I’m still alive!

December 10th, 2012

Has it really been a year since I had my first hard copy of When Gods Colllide in my hot little hand? But … but … I’m still using the fact that my book ‘just came out’ to justify not having started another. It’s been nice just being able to do some day-job work and earn some money, and even nicer having weekends to bum around with the dogs and go to the Trash and Treasure. But I do have new-book ideas, and I’ll be starting some research and writing in the new year.
I guess I should post some reviews of When Gods Collide. But you know how to google, don’t you? Last time I did a vanity google I discovered the identity of the little girl on the cover of my book - people keep asking if it’s me but I was never very cute.

That was quick!

December 21st, 2011

When Gods Collide: An unbeliever’s pilgrimage along India’s Coramanel Coast

RIP Hitch

December 16th, 2011

The year was 1981. We were in a tiny Italian restaurant in west London, where we would soon be joined by our future first wives. Two elegant young men in waisted suits were unignorably and interminably fussing with the staff about rearranging the tables, to accommodate the large party they expected. It was an intensely class-conscious era (because the class system was dying); Christopher [Hitchens] and I [Martin Amis] were candidly lower-middle bohemian, and the two young men were raffishly minor-gentry (they had the air of those who await, with epic stoicism, the deaths of elderly relatives). At length, one of them approached our table, and sank smoothly to his haunches, seeming to pout out through the fine strands of his fringe. The crouch, the fringe, the pout: these had clearly enjoyed many successes in the matter of bending others to his will. After a flirtatious pause he said, “You’re going to hate us for this.”

And Christopher said, “We hate you already.”

RIP Christopher Hitchens. I’m not going to say I’m sorry for calling you a dick in my book. But sometimes dickishness is exactly what’s called for.

And we’re off

November 30th, 2011

‘When Gods Collide’ went to the printer today. No doubt I will wake up in the middle of the night and remember someone I should’ve thanked on the Acknowledgments page. Time for a drink, I think.

Finished. Kind of.

August 11th, 2011

The final pre-edited draft of my book has gone to the editor at Hardie Grant. And the book has a working title: When Gods Collide. The name came from my friend Paul Perry. At first I just laughed at the name, and eventually I thought ‘You know, that’s not bad’. And I told my editor, and she just laughed, and the next day she emailed me and said ‘You know? That’s not bad.’
Now, of course, they’re talking about cover images. I like this one, which I often saw at the front of buses in India: pray to the god of your choice that you survive the ride.

But I think the publisher’s looking for something a bit more personal, so I’m digging out old slides of little Katy in India.

We seem to be looking at early next year for publication. You’d think I’d be exhausted, but I’m actually thinking about the next book already…

An incident in Kolkata

March 16th, 2011

I’m still writing about Kolkata. Here’s another excerpt.

On the way home I stopped at an internet cafe. I never knew how many security procedures I would have to go through to get online – sometimes I was waved straight to a computer, others asked for a photocopy of my passport, and one joint had even demanded I place my thumb on an electronic pad so my print could be kept in their system. ‘Terrorists, madam,’ they had told me. The young man behind the desk at this place just asked for my name and phone number, and suggested I buy a coke from his fridge.

‘Sure, why not,’ I said.

He asked my country, and I told him. “Ah,’ he said, handing me my drink. ‘Why do you keep beating us?’ he asked.

I smiled. It was the cricket again; India loves Ricky Ponting. I laughed and said ‘Oh, because we’re so good.’

The young man didn’t say anything. We looked at each other and I tried to read his expression. It was something like disgust, a look I hadn’t seen very often in India.

I realised, with horror, that he was not talking about the cricket. He was talking about the attacks on Indian students that had been happening in Australia, and particularly Melbourne, over the past few years.

‘Oh no, I thought you were talking about the cricket,’ I said quickly, stumbling over my words to explain as quickly as I could. ‘Everyone talks to me about the cricket, I thought you were asking why we beat you at cricket, I’m so sorry.’

He understood what I was saying, but he only unstiffened a little. ‘So why is this happening?’ he asked.

I didn’t have any good explanations. I said it was horrible, and it brought shame to us, and I meant it. I said most Australians weren’t racist, that these were just a few hooligans, though I didn’t know how true this was. I suspected that the India media had … well, beaten up the story beyond the admittedly awful facts, but I didn’t think that was an appropriate thing to say.

And I realised that I was here because I was writing about a lone Australian being attacked in India, while Indians were being back attacked in my home town. I felt a bit sick.

‘I was going to apply to work in Australia, but now I think it’s no good for Indians there,’ the young man said. ‘I think I’ll try for United States instead.’

I clutched my coke and nodded. ‘Now go, go, number six computer is ready,’ he said.

Buchibabu Street

February 5th, 2011

I’m writing about my experiences of religion in India. It reminded me of my last visit, when I walked down a street in Chennai, looking for a hotel, and found a mural celebrating religious pluralism: Christian, Muslim and Hindu images side by side.

Book excerpt

January 25th, 2011

Slowly but surely, I’m still working on my book about Graham Staines. And news keeps coming; last week the man accused of killing him, Dara Singh, had his life sentence upheld. The judges involved in the review took the chance to make some snarky comments about conversions that has prompted some good defences of freedom of religion in India.

This morning on Twitter, writer/producer Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica and much more) said she’d been procrastinating and challenged all her followers to join her in 30 minutes of totally uninterupted writing (or whatever their creative challenge might be). Here’s what I wrote: the (first draft of the) introduction to my Kolkata chapter.

I planned to catch a local bus from Baripada to Kolkata. I’m not saying I thought it would be a fun few hours, but I knew there were no direct trains and I assumed regular buses would run north from Baripada to the big city. Subhankar talked me out of it. He was sending the Malayali family in a jeep to a nearby town that had direct train links to the north, so I should buy a ticket online and go with them, he said. When I could only find a wait-listed ticket online Subhankar told me not to worry. He said I should just get on board and show the print-out of the ticket to the conductor and he would find me a seat.

‘It’s not a busy train,’ he said. I tried not to think about the large warnings on the print-out of the ticket that said travelling on a wait-listed ticket was illegal and would subject the holder to fines and possible imprisonment.

I found my platform and squeezed onto a very crowded carriage and stood around the doorway with some friendly young men. I told them I had a wait-listed ticket, but I had been promised I could work something out with the conductor. The men raised eyebrows at each other and one of them said ‘Maybe it will be OK because you’re a foreigner, but there’s no spare seats today.’ The train rolled out of the station.

The conductor turned out to be furious, or at least he was acting that way. ‘No, this is illegal madam!’ he said.

‘But uncle was telling me this is what I should do,’ I said, trying to shift blame, like I always do. The conductor got out his pen and underlined the warnings on my ticket so hard that it ripped the paper. He told me to stay where I was, and he marched away. The young men didn’t say anything, and they didn’t look while I tried not to blub. I imagined I would be forced off the train at the next station, which would no doubt be a random, tiny north Orissa town from which I might never be able to escape.

It was an hour later before the conductor returned, in which I had plenty of time to reflect on the bad thing I had done. He gestured for me to follow him down the carriage and into what looked like a baggage storage area, and he told me to sit down on a random sack of something hard. He looked at me and I looked down at the floor. It was exactly like being at the principal’s office.

The conductor told me again that what I had done was illegal and unacceptable. I would have to pay a big fine, he said, and I would be put off the train. I said I understood, and I was sorry. He let his words sink in for a few moments, and then he explained what was actually going to happen. I would pay him for my ticket – the exact amount it was worth – and then he would take me to the air-conditioned carriage where I would sit in the one free seat – his own seat. He would stay on his feet. When we reached Kolkata he would come and find me, and I would walk all the way through the station with him so that if anyone asked to see my ticket he could explain the situation.

I didn’t dare smile.’Thankyou sir, thankyou,’ I said.

The conductor didn’t smile either. ‘Come, come,’ he said, and he lead me to his seat. I thought I might vomit with relief. I sat down and looked out the window at dusk falling over West Bengal, and breathed deeply.

Quick Update

September 1st, 2010

Tonight I’m flying to India again. After deciding I wouldn’t do the Lonely Planet authoring again, I’m, well, doing it again. Long story. I’ll be covering Tamil Nadu, the state where I grew up, which is great. I have only a few words of Tamil, but it’s enough to bluff with. I’ve been googling to find rants about the previous LP coverage, and it seems like Chennai bloggers were a tad unhappy about the somewhat negative intro to their city. Personally I’ve never had a great time in Chennai as I’m always either jetlagged or about to fly home, but I get a few weeks this time, so hopefully Chennai can reveal her more interesting side to me.

Second piece of news: I just signed a book contract with Hardie Grant, for the book about my trip to India last year in the footsteps of murdered missionary Graham Staines. I might be kidding myself, but I hope I’ll be able to get some writing done in the evenings while I’m on the road over the next seven weeks.

What I won’t be kidding myself about is my ability to blog while I’m on the road. But I’ll be tweeting! I don’t have time to install one of those nifty ‘follow me on Twitter’ buttons, but my user name is katejames – I know, creative naming eh.

I’ll miss my dogs and my man. Apparently Chris is going to build a huge barbecue while I’m away, and roast a goat on a spit when I get back. Can’t wait.

Fatties in love

March 11th, 2010

I just realised I haven’t linked to this anywhere yet: Chris and me appearing in the Museum of Fat Love.

Lesley of Fatshionista fame was sick of hearing the girls on More to Love moaning about how they’d never find love or happiness because they were FAT. So she created the Museum of Fat Love to show how wrong they were. Note that our adopted baby, Luffy, who eats all the same food as us, is not fat. Which I like to think goes to show it’s genetics, not environment, that causes these things.

Kate & Chris & luffy