& occasionally about other things, too...

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Interview with Pratap Reddy - author

Pratap Reddy
Pratap, your first novel Ramya’s Treasure has been published recently by Guernica Editions. You have been working at it for a long time. In fact, if I remember it right, you began the novel even before you began your short story collection, Weather Permitting, which was published in 2016. Why has it taken so long to complete the novel?

Looking back, I can say that I did not work on the project for far too long. I did start the novel a few years ago, that’s true. It was when I was encountering obstacles in finding a publisher for my first book “Weather Permitting”, a collection of stories; I was being told time and again that short stories were difficult to sell. But when Guernica Editions picked up my book, I put my fledgeling novel on the back burner. I resumed work on the unfinished book only after my short story collection was published. The novel got completed in the very same year - 2016. Guernica Editions accepted my second book too, and it has come out in 2018. The interval between the publication of the two books is not unduly long. Even then, one must not lose sight of the fact that I have a full-time day job, and there’s only so much free time I can spare for writing.

You have also told me that Ramya’s Treasure is by far the most ambitious thing you’ve attempted. Please explain what exactly you mean by that.

This is a perfect example of a person’s comment made at an unguarded moment coming back to haunt him! First of all, I am not a writer of long standing – just two books old! It was ambitious insofar as it was longer than anything I had written until then. Secondly, the protagonist in the novel is a middle-aged woman, who has been dealt a bad hand by Fate. I wanted to chronicle her journey from a state of despondency and depression to finding a purpose in life. In hindsight, the subject was quite ambitious for a rookie author!

Although I am yet to read the book, I believe you have attempted parallel narratives that trace Ramya’s life in Canada and in India – that is an unusual and I dare say a difficult device to adapt to narrate a story. Why did you choose this form?

Being a first-generation immigrant, I am conscious of being part of two cultures, two nationalities, etc. So I wanted this to be very much a part of the narrative as well as my heroine’s psyche. Notwithstanding the challenges or the benefits of living in an adopted country offers, I believe that our past plays a part in defining our future. More so in the case of immigrants -- people who have transplanted themselves into another environment. I felt a compelling need to include the often untold backstory of an immigrant.

There are many stories about immigration and settlement, and nearly all of them depict a male perspective. You have chosen to narrate a story from a woman’s perspective. How difficult was that process? Are you satisfied with the result?

I am not fully acquainted with the entire landscape of diaspora literature, yet, it doesn’t surprise me that they are written predominantly from the standpoint of men.
As it happens so often in life, especially in old world countries, most of the major decisions are unilaterally taken by men, but it is left for their womenfolk to bear the brunt. Immigration is no exception.  After arriving in Canada, it is the women who need to adjust more, take on more responsibilities, besides going out to work so that the family can lead a more comfortable life. So, when I chose to write about the life of a vulnerable immigrant, my imagination of its own accord conjured up Ramya – a middle-aged down and out single woman who is attempting to take back control of her life.

Writing about a female character certainly posed a creative challenge; and, from my side, I tried to do my best to make her credible and convincing. But I leave it to the readers, the ultimate judges, to decide whether I have succeeded or not. Going by the initial reaction, especially from women-readers, it appears I have not made too bad a job of it.

Are you working on another book? Would you want to talk about it?

Yes, I have started work on another novel. It is about a young immigrant to Canada who returns to India and observes the changing social, political and economic landscape there. At least that is the basic premise of the novel, though I am not sure what shape it will finally take. Sometimes plots and characters have lives of their own, unrelated to the author’s intentions. I also have a small collection of stories in a slow cooker which needs to be increased to a book-length manuscript.

But, Mayank, I am not giving you any timelines! As an individual, I have many demands made on my time – professional, spousal, parental obligations. In the midst of it all (even while my head is teeming with plots and ideas) I must find the time to write…another book.

Buy Pratap's novel, click here: Ramya's Treasure  

Author's website: Pratap Reddy

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