was similar to the one I read. Of course, I didn’t finish that story at all, but I believe I still have it somewhere in my computer.
I haven’t written a story since, but there are all these ideas in my head, that I know it is only a matter of time.

12. What is your writing routine like? Do you have one?

Lately, not so much. With preparing for our new arrival (just a couple of weeks now!), routines have taken a back-seat. Right now, I try to write as often as I can for my blog, which has gone down from three posts a week to about two. But now that most of the to-dos before the baby arrives have been taken care of, I am hoping to get back on the writing bandwagon. (Don’t want to find it hard to write even a few words once the baby is here.) But even when I was writing, I didn’t have a routine. I write when the inspiration hits or some topic is bothering me. This happens at work sometimes, and sometimes when I am running an errand. But I still try to pen down something – enough to flesh it out later. Most of these items don’t see the light of day, but I have enjoyed going back and reading some of the articles later. I strongly believe that you leave a piece of yourself in every article you write and I have found it interesting to revisit what I once used to believe in or felt strongly about.

13. Three tips for writers.

– If you are a writer of books or stories, then read. A lot. As a reader of the books you write, there is nothing that turns me off more than your admission that you don’t read books.
– Write like you care. Even if it is a simple blog post. I like to see depth, thoughtfulness, personality, adventure, and some risks in your writing.
– Please run that spell check on everything you publish. And do read what you wrote, a good amount of time AFTER you wrote it. Everything you proofread immediately after writing it will feel perfect – it’s your brain covering up the mistakes. Read it an hour later, and you will be surprised to spot some grammatical errors and wrong choice of words.

IMG_0049 14. What are you most passionate about?

Honestly, my passions keep changing like the seasons. Someday, it’s reading, another day, it’s writing. Yet another day, you might catch me lost in my knitting and not wanting to come out of it. Sometimes, it’s learning a new language. Another time, it’s fighting for a cause I believe in. And yes, there are times when I am not passionate about anything. I love it though – I love that my passions keep cycling between several different interests. I am thankful that each phase lasts a sufficiently long period, so I’m not just abandoning them. For example, every fall-winter, I catch the knitting bug and then I can do nothing else – not much reading or writing. But come the new year, the knitting bags are put aside and the books come out.

15. Last book that made you cry.

This was hard. I guess I don’t read that many books that are advertised as being melancholy or tearjerkers. I have stumbled across an occasional quote or character from a book that made me cry like a baby but once I am done with the book, I don’t always remember that teary aspect of the book. I had to go back all the way to 2013 to find the last book that made me cry like a baby – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. That was a tearjerker without being manipulative about it – a very hard combination to achieve according to me because I always feel manipulated when I cry after reading or watching something.

Ask me a question.

I have always loved your blog name and thought it to have the right amount of mystery and personality. What is the secret behind your blog name? How did you come up with it?

It was years ago, during a conversation I was having with my husband. I don’t remember exactly who came up with the name or what we were talking about, but when I heard it I knew it was perfect for my blog. And I have to admit it fits – I hate spelling mistakes/typos with a vengeance, although I admit they do sneak up on me undetected from time to time. It’s always easier to spot them in someone else’s work.

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13 Responses to Guest post – Athira

  1. Delia says:

    Hi Athira,
    – I want to read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, it’s been on my TBR for a long time. Also “Me Before You”.
    – Rue is adorable. I like it that I can see her name in this pic. She reminds me of the dog in the movie The Mask.
    – Why do you feel guilty about liking J.K. Rowling?
    – You would use Shantaram as a door-stopper?!? Noooooo. Just kidding. I love the book and will happily read the sequel when it comes out.
    – I love that quote about Dobby. He was such a sweetheart.
    – Your tips on blogging and writing are spot on. I have given up on trying to post once I week like I wanted to. Now I’ve become more selective with the books I review.
    – Knitting is great. Choosing the colors, the pattern, seeing the finished product, that’s a great feeling. I wish I could do it too, maybe one day if I go back to the cold weather.

