As its name hints, the recent journal India on the Fly: On Book Tour from IgoUgo Hall of Famer phileasfogg is an account of her whirlwind promotional tour through four cities in support of her first novel. But while the journal contains four hotel reviews and six delectable restaurant reviews, she only mentions her literary accomplishment in flying fashion; needless to say, we were hungry for more details.
Luckily, phileasfogg--known in the world of publishing, and, well, the world in general, as Madhulika Liddle--was kind enough to answer our questions.
IgoUgo: Last time we spoke, you named history, culture, and nature as your top three priorities when traveling, and we see these themes often in your travel writing. Are they present in your novel as well? Please tell us a bit about your book!
Madhulika: The Englishman’s Cameo is a historical detective novel set in the Delhi of 1656, so yes: the history is definitely all there! This period was just after the building of the Taj Mahal in Agra. The Mughal Emperor Shahjahan had shifted the imperial court from Agra to Delhi, and the new capital at Delhi was one of the wealthiest courts in the world at that time: very glittery and rich and cosmopolitan. The book’s full of detail on things that people ate and drank, read and thought and wore--and more. And yes, there’s a little bit of nature too: the hero, a young nobleman who investigates a murder because a friend is implicated, is a bird lover.
IgoUgo: The book tour you chronicle in your journal took you through Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore. How was traveling to these cities as an author-at-work different than going as an independent traveler? Any distinct advantages or disadvantages?
Madhulika: The main advantage was that I had to pay almost nothing. My publisher paid for everything from airfare to hotel accommodation and meals, so my own expenses were very limited. And since money wasn’t much of a concern, I got to stay in posh hotels I’d probably never have stepped into on my own.
The biggest disadvantage was that I got no time on my own in which to explore the cities I visited. When I wasn’t at a book event, I was busy giving interviews or visiting retailers: all extremely important for the success of the book, I’m sure, but not allowing for any time to see the sights. Also, the tour was very hectic--dawn flights on consecutive days through much of the tour--and that really took its toll. By the end I was so sleep deprived and exhausted, I was almost sleepwalking through the events!
IgoUgo: You must have seen your fair share of bookstores that week; are there any literary havens or hot spots in those cities to recommend? And do you have any favorite places for bookworms elsewhere in the world?
Madhulika: My favourite of all the bookstores I visited was the Oxford Bookstore in Kolkata, on Park Street. It’s a grand old building, two-storied, a hundred years old and with wooden floors. It has a vast selection of books, lots of chairs and bean bags to sit on while you browse through a book, and even a chai bar (named Cha Bar) where you can buy fabulous brownies and cookies, along with several flavours of tea.
I must admit to not buying books when I’m travelling. At home, I always have at least three books in my reading queue at any given time, so I take those along with me when I travel. But if it’s just a question of a place recommended for a bookworm, not necessarily a place to buy a book: Viennese cafés. They make for great places to sit hunched over a book with awesome coffee and the world going gently by...
IgoUgo: In addition to your novel-writing and travel-writing chops, you mention in your IgoUgo profile that you review old cinema, write short stories, and take on writing assignments. How do your extensive travels inform and inspire your other writing projects?
Madhulika: Oh, very much! Several of my short stories are set in locales that I’ve come across on my travels (for instance, a trip to Goa inspired A Tale of a Summer Vacation). And some stories, such as On the Night Train, revolve around journeys.
Among the most intensive non-fiction writing assignments I’ve done includes work for the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage. That involved visiting, researching and writing about a hundred-odd historical monuments in Delhi, which was a more academic version of my ‘historical Delhi’ series of journals on IgoUgo.
IgoUgo: What’s next for you? Are there plans to release this book outside India? Will there be another novel?
Madhulika: Yes, The Englishman’s Cameo should soon be available outside the Indian subcontinent too. Amazon already displays the book, and it’ll probably become available within a month or so. The contract for world rights is being prepared right now, so hang in there and redeem some of your points on Amazon gift vouchers to buy the book!
Or, if you can read French, you can buy the French edition (it’s titled Le Camée Anglais), which will be released by Editions Philippe Picquier in France in April 2010.
I’m currently working on a sequel--a set of short stories featuring Muzaffar Jang, the detective in The Englishman’s Cameo. I’m hoping that’ll be published by the end of 2010!
For more details on
The Englishman’s Cameo and other projects, check out Madhulika’s website, http://madhulikaliddle.com, and read her newest IgoUgo journal, Pondicherry: A Writer’s Haven.
And to meet another impressive IgoUgo novelist, see last May’s Q&A with Carmen Shirkey.