Nikesh Shukla is the author of the Costa First Novel Award-shortlisted novel, ‘Coconut Unlimited’ (‘…a riot of cringeworthy moments made real by Shukla’s beautifully observed characters and talent for teen banter.’ Metro) and the Channel 4 Comedy Lab ‘Kabadasses’ starring Jack Doolan, Josie Long and Shazad Latif. He also co-authored a book about the riots for Random House/The Bodley Head with Kieran Yates called ‘Generation Vexed’. His writing has featured on BBC2, Radio 4, Esquire, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. We caught up with him for 6 questions…
1) Amongst other things, you’re a novelist, short story writer, performance poet, podcast maestro, social media whizz and you have a full-time day job as web editor at Booktrust… what’s your secret?
Always be downsizing! I’m not a performance poet anymore. I certainly haven’t performed poetry in a while. I’m just an attention-seeker, really. I don’t require much sleep. I’m happy with 4-6 hours a night, which gives me later finishes and earlier starts than most people. Also, writing on the go is helpful. I can write in short bursts and long sessions. I write on my phone, in notebooks, on computers, wherever. Also, mango lassis. They help everything.
2) Do you have a special preference for one particular creative form?
Novel writing’s done me well. So maybe I should try and attempt to actually get good at it now. I love writing conversations between people too, so writing for telly’s also a joy to write.
3) How far do you feel that your artistic work is influenced by new media and online interaction? And what do you think are the biggest benefits/ most interesting uses of social media?
It’s been great for finding an audience, addressing that audience and interacting with that audience. It’s great for finding interesting people to follow and interact with and share jokes with. I’ve made lots of friends through Twitter and the like. But mostly, I like that it has many uses for me – to promote, to test out new stuff, to share and find things to read, whether online or books, and YouTube videos of rappers being hilarious.
4) You’re the author of Coconut Unlimited, published in 2010, which was widely acclaimed and shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award. It seems as though you’ve been keen to move away from stereotypes of Asian writers in your work– do you feel that diversity in the publishing world has improved since you wrote the novel?
Things have changed loads in the last four years and I think a lot of that has been to do with the growth of diversity within the industry itself. The writing has always been diverse (although reflecting a very particular diversity) but now we’re finding new voices with different things to say and a lot of that is to do with publicists, editors, agents, sales and marketing people all reflecting diverse backgrounds.
5) What’s in the pipeline for you right now?
New novel and new scripts being worked on. The Subaltern podcast, where I interview other authors is going well. Find it here (http://thesubaltern.podomatic.com
) – I’ve got Joe Stretch, Jenn Ashworth, Zadie Smith and Junot Diaz all coming up, which is exciting. That’s about it. Don’t bother following me on Instagram, I’m well rubbish at it.
6) On a final, slightly more whimsical note… if you could only communicate through either tweets or through 90s style rap for the rest of your life, which would you choose, and why?
Who says I couldn’t do a mixture of the two? Maybe I should only tweet in rap bars from now on.