    I hope everything’s good in your corner of the world. I know you must be extremely busy with preparations for the baby, which makes me even more grateful that you took the time to do this interview. So, a big thank you, again.

    • Athira says:

      Hey Delia,

      Thanks for having me on your blog! I am totally glad you thought of me to guest post.

      – Why do you feel guilty about liking J.K. Rowling?
      It’s more because I have only read her Harry Potter books and nothing else by her. I don’t like the idea of saying that XXX is my favorite author based on just one book. I do want to read more of her books and see if I like her as a writer. Right now, the truth really is that I love the Harry Potter books. I don’t know yet if Rowling’s other books would win so much favor with me.

      Yes, you should read both Henrietta Lacks and Me Before You. Both are fabulous!

  2. Brian Joseph says:

    This is a great interview. It is great to learn about bloggers in this way!

    I really like your tips for bloggers Athira. In particular putting a little bit of oneself in every post. One can find book reviews all over the internet. I think that what distinguishes our Blogs is that they are our personal statements.

    I have read also discovered José Saramago over the past few years, I really think that he is a great writer.

    • Athira says:

      Hi Brian!!

      So glad to hear that you like Saramago. I also discovered him recently and was surprised by how readable his books are despite his odd writing style. I need to read more of his books. And you are right – when there is a little personal something in every post we write, it makes them much more fun to read as well.

  3. Ti says:

    Athira is a long time blogging friend of mine and I have been following her blog forever! I love how she interjects personality in every post. I never feel as if she’s written something from a template and she is great at commenting too. Even with all she has going on she always manages to stay in touch and I always appreciate her thoughtful comments. She’s a gem!

  4. Vasilly says:

    Athira, I didn’t know you love Jose Saramago! Me to! Blindness is my favorite. What’s your favorite from him? The quote from Dept. of Speculation is hilarious!!

    • Athira says:

      Yay, glad to hear that you love Saramago as well. Isn’t his writing so addicting to read? Blindness is my favorite by him. I also enjoyed his Elephant’s Journey, which is the first book by him that I read. It’s always hard to not enjoy his books.

  5. This post was so much fun to read… I love getting to know my blogging friends better!
    Must add Blankets to my tbr list and try reading Saramago. Any suggestions of where to start?

    • Athira says:

      Saramago – Blindness is the best book to start with. Keep in mind – Saramago’s writing can seem weird, so don’t put it down if you find it bothering. I promise you that you will love it soon enough. His writing is always one of the aspects I gush about every time I talk about his books.

  6. Great interview, as always, Delia! 🙂 Hope you are doing well.

    Hi Athira, I follow you on Twitter. I love your blogs, and the way you add a dash of yourself in your reviews. On top of all that, I love the way your website looks. 🙂

    And, Rue is so cute. 🙂

    • Athira says:

      Hi Deepika!! Thank you so much for your kind words. 🙂 I agree – Rue is too cute – she manages to use it to get her way with us. ~shaking my head~

  7. Vishy says:

    Thanks for doing this guest interview, Athira! It was wonderful to read your thoughts on books and book-ish topics. I want to read that Emily St.John Mandel book – it seems to be getting a lot of raving reviews everyday. I loved that quote on yoga from ‘Dept. of Speculation’ 🙂 My favourite yoga asana is also ‘Shavasana’ – lying and pretending to be asleep for ten minutes 🙂 I want to read Jojo Moyes’ ‘Me Before You’. I loved Harry Potter when I read it – especially till part 5. I feel that J.K.Rowling’s works after the Potter series aren’t as good – ‘The Casual Vacancy’ was quite weak in my opinion. But her new series of detective novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith seem to be doing well and are critically acclaimed. Haven’t read them yet, though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Athira. It was wonderful to read your guest interview.

    Thanks for hosting Athira’s guest interview, Delia.

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