This week’s installment of Ten Questions features Priya Guns, whose debut novel, Your Driver Is Waiting, is out today from Doubleday. In this satirical take on gig culture and its intersection with race, class, and gender, thirty-year-old protagonist Damani Krishanthan has recently lost her father—who died at the fast-food restaurant where he worked—and is struggling to support herself and her mother while driving for an Uber-like company called RideShare. When she encounters a wealthy, white, and supposedly woke passenger named Jolene, Damani—who is Tamil—thinks her prospects for love and happiness may be looking up. But when Jolene reveals herself to be far less than the perfect progressive she purports to be, Damani finds herself disillusioned and in the midst of ensuing havoc. Kristen Arnett calls Your Driver Is Waiting “a perfect gut punch of a novel. This is my favorite kind of writing, full of love and real friendship and frustrations boiled over and the urge to burn everything down.” Priya Guns is an actor and writer who has published in short story anthologies, gal-dem, Spring magazine, and anonymously in the Guardian.
1. How long did it take you to write Your Driver Is Waiting?
One month to write my first draft—the one I’d play with. Four months to send that polished draft to my editor Bobby Mostyn-Owen. Four months going back and forth with changes. About two months of working on suggestions with my editor Margo Shickmanter. From start to signing off, a year and three months, including breaks, I reckon.
2. What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
Getting it “right” and being comfortable with how it may be “wrong.”
3. Where, when, and how often do you write?
I write almost every day. Depending on what that is, the location and time varies. I am definitely channelling and expressing my creative juices every day, or I would malfunction and punch someone in the face—I think. I say that, but I’d probably just scream out the window—maybe.
4. What are you reading right now?
I am struggling to finish a lot of books right now, not because of the books but because—life. I’m reading Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone and Michael Pollan’s This Is Your Mind on Plants.
5. Which author or authors have been influential for you, in your writing of this book in particular or as a writer in general?
A. Sivanandan in general, and particularly for my debut.
6. What is one thing that surprised you during the writing of Your Driver Is Waiting?
That throughout this entire process I would feel more like my goddamn self. Feel more connected to myself, more seen, more of everything, after years of feeling like I wouldn’t be given the chance to be read—which really does something to a person who is actively trying. This book has taken three unpublished manuscripts and a whole load of other bits to be.
7. What is the earliest memory that you associate with the book?
Hmm. When my brother came home and told me what an author was, and I said I want to be one. I was in the first grade, and I thought books simply existed as things, not as pieces of art someone poured themselves into.
8. If you could go back in time and talk to the earlier you, before you started Your Driver Is Waiting, what would you say?
It is going to happen. I fucking promise you, you are not completely mad.
9. What forms of work, other than writing, did you have to do to complete this book?
Finding ways to work out at home: lifting more, training more. Learning to drive stick. I literally was Damani throughout writing—somehow I became her. I had to learn, also, how to shut her off—that was the most difficult thing to do.
10. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?