Amulya Malladi is the author of five bestselling novels published by The Random House Publishing Group. Born and raised in India, she has a bachelor’s degree in engineering, a master’s degree in journalism. She currently lives in Denmark.
NAW- Tell us about your book, The Sound of Language. How did you get the idea for it? How difficult (or easy) is it penning down a poetry book?
Hmm…The Sound of Language is not a poetry book.
Every language has a sound. Try hearing a language you don’t have any clue about and it has a sound. Some sound like music, others like stones rattling in a steel container and some others like the buzzing of bees.
When I first moved to Denmark, that’s how Danish sounded to me, like the buzzing of bees. In Scandinavia, Danish is the hardest language to learn because it’s the hardest language to understand. People speak as if they have a hot potato in their mouth. They randomly shorten words and make four words into one sound. Now that I understand some Danish, the buzzing has lessened, but it’s still there when people speak too quickly or they’re speaking with a heavy Northern Jylland accent.
I also took languages classes for six weeks – I had time between finishing a book and having a baby. I met many wonderful women at these classes – most of them refugees. And the idea of The Sound of Language started to form.
NAW- Tell us about the character of Raihana. How did you develop the character?
Raihana emerge as most my characters do – out of the story. I knew who she was even before I wrote the book. But her nuances came to me as I wrote the book – I found out who she was based on her thoughts and her interactions with the people around her.
NAW- Was the book inspired by your personal experiences? While reading the book, a reader might feel that the racial treatment in the book is a bit one sided.
The Sound of Language was going to be a love story. I wanted to tell the story of refugees – these strong people building a new life in this cold country – and I wanted to get to know Gunnar, who impressed me with his openness despite his age. He wasn’t a stereotype. He was open to experiences and to people. But, alas, Raihana and Gunnar refused to fall in love despite my best efforts and became friends instead. I love that about writing, when my characters stay in character do what is right for them.
I can’t speak for how a reader might feel about the racism; but there is racism in Denmark, which is a homogenous and xenophobic society. In the last EU election nearly one out of five people voted for the Dansk Folkeparti and the latest poll numbers put them at 20-21%. The former leader of the party openly talked about how Muslim men want to rape white women; and how immigrants should be sent home. This is one of the most racist political parties in all of Europe and they have strong support in Denmark. Scares the life out of me.
NAW- Tell us about your other works.
When people ask what I write about – I tell them I write fiction. And then they ask, what kind of fiction. Just regular fiction, I say.
In general every book I have written, I have written to answer a question.
With A Breath of Fresh Air I wanted to ask what happened to the people affected by the Bhopal gas tragedy?
With The Mango Season, I wanted to know how a family will deal with an Indian woman coming home to tell them about her American fiancée?
With Serving Crazy with Curry I found out what one family goes through after the daughter of the family attempts suicide.
With the Song of the Cuckoo Bird – I wanted to know how the house with the white roof came to be – this house that I had visited during my childhood, an ashram and a safe haven.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I have a fulltime job. I am a marketing manager at a medical device company. I love my job. Recently, I spoke to a friend who told me I was one of the very few people he knew who actually said that and meant it. I enjoy my job and love marketing as a discipline.
I am a foodie – I think it’s okay to make it official. I like food. I like to cook it. I like to eat it. I like to discover new cuisine, I like to drink wine, and I live to eat.
NAW- Please name your favorite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?
The writers I like change based on my recent reads and I love books – and not particular writers.
I just read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I loved it. I also read Half a Yellow Sun but that book didn’t have much of an impact – I thought it was okay.
Donna Tart set it on fire with The Goldfinch and I also loved The Secret History.
I didn’t enjoy The Lowland – I had to give up on it because it read too much like a history book, but I enjoyed The Namesake very much.
My all-time favorites are still: Catch-22, The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, The Birth of Venus, Wolf Hall, Malgudi Days, The Flight of the Pigeons…oh…I could go on and on.
NAW-What are you currently reading?
Hard Choices by Hilary Clinton! I have always had a crush on her and I think I’m falling in love as I read the book. I know, I know – not everyone has loved this book, someone asked me if I wasn’t half bored out of my skull.
After, my Kindle is loaded with the latest Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane; and Alyson Foster’s God is an Astronaut.
NAW- What will you be working on next?
I’m finishing up a book about surrogacy – my agent is reading it and I have my fingers and toes crossed.