Books·How I Wrote It

Why Bindu Suresh wanted to explore the meaning of love, romance and heartbreak in her debut novel

The Montreal author, named a writer to watch by CBC Books, discusses how she wrote 26 Knots.
26 Knots is a novel by Bindu Suresh. (Invisible Publishing)

Bindu Suresh is a fiction writer and pediatrician based in Montreal.

Her first book, the novel 26 Knots, weaves a poetic and complicated love story: Araceli falls for a fellow journalist named Adrien, who is already in love with Pénélope, who can't decide between him and Gabriel, who is too traumatized by his father's abandonment to be a good partner.

CBC Books named Suresh a writer to watch in 2019. Below, she discusses how she wrote 26 Knots.

A comedic beginning

"I'd gone to a comedy club, and the comedian started telling personal stories. He talked about a friend of his, who had gone to Afghanistan as part of the army. This friend had been cheated on by his girlfriend while he was over there. He ended up returning to Afghanistan and raising his girlfriend's son as his own.

"The comedian's comment was that this situation represented real love, which got me thinking. That was a moment which crystallized the book's theme for me, but in a different context. Anytime anyone makes a pronouncement on love, it piques my interest.

"From there, I started thinking about relationships that I and my friends have gone through or that I've read about or imagined. These are crystallized into ideas for this book."

For the love of Montreal

"It felt very natural to set 26 Knots in Montreal. I started working here as a journalist at the Montreal Gazette when I was 20 and I was so inspired by the energy, the multiculturalism, the bilingualism and its inherent mystique.

I wanted to showcase the city that I had just discovered and had fallen in love with.​​​​​- Bindu Suresh

"These elements paired well with the story that I was writing. I wanted to showcase the city that I had just discovered and had fallen in love with."

Pithy prose

"The style of the book — short episodic chapters — came naturally to me. I realized that it was a good way of telling the story that I wanted to tell. I got my start in writing when I was very young, initially poetry. My initial preoccupation with writing was always with the beauty of the individual line — poetry in terms of phrasing — and then secondarily character and plot.

"It turned out to be instrumental, in terms of the story and the plot that I wanted to portray. I wanted the reader to be able to almost suspend their disbelief over narrative. It allowed me to zoom in on an intimate moment. It allowed me to skip through time and allow the reader, in a way, to populate what had been left unsaid."

Reflections on love

"As I was writing this book, I was thinking about how family, previous romantic relationships and one's own strengths and weaknesses influence the decisions people make in life. I was trying to explore that interplay.

I was thinking about how family, previous romantic relationships and one's own strengths and weaknesses influence the decisions people make in life.- Bindu Suresh

"If I succeeded in having a reader take anything away from this book, it would be to reflect on their own relationships or why people make the decisions they do in relationships."

Being a writer... and a doctor

"I am a pediatrician. At one point, I did try to do writing and doctoring simultaneously, when I was in medical school. That did not work at all. I took a few years to complete my medical training: I would take a year in between medical school and residency training to write another draft of the book. After my residency training, I took more time to work on editing it.

"These days I go back and forth on almost a day-to-day basis. I'll have a clinic morning and might try to write in the afternoon. I've definitely tried to balance my schedule so that I have time for both."

Bindu Suresh's comments have been edited for length and clarity. You can see more interviews from the How I Wrote It series here.

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