Pratap Reddy is the author of two books, 2018’s Ramya’s Treasure and his 2016 collection of short stories Weather Permitting and Other Stories. Both books are published by Montreal’s Guernica Editions and were also longlisted here at The Miramichi Reader for “The Very Best!” Book Award for Fiction.
I was born, brought up and educated in India. After doing my Masters in Economics, I worked at various jobs, the last one before coming to Canada was with the Tata Group, a well-known mega-conglomerate in India. After arriving in Canada, I was faced with the classic Canadian conundrum – not getting a job either in your field of expertise or one commensurate with our qualification. Not being very fussy, I took up a series of unfamiliar survival jobs: a telemarketer, a clerk in a grocery store, a security guard, etc – which I subsequently used as inspiration and background for my short stories. After much chopping and changing, I finally secured employment with a national insurance carrier as an underwriter and financial analyst. The full-time job keeps the home fires burning while I can indulge in my absolutely irrational love of writing, in whatever little time I can spare.
Tell us about some of the books or authors or other people (such as teachers) that may have influenced you to write.
India is part of the British Commonwealth, and much of education, business, and politics is conducted in English. While growing up, there was a slew of British writers who were famous in India – Agatha Christie, Alistair Maclean, and James Hadley Chase, to name a few. But the children’s writer who instilled in me the love of books was the incredibly popular and prolific Enid Blyton. Her adventure stories for children kept millions of young Indians spellbound.I so enjoyed reading that at some point in my youth I got to believe that being a writer was the coolest thing in the world. Very silly and callow, in retrospect – but I suppose they are such notions which fashion your childhood dreams and ambitions. After all, a dream is a dream, and if it is not anchored to reality so much the better! Besides, in my school and college, we had excellent English teachers. In school especially, writing well in English brought in a lot of cachet to a student. Thus began my love affair with English literature…
Do you have a favourite book (or books), one(s) that you like to revisit from time to time?
My father fed the bookworm in me by creating a vast library of books at home. I read and re-read my favourites. British detective fiction mesmerized me in my early teens. I consider spending countless hours with the likes of Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and Margery Allingham as the most enjoyable time of my entire life. I also devoured spy fiction in my salad days – notably works of Eric Ambler, Graham Greene and Helen MacInnes. What I learned from all these writers is that you could entertain readers enormously while writing exceedingly well too. My love of books led me to all genres of English literature, including literary fiction. My top three favourite writers of all time are Muriel Spark, Ngaio Marsh, and Somerset Maugham.
Tell us about your writing space and when you find the time to write.
Sigh! – trying to find time is becoming more and more difficult. But try I will…I have a few plots for novels in my head… and want them to see the light of day.
Thanks to technology (I now use the handy Microsoft Surface), one can just about write anywhere. I found myself doing a lot of my final edit for ‘Ramya’s Treasure’ in Schiphol Airport of Amsterdam during a visit to India. We live in a condo in Mississauga, but we have a biggish solarium with a lovely view. I have a chair and a small folding table in a corner there which I use to write my magnum opuses…mostly early in the morning, or sometimes, late at night.
I assume that since your collection of short stories and your novel Ramya’s Treasure dealt with the immigrant’s experience in coming to Canada that you get inspiration from what you have personally experienced as well as the experiences of others. Is that a fair statement?
I understand that it is highly limiting, but for a new author, writing about what he or she knows best is a good place to start. And by doing so you can give impart a unique perspective as well as an authentic atmosphere to your work. But down the road, as my confidence in my writing grows, I hope to broaden my focus.
For Ramya’s Treasure you chose to write the book from a woman’s perspective. What were the challenges you faced in choosing to do so?
I wanted to write about a vulnerable immigrant, and the idea of a female protagonist came to me naturally – it was not a deliberate or calculated move. The burden and risk of immigration are greater upon the wife/mother than it is on the man – even though it may have been his sole decision to emigrate to improve their living conditions. Yes, choosing a middle-aged woman as a leading character did challenge my creativity, but I approached it with sincerity and seriousness. Going by the initial reaction, my readers have found Ramya and her predicament credible and convincing. This pleases me immensely – especially since this is my first novel.
What are you working on now? Are there any other books in the works?
I have a half-finished collection of short stories. I want to develop it into a book-length volume. I also have a germ of an idea for a novel which is mostly set in India. It is about a young immigrant who returns home and is witness to the landscape-changing transformation that is taking place there.
Finally, what do you like to do when you are not writing?
Read, of course! But it is not always possible, for different reasons. I like doing crossword puzzles too, but nowadays I attempt only the cryptic one in the Saturday Star – with varying degree of success. But most often, I sit before the Smart-TV and watch old Bollywood film songs on YouTube – it is the time machine that transports you to the time of your youth in India.
(Please note if you choose to purchase Mr. Reddy’s books (paper or Kindle edition) through Amazon using the embedded links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)