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Chaitali Sen and ‘The Pathless Sky’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Chaitali Sen is the author of the novel, The Pathless Sky (Europa Editions, 2015).  Her short stories, reviews, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Ecotone, New England Review, New Ohio Review, Colorado Review, LitHub, Los Angeles Review of Books, Brooklyn Magazine, and Catapult. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.

About The Pathless Sky

In The Pathless Sky, Chaitali Sen conjures a world in which a nation’s political turmoil, its secret history, and growing social unrest turn life into a fragile and capricious thing and love into a necessary refuge to be defended at all cost. A world, that is, not unlike the one we live in. John and Mariam are unforgettable characters, troubled lovers who struggle to find a space for the finest human emotions in a place that is determined to abolish them.

 SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

CHAITALI SEN: Carolyn Keene, everything Nancy Drew.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine, definitely. I don’t know why water is even on this list.

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Another Country, James Baldwin

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

I struggled through a lot of classics in my teens that were way over my comprehension level, so I think I get a pass on this one.

A favorite quote from your book 

“Can you two goat****ers tell me why these posts are abandoned?”

 Your favorite book to film?

Mary Poppins

Favorite Indie Book Stores?

Malvern Books in Austin, Texas. (check out this piece in LitHub)

Revolution Books in Harlem. (check out this piece in LitHub) 

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

You have to proofread your own work.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

Maybe it helps to have some track record in publishing and marketing, but NO on the writing. Every new piece is hard.

Dog, Cat, Or?


A favorite book cover?

Another Country, first Vintage International Edition, 1993

A favorite song?

This is tough one. I have so many. I’ll say “Ain’t No Love,” by David Gray.

Literary Festival Anecdote? 
I did my first panel as a novelist at the 2015 Texas Book Festival. I had a terrible case of Imposter Syndrome, which I blurted out to the panel’s moderator Natalia Sylvester. I don’t remember her exact words, (something I heard as “stop that, you deserve to be here”) but whatever she said gave me the courage to go on that panel and act like I knew what I was talking about.
Ideal Vacation? 
My ideal vacation is sitting on a beach with the sound of the waves lapping the shore and no one talking to me, while I read or take naps.
Favorite work of art?

I worked for a short time at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York when they were having the Over the Line exhibit, a huge retrospective of Jacob Lawrence’s paintings. I could wander the galleries during my lunch hour even when the museum was closed. I used to stare at the painting, Home Chores.

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation?
I go back and forth between Pride and Prejudice and Emma as my favorite Austen novel. My favorite film adaptation is the Pride and Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth, which I was unaware of until I read Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Lisa Ko, The Leavers. The red cover caught my attention, but I’m glad I bought it because it was wonderful.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.  NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel



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