Mathew Vincent Menacherry lives in Mumbai with his wife, Candice, and their daughter, Shanaia. He is a co-founder of the Anthea Group, which is active in the field of speciality chemicals. His first book Arrack in the Afternoon was published in 2009. Menacherry hails from a family of litterateurs. His grandfather, MP Paul, was a well-known critic and essayist in Malayalam literature, and his aunt and uncle, Rosy and CJ Thomas are also renowned novelists and playwrights.
He has recently come out with his second novel “Feni Daze”. The book is a no holds barred romp through the underbelly of Goa, and is set over a long weekend in the erstwhile backpackers’ paradise. Chirdeep Malhotra connected with him for an exclusive interview, in which he talks about his latest book, why he chose the windswept beaches of Goa as the setting, and his writing process for this book.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Mathew Vincent Menacherry, and I am a storyteller, father, husband, son, entrepreneur and seeker, though not necessarily in that order of importance. I was born in Kerala, but have lived all my life in Mumbai, a city I call home.
Can you introduce in brief your book “Feni Daze” for our readers?
Feni Daze is a sort of love story gone wrong. It’s set in Goa, where the protagonist, Victor Gabriel, meets up with his ex-girlfriend, Ana, to decide whether they have a future together. But Victor, a former officer in the Indian Army, is damaged and impulsive, and struggling with demons that were unleashed during a stint in Punjab during the insurgency. Needless to say, all this doesn’t bode well for a happy ending.
Could you take us behind your creative process of writing this book?
I write in the mornings usually, and try to key in a certain number of words every day. On a good day this count could be a thousand.
Goa is one place I’m in love with, and I go there often. I’ve always wanted to write about the state, and I guess this gave me an opportunity to do so. A few incidents in the book did actually happen, though most are fictional. Usually, when I start to write a novel, I know how the story begins and how it ends, and the narrative unfolds as the writing progresses. This is what happened in the case of Feni Daze… a story took root, and then just had to be told.
How long did it take you to write “Feni Daze”?
It took me a few years to pen down, and a few more years of chipping away at it to get it right. It should take far less time, but the truth is that I’m not very disciplined when it comes to writing.
The character of Victor Gabriel is that of an ex-Army officer, who is an aspiring writer. Please tell us a little bit about the genesis and development of this particular character.
The character of Victor is an amalgam of a few people I know. I’d like to believe that I’m in there somewhere, but I’m not tough enough. I’ve always had a thing for folks who live life on the edge, and Vic is a prime example of this, a sort of Indian version of Jack Reacher.
The book careens through the tourist scene in Goa, and also delves into the setting of Punjab’s hinterland during the height of the insurgency. Why did you decide to incorporate these two settings in the storyline?
The story begins in Goa, and since the protagonist, Victor, is an ex-soldier who has been scarred by events in his past, I needed a credible back story. Punjab, at the height of the insurgency, fitted the bill perfectly. It was a time of great turmoil, and a dark phase in the history of our country. It was also something I lived through, albeit from a distance, in the eighties and nineties.
What was the hardest part of writing a second book? What was the best part?
The hardest part of writing any book, second or otherwise, is completing it. That is also the best part.
Was there anything about the writing process for “Feni Daze” that you preferred over the experience writing “Arrack in The Afternoon”?
In Feni Daze, I’ve adopted a style that is sparer and more concise, which, I feel, is true to the voice of the protagonist, who is relating the story in the first person.
I feel now that Arrack could have been better edited, and perhaps shortened, which is what I have tried to do with Feni Daze.
Which books are you reading currently?
I typically read five to six books at a time. Of late, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the life of Jesus, for a novel I plan to write.
Lastly, what are you working on next?
All I can reveal at this point is that it’s a work of fiction, based on a spiritual subject.
Oh, also quick literary word associations. Tell us the first book that pops into your mind when you read these words.
Goa— Lonely Planet’s Goa for the Indian Traveller
Beaches— The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Travelogue— Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
Romance— The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
‘Feni Daze’ by Mathew Vincent Menacherry has been published by Pegasus Publishers/ Vanguard Press, UK. Read more about the book here and buy it here.
Also Read: An excerpt from the book ‘Feni Daze’.