Writers of WHQ: An Interview with Mallika Narayanan

5 minute read
Author: Jo

In case you didn’t know, the Writers’ HQ writing community is the actual, literal best in the universe, full of amazingly talented and generous writers who make our little corner of the internet a very nice place indeed.

And so, we decided to show some of ’em off as a part of our monthly Writers of WHQ interview series.

Gif of a young white person dressed in an oversized police outfit gesturing emphatically and saying 'answer the question!'

Get to know our amazing WHQ members — how they write, what makes them tick, their influences, inspiration, top tips and favourite stories — and see just how different each and every writer is. ‘Cause there’s no one ‘right’ (write?) way to do things, right?

So let us introduce you to WHQer, novel-writer, flash fiction-er, and all round lovely wordsmith Mallika Narayanan!

Tell us about your writing journey — where did you start, where are you now, and how did you get there?

The first thing I wrote (which wasn’t a journal entry or a poem) was a 90k-word historical fiction novel. I’d just quit my job and was trying to find my feet. I read Agatha Christie’s biography and discovered that she wrote her first novel, The Affair at Styles after a dare from her sister as to who can pen a better mystery. I was so inspired by it, I thought, why not? I can write one too! At the time, I was writing only for an audience of two, myself and my mum, a voracious reader who was recovering from a broken arm. I’d send her a chapter every other day. By the end, she was pushing me for the next installment every day and her enthusiasm kept me going. It’s been a long journey since. Three novels, and many stories later, I found Writer’s HQ (Huzzah!)

Now, thanks to Writer’s HQ, I explore numerous forms of writing. Flash, micro, shorts, and everything in between. I’ve also evolved into writing suspense and thriller novels which I hope will find their way out to the world soon!

Do you have a writing routine? How do you work best?

Yo (Yes + No). I write whenever I can. Wherever I can. Notebooks, notepads, phone, text, email to self, computer of course. I wish I could say I have fixed hours, but I do try and write something every day. If only a line or two. I work best by letting ideas approach me randomly and by not giving myself too much time to overthink or second-guess my initial thoughts. Mostly I start with picturing something small. A conversation, or a look, or an expression frozen on someone’s face and it’ll spark an idea which I note down. An entire novel was born of a single scene I imagined before I even knew what the story was going to be about, or who the characters were.

What are you working on at the moment?

A novel straddling the threshold of horror and suspense.

What advice would you give to a writer starting out?

Write without expectation of where it’ll land. Write for yourself first. The joy is the writing itself. Don’t beat yourself up over anything. Writing is constantly learning. Persistence is everything. And if you join Writers’ HQ or attend the write-along sessions, the gold stars are everything 😉

Gif of a white man firing cartoon gold stars out of finger guns

What’s the piece of writing you’re proudest of (and why)?

The first historical novel I wrote. I had no clue how to write a novel. I hadn’t done a course or talked to a mentor. My only experience was reading. It’s one I’m most proud of because I managed to complete it to my satisfaction. It led me to the discovery of research, of the authenticity of language to its time, and to plotting a suspense mystery within the HF genre. It gave me the confidence that I can complete what I start even if I don’t know the way.

What are the main challenges you face with your writing?

I mostly land into trouble when I set my expectations too high before I’ve even begun. It’s like a natural resistance of my subconscious to achieve that too-high goal. So I try not to think about where the story is headed, how finished is it going to be, all the questions that siphon the joy I get out of the process.

What are you currently reading?

My current read is The Maid by Nita Prose. Next on the TBR is The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. I’ve read a snippet and can’t wait to get in!

What’s your favourite part of the Writers’ HQ Community?

The support. Fellow writers to cheer you on, cry with you, scream with you, always there to uplift you when you want to crawl into bed and never come out. Nobody gets writers like other writers and the WHQ Community is the best group there is. Great writers lurk in every corner of the world. But great writers who are also great people, exist in the Writer’s HQ Community!

Gif of a giant statue spreading its arms with text that says "join us!"

And finally, give us three recommendations of writers or stories you love.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Coyote Girl by Sabrina Hicks


Bedtime in Cleaning up Glitter

A Safe Word With Nona in Funny Pearls

The Empress of Death in Noctivigant Issue Three

Ellipsis Zine Eleven

Mallika Narayanan
Mallika Narayanan

Mallika is a chef, singer, and recovering coder currently working on her second thriller novel. Her short fiction is in Cleaning Up GlitterPfeiffer PhoeixFunny PearlsNoctivagant PressEllipsis Zine. Writer’s HQ member. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband on a farm with real birds and imaginary alpacas. Tweets: @nMals

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