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Interview: Sunil Patel on His GENIUS LOCI Story “The Gramadevi’s Lament”


Genius Loci is a new anthology edited by Jaym Gates that is due out in September. It’s currently on Kickstarter, and features stories by authors like Seanan McGuire, Ken Liu,  and more. In a special series of interviews, I asked the authors a few questions about themselves and their stories.

About Genius Loci (via Jaym Gates):

The concept of ‘genius loci‘ is indeed an ancient one, found in nearly every human mythology. Guardian spirits. Divine presences. Demonic powers. Ghosts. In GENIUS LOCI, the emphasis is on the locale as much as it is on the spirit inhabiting it.

We have a huge anthology of 31 all-new fantasy and science fiction stories drawing on the rich tradition of place-as-person. Within the pages of GENIUS LOCI, the authors present stories of sentient deserts, beneficent forests, lonely shrubs, and protective planetary spirits.

Today, I talked to Sunil Patel about his story The Gramadevi’s Lament”

Sunil Patel is a Bay Area fiction writer and playwright who has written about everything from ghostly cows to talking beer. His work has been performed at San Francisco Theater Pub and San Francisco Olympians Festival. When he is not writing, he is consuming stories in all forms in order to extract their secrets and put them to use. Plus, he reviews books for Lightspeed. He also likes nachos.

Kristin Centorcelli: Will you tell us a bit about your story in Genius Loci and what inspired you to write it?

Sunil Patel: “The Gramadevi’s Lament” is about a gramadevi, which is the village spirit in India. When Jaym first floated the idea of the anthology on Twitter, I immediately Googled to see what the genius loci of my own culture was. I have no idea what search terms I used because I can’t recreate it today! I literally had never heard of a gramadevi or gramadevata before then, so research was fun (grandmothers are indispensable). I had been itching to write a horror story, and I had the image of this abandoned village, with all the villagers dead, and I wanted to explore the idea of a village spirit in that situation. What is a goddess with no one left to worship her? The actual story ended up less horror and more tragedy, but it’s still pretty creepy.

KC: What do you like to see in a good story, and what authors or novels have influenced you the most in your work, and your life?

SP: The number one thing that hooks me in a story is character/narrative voice. You get me with a strong voice and I won’t be able to stop reading. I also appreciate a healthy dose of humor, black or otherwise. It’s hard to identify specific authors or novels that have influenced me, but the first writer that always comes to mind is Joss Whedon, who taught me so much about character, story, dialogue, and subverting tropes. I also aspire to one day be as sublimely witty as Lorrie Moore.

KC: What would you say is the biggest challenge when writing short fiction?

SP: In short fiction, you have to imply so much about your world and your characters in a limited space, and I’ve found it hard to balance subtlety with directness. As a reader, it’s such a joy to discover there’s so much underneath the words themselves, and I strive to write words that evoke that reaction.

KC: What do you enjoy most about reading, and writing, SFF?

SP: Our world doesn’t have hungry dragons or killer robots or psychic alligators or sparkly magic. We can imagine those worlds and visit them for a while: they’re not bound by the “rules” of “reality.”

KC: What’s next for you?

SP: I have three other short stories coming out this year: “Stranger” on Saturday Night Reader in March, “Sally the Psychic Alligator” in Fireside in April, and “The Merger” on The Book Smugglers in June. Plus, I am writing a story for Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling, which Jaym is co-editing with Monica Valentinelli. I’m working on my first novel, a YA book codenamed Untitled Female Indian Superhero Project. And I also have a secret and amazing new project that may or may not be public by the time you read this!

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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