Friday, October 21, 2011

Moni Mohsin

Moni Mohsin's latest novel is Duty Free.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

I deeply admired the multi-layered structure of the book, especially the way you put headlines at the beginning of every chapter, which throw the heroine's plight into satiric relief. How did this all come about?

Duty Free's origins can be traced back to a column called The Diary of a Social Butterfly which I wrote in The Friday Times, a national Pakistani paper. The column's primary purpose was to gently mock the foibles of Pakistan's disassociated wealthy elites, but since it was in a diary format and appeared in a weekly newspaper, it was always linked in some way to the news of the week. So for instance if there had been heavy rains and floods, the column would be about my fictitious Social Butterfly's response to the floods. When I first conceived of a novel centred around the characters from the column, I wanted to retain the idea of situating it in real time because it enabled me to highlight the disconnect between their lives and events unfolding in the country but I didn't know quite how to do that without weighing the book down with tedious explanatory notes. It was my editors who came up with the idea of using national headlines -- one serious and one comic -- to achieve that purpose.

Was it fun to write such a basically out-to-lunch heroine or did you have moments when you wanted to throttle her?

Actually I found it bracing to write her. My challenge was to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue