Devi S. Laskar: Author Spotlight

Author spotlights (like this one with Devi S. Laskar, author of The Atlas of Reds and Blues from Counterpoint Press) are a great way to learn how other authors are finding success.
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Author spotlights (like this one with Devi S. Laskar, author of The Atlas of Reds and Blues from Counterpoint Press) are a great way to learn how other authors are finding success.

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 Devi S. Laskar

Devi S. Laskar

Devi S. Laskar's debut novel, The Atlas of Reds and Blues (Counterpoint Press 2019) has garnered praise in The Washington Post, Chicago Review of Books, Booklist and elsewhere; and has appeared on the most anticipated lists in such publications as TIME, Cosmopolitan (UK), and Vogue. The novel also has been published in India and the U.K/Commonwealth.

Recently, the novel won the 7th annual Crook's Corner Book Prize in the U.S., and was named to the long-list for the 9th annual DSC Prize in India. In November 2019, the novel was named among 2019 "Books All Georgians Should Read."

She's also published two books of poetry from Finishing Line Press: Gas & Food, No Lodging and Anastasia Maps. Laskar holds an MFA from Columbia University and an MA from The University of Illinois, and BAs in English and Journalism from University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. A former newspaper reporter, she is now a poet, photographer and novelist. A native of Chapel Hill, she now lives in California.

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Name: Devi S. Laskar
Literary agent: Reiko Davis
Book title: The Atlas Of Reds And Blues
Publisher: Counterpoint Press (U.S); Fleet (Little, Brown UK) & Hachette India
Release Date: February 2019 (Hardcover) and February 2020 (paperback) (U.S.)
Genre: Fiction

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Elevator pitch for the book: When a woman, known only as Mother, moves her family to the suburbs outside Atlanta she discovers that neither the times nor the people have changed since her childhood in the South. Mother's simmering anger breaks through one morning, when, during a violent and unfounded police raid on her home she refuses to be complacent…

What prompted you to write this book?

This project started as a short story submission for a writing conference in California in 2004. I was going to submit a previously written story about arranged marriage but my good friend from graduate school said that I had to write something new. I had left the journalism world several years before and my children were quite young. I wanted to write a story in the vein of Sandra Cisneros' The House On Mango Street. So I wrote a 5,000-word story based on my family.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication?

The idea was first a family story in 2004. The piece was well-received in Squaw Valley and I decided to expand it. By 2009, it was a long book crowded with many voices. I decided to put it aside to try NaNoWriMo with a different idea. In May 2010, six weeks before I was scheduled to complete a version of the second novel, everything changed. My husband was racially targeted by his previous employers in Georgia—and the state police raided his office and our home at gunpoint. Among the items confiscated by the police was my computer. In short, I lost most of my work.

So I had to start over. It took four years for me to be able to sit down and write prose again – and when I restarted this story, I had to re-imagine it: It was no longer a family story exactly. It was my Mother narrator's story, and it was a story about racism and misogyny and being invisible in America. My book was now at the intersection of The House on Mango Street and Claudia Rankine's Citizen.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

I was 52 when I became a debut novelist. I had no expectations for how this book would be received; and it has been a wonderful surprise to see a diverse readership and to hear from so many people around the world how this novel impacted them. I am grateful.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I think the Aristotle's Incline structure was a happy surprise, and wholly appropriate for my Mother narrator. I have been in a writing group for a long time. One of my colleagues is a screenwriter and she uses Aristotle's Incline, a three-act play, as the structure for writing film scripts. This seven-step structure was a great fit for my narrator. She's been shot and is lying on her driveway, and doesn't have a lot of time to muse too long about any one topic. So it was wonderful when the structure and the narrator "met," so to speak.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I think it's very difficult to have conversations about racism and misogyny in America, especially these days. My hope is that readers can have candid discourse about the characters in my novel, and take the lessons from these conversations and apply them to their real lives.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Don't give up, and don't lose your stubborn belief that you have a story worth telling. I've had so many people tell me over so many years that I didn't have the qualities needed to be a writer. All of my writer friends and I have one thing in common: We didn't listen to the naysayers. We kept writing. And eventually we have all been published.

If you're an author who would like to be featured in a future post, send an email to Robert Lee Brewer with the subject line "Author Spotlight" at rbrewer@aimmedia.com.