20 Questions with... Mandira Pattnaik
Mandira Pattnaik's work has appeared in The McNeese Review, Penn Review, Best Small Fictions 2021, Bacopa Literary, Timber Journal, DASH, LampLight Magazine, AAWW The Margins, Citron Review, Watershed Review, and Passages North among other places. Her stories have appeared in anthologies and been translated. She is the author of collections, "Anatomy of a Storm-Weathered Quaint Townspeople" (2022), "Girls Who Don't Cry" (2023) and "Where We Set Our Easel"(forthcoming, 2023). More about her can be found at mandirapattnaik.com
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?
My name is Mandira Pattnaik. I am from India. I grew up in multiple places as my father had a job that required him to travel all over India. Guess that made my outlook broad and made me appreciate our diversity and variety of cultures.
Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?
Yes, I think I always wanted to be a writer. I graduated in Economics and I’m a trained accountant.
Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.
My most recent published work is a column in Reckon Review about my briefest encounter with memoir-writing (I write very little nonfiction!) which was my first piece of solicited work back in 2020.
What are you working on right now?
I love working on multiple things at a time. At the moment, it’s a bunch of flash!
Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?
I don’t have a routine per se but do take out time to do something related to my writing life every day. Not necessarily creating something new, but perhaps reading or editing, or just answering emails or noting down possible future ideas!
Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?
Same place as in ‘at home’ and not ‘on the move’, but it could be anywhere I’m comfortable.
What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?
Submit A LOT! You never know what will strike with whom! Best advice I’ve heard? Hmmm….Perhaps, it was to experiment as much as you can with form, genre, characters…
Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?
Yes, I enjoy them!
Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?
Yes! There are. Recurring themes are motherhood (I’m a mother), and womanhood. I also explore themes of climate, displacement and personhood/identity. Of course, these are themes I strongly feel about.
Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?
Most definitely. I believe there’s a reason every writer puts a story out there, out for people to read. It is more relevant today as people are disenchanted, lonely and feel excluded, and sharing alone can make us feel we belong and that we are not alone.
Do you write between genres or not?
I try to. Writers are experimenting with forms and genres like never before. It’s inspiring and sometimes I’ll do something of my own, just to find out how it’d look, blended and matched with unlikely factors.
Which living writers do you most admire?
I’ll take names of flash fiction authors because that’s one genre I’m currently writing a lot in. So, Lydia Davis, Jamaica Kincaid, Kathy Fish, Tara Campbell to name just a few.
Which dead writers do you most admire?
James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Agatha Christie, Ray Bradbury.
What’s the book you wish you’d written?
No! I couldn’t do any of them the way they are!
What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?
Nature hundred per cent! And peace of mind!
Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?
Sometimes it knocks me, plunges me into a period of self-doubt and the futility of it all, that’s when I read and re-read pieces I have loved. Worked for me so far!
What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?
My own reaction to my writing is forever like ‘this is good, but is it?’ But I’ve received unexpected praise from people. For example: Tiny piece was once compared to Ray Bradbury’s ‘Dandelion wine’ by Tim of 50 Word Stories and a submitted piece, was rejected but noted to be having touches of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing by Jellyfish Review’s Editor Chris!
How do your family and friends feel about your writing?
Not sure! They’re seldom very vocal about it!
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
LOVE bookshops! Any and all!
How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?
Future of writing is short-form fiction though novels and nonfiction will be selling good too. Don’t think we’ll be dependent on any particular platform, rather I think the places will grow in numbers and by volume.