Thrity Umrigar's sixth novel, The Story Hour, is filled with the perception, honesty and heartbreak her readers have come to expect, not to mention the emotional authenticity that is the basis of her work. "More than anything else I want to tell a story with integrity," says Umrigar of her new book available Aug. 19 (HarperCollins, $25.99), which deals with the class disparity between two women brought together by their troubling secrets. "One issue I am interested in with all of my books is who has the power and how they wield it against others." The Case Western Reserve University English professor, whose best-selling novels have been translated into more than 15 languages, talks to us about her books, writing process and one of her biggest influences.
ON SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE STORY HOUR AND HER SECOND NOVEL THE SPACE BETWEEN US: I didn't even see the parallels until I had finished two drafts of The Story Hour. The books really do have a lot in common with the main characters coming from very different backgrounds. People begged me to write a sequel [to The Space Between Us], and I said I never would. In a weird way, I may have done it.
ON HER AMERICANIZATION: When I came to Ohio State [University] from Mumbai, I had a community and no time to be lonely. I'm always puzzled by how much we obsess over our differences when we all share a common humanity. India and the U.S. have more in common than most countries. Both have the same streak of sentimentality.
ON THE WRITING PROCESS: Each novel starts in a totally different way. They all have their own way of being brought into the world. The World We Found was the result of a chance encounter I had with an old friend. I'm working on another book right now that came to me in the span of a few minutes in the shower. It's the first book I am doing with no Indian characters whatsoever.
ON WRITER SALMAN RUSHDIE: He was a big influence on me way before I was a published writer. Right before I came to America, a friend of mine put a copy of Midnight's Children in my hands and my life was never the same. Rushdie opened up a sense of what was possible. Now we exchange messages on Facebook.