One of the most common questions I am asked is: What inspired you to write your book?
I should prefix my answer with a quick overview of the novel (don’t worry, no spoilers here!). The main character, Vik has a Jewish/Indian heritage, and the core theme of the book is his challenge against racism, discrimination and standing up for what one believes in.
I come from a Jewish/gentile family myself; my father was Jewish, my mother C of E, both Caucasian. Many years ago, I lived in Singapore for a while and I had a lot of Indian friends. And I started to find similarities between Jews and Indians. That may not seem obvious at first, but they both love their food/drink, religious festivals, they sometimes have a similar sense of humour, and they have both suffered their own stigma and racism throughout history. And while sitting in a café one day with an Indian friend, I came up with a book title: The Kosher Delhi. Many years before I wrote it!
I find people with mixed heritage fascinating in ‘real life’, and such characters in novels too, but the weave of Jewish and Indian is not such a common mix!
The first scenes I actually wrote were about Vik and my secondary protagonist, Yvonne going on their ‘Away Days’, followed by what became the opening chapter where they accidentally bottle the old man in the bus stop. At the time, I was writing it more as a hedonistic view of the early 90s – food, music, sex – with a young couple discovering life, more in the vein of Geoff Dyer’s Colour of Memory. But the more I wrote it, the more I realised that although I wanted to keep the core of that concept, it needed something else, and I wanted to say something else. The issue of racism was self-evident with Vik being Jewish/Indian mixed heritage (and Yvonne being such a believer in social justice), and I followed that by incorporating another of my hates, homophobia. The latter theme grew organically as I carried on writing.
Food and music are also a central part of my life – of many people’s lives. I love cooking, although I’ve no desire to become a chef myself; and I wish I had learned a musical instrument when I was younger and had wild years in a rock band… But going to gigs is still something I love.
I always knew I wanted Vik to be in New York at some stage in the book, and for the story to grow gradually as he and Yvonne travelled from Leeds to London and across the Atlantic. New York is a city which enabled me to incorporate more of the 90s vibes, and which allowed me to challenge both Vik and Yvonne in other ways. I knew Vik should be working in a restaurant in New York in some way, and Greenwich Village was a great location for that. I’ve visited the Big Apple a number of times since the 1990s, so that fitted in well.
In my original draft, Yvonne and The Libertine Dolls are more prominent, but as much as I enjoyed writing the more band-oriented scenes, it was clear that was a distractor for the story and so I removed much of it. Maybe those chapters can reappear as small sketches in the future!