Interview: J.Kaval

J.Kaval is the pen name of K.L.Joseph (70) native of Trichur, Kerala, India. He is the Founder and the Director of Fraternity of Kathalok (FOKL) A Fellowship of writers of fiction in English who reside in and around the city of Bangalore since 1999. Like many writers, he wears many hats as an author, journalist, publisher, editor, and critic. He is a graduate both in Theology and Philosophy from the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome; a postgraduate in Sociology from the Kerala University and is holder of Diploma in Journalism with gold medal for Editing from the Bharathiya Vidhya Bhavan, Mumbai

He has worked in Kerala, Iran and Bahrain. He is now married and settled in Bangalore City, Karnataka State, India.

He started writing poems and stories both in English and Malayalam in 1960. Since then till today he has written and published more than 200 essays on art, literature, theology, philosophy, ecumenism and environment, 300 short stories and 5 novels in Malayalam. He has reviewed 3000 books for various periodicals both in and outside India in between 1964 – 2007. He continues writing and teaching on Creative Writing, Teaching and Journalism. He conducts classes, workshops and seminars for graduates and post graduates in colleges on Creative Spirit.

Enjoy this interview.


Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I’m K.L.Joseph, son of late Lazar Kavalakkatt. I was born in Trichur town, Kerala, India in1939. I have been actively and regularly writing both in English and my mother tongue Malayalam since 1960. J.Kaval is my penname but honestly not, as it stands for the short form of Joseph (Baptismal name) Kavalakkatt (house name). I shortened it to hide my identity as a Christian. Why hide? That’s a long story. I am Masters in Sociology from Kerala University, Bachelors in Divinity from Lateran University, Rome and Diploma holder in Journalism from Bharthiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai.

What type of writing do you do?

During teenage I used to write muses, tiny poems. Since my adulthood I began writing prose – essays, criticism, book reviews, stories and novels. I continue writing them till today. Fiction is my favorite cup of tea.

What’s the best thing about writing?

When I write I feel like God who creates. I am using my creative skill. Only humans are made after God’s image! I like my writing and enjoy it very much when I see in my words something novel and useful to people. Otherwise there is no fun and meaning in writing. Writing is a solitary and hard job. While writing I gain experience and when I gain experience in life I feel to write more. I wish to share my thinking and feeling with my fellow beings. I am again happy if I come to know people enjoy my reading.

Share some of your writing goals.

Basically I write for myself. I shall never be a ghost writer though it is a profession now earning a lot of money. I shall not write for any established system – religious, political, economical and sociological. I shall never be their face book. I shall not pledge my freedom and integrity to anyone. Earlier I never wrote for money and fame. Name and fame will come after me if my writings are good for others. While I enjoy my writings why not my readers enjoy? So I make sure that my writings inherently carry my point of view (POV) that is, entertain, inform, educate and inculcate Christ’s values in my readers. I wish to have literary award (recognition) by literary bodies, but will never go after it. I need now money for living. I now try to send my works to paying journals.

Is there a specific time of day you like to write?

Absolutely no. but during the early hours of the day I often do my correspondence with others and personal writing.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

The Bible. I read it thrice from page one to the last taking notes. It depicts human life in black and white just as in Mahabharatam and Ramayanam of Hindu Puranas. In literature Papillon (P.S.)of Henri Charriere and The Godfatherof Mario Puzo fascinated me.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Vocation for writing has been inherent in me. Why I do not know. There was no writer in my family tree as far as I could know. My father had a library in his room in 1930. He must be an avid reader. I became serious about writing during sixties. I felt written word would remain for ever.

Favorite authors?
In Western (US, UK, EU) literature I liked Hardy Chase, Bertrand Russell, Mario Puzo, Eric Segal, Jack Maritane, Morris L.West, Frederick Forsyth, Jacqueline Susann and many more. In Indian literature, I was fond of Nehru, Dr.Radhakrishnan, M.N.Roy, Tagore, Kesavadev, Thakazhi, Basheer, Muttathu Varkey and many more.

Book you’re currently reading.
Cretaceous Dawn by L.M.Graziano and M.S.A.Graziano, a scientific fantasy. It is sent to me by Leapfrog press for reviewing in Katha Kshetre. I have one more book from them. I have to finish reading both within a couple of weeks.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

I do not believe in WB. It’s a kind oblivion in thinking and feeling process. It may come and go in any serious writer. It’s a mental slumber. Vanity writers, armchair writers and saturated writers (They have no real vocation for writing) suffer more from writer’s block. My five windows – eyes, nose, ear, tongue and skin – are ever open. My head is flooded with writing materials. My problem now is that I do not have time to sort out those raw materials. As the editor and publisher of KATHA KSHETRE (an international literary quarterly dedicated to short fiction) and owner of Kathalok Publications I am always busy. I am one man army and one man show. Apart from doing home-chores, I have to prepare for the forthcoming issues of KK, read, edit and copy into KK’format for printing, reading the books I receive for reviewing, look for marketing book published by Kathalok Publications (13 titles so far) and care for my own writing.

What’s the measure of a successful writer?

Name, fame, prizes, awards and money are not in my eyes the criteria of a successful writer. They are corollary and natural consequences. In these days any shrewd and cunning writer shall get them by trick or hook. A writer is successful if his / her works have the elements of originality, clarity, brevity and beauty.

Advice for other writers?

The three best tips I can give any writer are fairly simple.
1) Learn all you can about the language you are writing in: grammar, punctuation, styling, pacing etc….
2) Learn all about your surrounding – the society wherein you live and concentrate on your experience
3) Learn all you can about the business end of the publishing world if you intend to try to publish your work. There are lots of SHARKS out there.
3) Last and possibly most important of all, don’t let self-doubt stop you from enjoying what you’re doing. Have fun with your writing.

Where can we learn more about you?

My works reflect me – my thinking, feeling, actions and reactions to the events around me. Buy and read my books. Visit my blog . Contact me for anything related to literature., and snail mail: J.Kaval, Editor, Katha Kshetre, Post Box No.9705, Vidhyranyapura Post, Bangalore 560097, Karnataka, India.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Am I a successful writer? I do not know. I could publish in English only three books so far. I have plenty of MS awaiting a publisher.

Despite my hectic days last month I completed a book titled (IN)DECENT ENCOUNTERS (spicy erotica) I took four and half years to complete. Last year I completed a novel titled BUTTERFLIES FROM THE EAST (Romantic novel for adults). I took 12 years to complete it. It is the story about agony and ecstasy of housemaids from Eastern countries working in Gulf for the Arabs and the Expatriates.

Why did my father buy, read and keep the library with 110 titles in 1930s even before I was born? He never told me later. I enlarged it now to 3000 titles. I will continue writing and publishing. I will never tell my son why.

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