Catherine Menon: ‘Pure mathematics and writing come out of the same creative space’

Ursula Kenny in The Guardian:

Catherine Menon was born in Perth, Western Australia, where her British mother and Malaysian father met. She lectures in robotics and has a PhD in pure mathematics as well as an MA in creative writing. Fragile Monsters, her first novel, is set in rural Malaysia and unpicks a family’s story from 1920 to the present day. At its centre are Mary, “sharp tongued and ferocious”, and her visiting granddaughter, Durga, who tussle over the demons and dark memories that distort their past and warp the present. Hilary Mantel has described Menon’s writing as “supple, artful, skilful storytelling” and she has won awards for her short stories. She is married to a fellow mathematician and lives in north London.

Why did you want to write about Malaysia?
The idea came from the stories my father used to tell me about when he was young – appropriately sanitised. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I even realised that Kuala Lipis [where his family lived] was the head of Japanese activities in Pahang [state]. During the second world war it was very much under Japanese control. It was at the centre of things like food rationing; the children’s education was wildly interrupted and when it was resumed it was all in Japanese. So all sorts of upheavals that I really only came to understand when I started researching.

More here.