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Passionate About Writing

Post by: Sonia Safri

Life does lead you to your passion, ultimately. Who better to vouch for it than Mr. Prem Rao himself?
Turning to writing after 36 years of professional work as a Talent Management Specialist and Executive Coach, he is an avid blogger whose professional blog People at Work and Play  has gathered a huge fan following. And his recent blog Writing To Be Read is soon catching up globally. Alumnus of The Lawrence School, Lovedale; Loyola College, Chennai and XLRI, Jamshedpur, Prem Rao’s passion for writing and his outstanding skill of creating suspense have reflected quite well in his debut novel “It Can’t Be You”.
BookChums got a chance to know more about the author. And it’s all here.

People tend to write about things they have experienced or seen or lived around/with. You come from the corporate sector (Talent Management Specialist and Executive Coach). 36 years of Corporate environment and you come with a psychological thriller!!! How did THIS happen?!
I have always loved people, psychology and thrillers. When I was a kid I often dreamt of writing one someday! I am inspired by Irving Wallace who urged writers to use their imagination. 
He said “ Da Vinci did not have to attend The Last Supper to paint it”. My novel is built upon strong research and vivid imagination.

When, where and how did the writing bug bite?
From childhood I was a voracious reader and I guess enjoying writing is an off shoot from enjoying reading. I wrote very often for my school magazine. A couple of years ago, I started writing short stories. This encouraged me to take the plunge and attempt a full-fledged novel.

What brought about the ideation of this novel?
The theme flows from my love for human psychology and the military. This novel sits at the intersection of both these deep interests.  Frankly, it did not occur to me at all that a psychological thriller would be a rarity for a debut novel.

Did novel writing come easy or was it a very conscious effort (given that writing blogs is a bit different than writing a full-fledged novel)?

As I have said in the Acknowledgement for my book  “ Wishes would remain wishes without a catalyst”. For me the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it is popularly called was my catalyst. It motivated me to write 50,000 words in the month of November 2009. This was then built up to the final size of about 81,000 words.

What kind of research did you execute for this book? How much time did it take you to complete the novel?
With 50,000 words through in November 2009, it took me another 4-5 months to write the remaining part of the book, re-validate the plots and cross-check initial research. Editing is the toughest part of writing a novel. This takes huge amounts of time and effort.

The style of creating suspense in the very first page has worked in your favor. But did you ever feel that you are venturing into an unknown territory with what you assume to be your best weapon--> a psychological thriller? Did you experiment with any other genre before finalizing on this one? 
I went straight into this novel without experimenting with any other genre. The story did change a few times as it emerged in my mind. The first draft was in some ways very different from the final book, especially how the story ends. I was very much struck by a nice saying I read somewhere  “ Write the firs t chapter with your query in mind and the last with your next novel in  mind”.

Did you face any point of stagnation during the writing process?
Not really. I was fortunate that I had tremendous enthusiasm - this being my first novel- and loads of time at my disposal.

Any aversions from critics (yet) that you did not expect?
None so far, but I do realize that it’s awfully important to accept both praise and criticism with a great deal of equanimity- more so as I still have much to learn, this being my debut novel.

Looking back – given a choice, would you change any part of the novel or frame it differently?
No, I am quite satisfied with the way it went for me. I have tried to place huge emphasis on internal conflicts - choosing the first person narrative- to dwell on this in greater depth. I find internal conflicts more difficult to write about than external ones- perhaps that’s why they are somewhat less common.

Certain books/authors usually leave an everlasting print in our memory. What book/author has had the most influence on you and your writing?
Too many to recount but most had to do with World War II, and the Cold War that followed when I was  growing up. More than any single book, I would say I was enthralled by books on espionage, mystery and thrills.  As you know, Scorpios are supposed to be the detectives of the Zodiac and perhaps being one myself this comes instinctively to me.

Name some of your favorite authors/books?
I have loved the books of John Masters, Ian Fleming, Harold Robbins amongst others. My favorite author  though is not a thriller writer at all. It is P.G.Wodehouse!

What are you currently working on?
I wrote 50,000 word in November 2010 for NaNoWriMo once again. “Lucky For Some, Thirteen” is again a thriller. It is set in Bangalore, India and is a story of a terrorist attack and its aftermath. The major action culminates on September 13, 2010 and this is one- amongst several other reasons - for the title.

What is it that you like doing the most, apart from writing?
I like playing with my grandson who will shortly be two and is the apple of my eye.

Any contemporary authors you’d recommend?
I like James Patterson, possibly the most prolific writer in the world today. Among authors in India, I like Mukul Deva.

Check out the reviews of “It Can’t Be you” here.

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