Mystery is always a popular genre but with a novel such as Rani of Rampur which follows a young Indian journalist’s exploration of her families secrets and their complex relationships as she travels back to her mother’s childhood village to help her claim part of the estate, readers are in for a unique multi-layered brand of suspense. In my interview with the author Suneeta Misra on May 27, 2013 she talked about Rani of Rampur and what went into its creation.
Q: What do you think readers will enjoy most about Rani of Rampur?
A: It is a thriller which is set against a backdrop unknown to many of your readers. The sights, sounds, and smells of India, are described in the book in some detail, which might help the reader get a sense of what life is like in this unique culture. It also involves political and family intrigue, and is set in a feudal Indian village where family ties are more important than institutional or ideological affiliations. This creates a pattern of relationships that is entirely different from what exists in the American milieu. In the end, however, I would like your readers to find it interesting for the story-telling elements rather than for its informational or expositional elements.
Q: Who are some of the authors who have inspired you the most?
A: I love the works of many writers. I adore F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose use of the English language and ability to manipulate words is magical. I love an Indian writer, R.K. Narayan, whose simple and minimalist writing style evokes the foibles and idiosyncrasies of ordinary Indians living in both the cities and villages of India. I love Amitav Ghosh, a relatively new Indian writer, for bringing colonial Indian history alive in the “Sea of Poppies.” I also enjoyed Junot Diaz’s magical realism as a form of story-telling that evokes the brutality of the Latin American experiences in a palatable but authentic format.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing Rani of Rampur?
A: The biggest challenge for me in writing this book was finding the discipline to work regularly. I had the ideas but lacked the consistency required to develop them on a daily basis. I also have a passion for other forms of storytelling such as movie making, which takes away from the time required to write. I have made several documentaries on the education of the girl child in an Indian context and I am currently working on a pilot TV project. All this means that I am not being able to work on “Daredevil Durga,” my next novel about an autistic child, which is more than half complete.
Q: Do you think there’s as much drama in most families as there is in Rani’s?
A: Not necessarily, but my family has a lot of drama from as far back as I can remember, which includes the story of my great grandfather, who rose from being a lowly salesperson to being a powerful businessman and moneylender, who never forgot a penny that was owed him; and my grandfather, a famous surgeon, who married two women without divorcing either, and died of cirrhosis of the liver.
Q: If Rani of Rampur was adapted to film who would you want to see cast in the part of Rani?
A: Many of your readers will not recognize some of the Indian actresses that I have in mind. One of the more international stars, who could successfully play Rani would be Freida Pinto.
Q: What are your future writing plans?
A: One story that I have written but not yet polished, is “Daredevil Durga” which is the tale of an autistic girl, again in a rural milieu, who overcomes challenges, helps protect her family, and in the process, solve a murder mystery. Just like “Rani” refers to a queen in Hindi, Durga refers both to a goddess in Indian mythology who is a slayer of demons and to a warrior queen who fought the British in the 1500s. The editing process is a killer though. Being a teacher, I have too much of an ego to accept outside help. I initially did all the editing myself, and then brought in my daughter, a writer in her own right, to help me to fine tune the manuscript. I do plan to find a good outside editor the next time around if only to make the process less tedious.