A hero’s quest, a love story, and a coming-of-age story for a young artist.
booty By Tania James. Knopp. 304 pages. $28.
Konstantin Rega: What inspired you to write?
Tania James: I think I always wrote. But one of the pivotal moments was in high school, when I attended Kentucky’s Governor’s School of the Arts. It was like an art boot camp for young people.
I used to think that writers were mostly dead and mostly white. Because those were the people I was reading. But my teachers there were two black poets, and just being in their presence opened up the possibility for me to do this too, and there was no room for multiple kinds of writers. is.
if you were talking to someone about it bootywhat would you say?
Well, I started writing this novel before the pandemic, but I’ve never enjoyed a novel as much as I do, even if it’s about some heavy themes. So I hope it’s balanced out by the humor, adventure, and irreverence of the story itself.
Originally, I envisioned this as a heist novel. I knew it would be set in an English country house and told the story of two people trying to reclaim this piece of art. Then I thought about the artist who made it and what it meant to him. This also made me think about the return of looted artifacts and to whom the war prizes belonged.
It is a novel that does many things. But I really want my readers to have a sense of joy and adventure too.
This is your fourth novel, is this a departure from your regular work?
It feels like a big departure. I had never written a historical novel before. Never before have I spent so much time learning so many different disciplines: woodworking, English country house culture, early 1800s seafaring.
But I am back to the question of authorship and identity that has appeared in other books. And in this case, sovereignty and what the work of art means to the person making it. It’s not necessarily an intentional act for me.
Each time I write a book, I venture into familiar territory, but it still feels quite different. With this piece, I was interested in following different paths that people took because they had some sort of devastating time.
I’m new to historical fiction, how did you get used to it?
I didn’t find much information about Tipu’s Tiger, so I had a hard time researching it at first. And even less can be said about the people who made it. All I could find was that it was probably a collaboration between Sultan watchmakers and local artisans.
At first, I was a little confused by the lack of information. But then I decided that the lack of information might free me from being overly faithful to history. This can be a deadly problem when writing historical fiction. You can feel a certain loyalty to everything you learn. So I did a lot of groundwork research to understand how people talk to each other, and I paid a lot of attention to the details that mattered to the characters.
Is that what you enjoy about being a writer?
If you’re an inquisitive person, being a writer gives you the opportunity to exercise those muscles pretty much every day. And I love those fleeting moments of forgetting myself in the process of writing. I am so trapped in the world in a different way that I am able to forget my ego and feel so liberated.
Do you have anything else in the works?
I’m trying to get back into that space, cautiously walking through the water. Prior to writing this novel, he had drafted several other novels. And there’s one thing I feel might come back and it might be calling to me. I still consider myself a writer as well as a writing student. I always feel that I still have a lot to learn and it’s a very exciting place.
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