Quick Fire Q&A with Anita Goveas

by Robin Brown

Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. She was first published in the London Short Story Prize 2016 Anthology and most recently in OkayDonkey, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, and New Mag. She’s on the editorial team at Flashback Fiction, an editor at Mythic Picnic’s Twitter zine, a reader for Bare Fiction and tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer. Links to her stories can be found on her blog.

Anita is the author of ‘Girl Who Drew Shadows’, a short story featured in The Selkie’s anthology, Transformation. Transformation is a collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that is either by writers from underrepresented/marginalised backgrounds, or representative of these groups. You can read the anthology for free here or by following the links at the bottom of this page.

Robin Brown (RB): What does the word ‘transformation’ mean to you? How did you approach this theme in your work?

Anita Goveas (AG): For me, ‘transformation’ means change, that something will be different in appearance, circumstances and/or behaviour. In my story, I wanted to think about change in all those things – there’s a character whose behaviour changes, a character who can change their appearance, and several characters whose circumstances are different by the end. I like to think that transformation is a positive force, although not everyone has the means to change their appearance or circumstances, we can always think about our own behaviour.

 

I like to think that transformation is a positive force.

 

RB: How important is it to have dedicated space for your work? Why are platforms such as these important for writers?

AG: It’s incredibly important to have a dedicated space for my work. I think we all have an unconscious bias; I tend to write families with two married parents, for example, as that is my experience but it’s definitely not everyone’s. As people, we’re often looking for similarities in the people we meet and the situations we come across, and I think that can influence those of us who are gatekeepers in the literary community, so we might unconsciously favour characters and situations that are like us and our own experiences. It’s something I try to consider in my role on the editorial team at Flashback Fiction, and it’s something The Selkie tackles well.

 

We might unconsciously favour characters and situations that are like us and our own experiences.

 

RB: How would you describe your creative process? Do you find it uplifting or exhausting?

AG: My creative process is so erratic! It usually starts with an image or a line of dialogue (I eavesdrop a lot on the bus!) that I can’t get out of my head. Then I try and sketch out some kind of plot, which I generally find exhausting. But I love it when a story comes together, and I find the right words to convey something that has been tugging at me, that’s both uplifting and satisfying.

 

I love it when a story comes together.

 

RB: What other writers do you admire most?

AG: Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Preti Taneja, Romesh Gunesekera, Irenosen Okojie, Helen Oyeyemi, and Leone Ross. Also, I have just bought the latest anthology by The Whole Kahani, a collective of British fiction writers of South Asian origin, and it is brilliant!

RB: How do you measure success as a writer? What do you hope to achieve with your work?

AG: I feel successful just because I am writing. I don’t come from a writing background, and it took me a long time to realise that I had something to say. Every time someone lets me know they’ve read and remembered a story of mine, that feels huge.

I was in my 20s before I found a character in a book that I could relate to; it was in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. What I’d like to achieve with my writing is that other people can see themselves in my characters.

 

It took me a long time to realise that I had something to say.