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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Interview: Gita Reddy

It's my first author interview of the New Year, and what better place to get started than with the lovely Gita Reddy!

Good morning, Gita - thanks for stopping by The Writing Greyhound!
Thank you, Lorna, for having me on your blog.
Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I am married to a Physics professor and have one son. I worked as a bank manager for twenty-six years and took early retirement in 2011. Now I am a full-time writer.

I grew up in Hyderabad, India, and continue to live in the same city which sounds rather boring! Not many people get to spend most of their life in a few square miles. Perhaps, as a compensation or punishment, my job involved a lot of travelling. For half my working life, I was travelling up to five hours every day.

I write under my own name, Gita V. Reddy, and under a pseudonym, Heera Datta.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I've always loved making up stories for younger cousins, and later, for the children in the family. Naturally, this continued with my son. When he was about ten, he wanted me to write down the stories for him to read. That was when I wrote my first story. I was thirty-six. Today, I have over twenty books published in different genres.
outside-the-magic-circle, heera-datta, gita-reddy, book

Tell me about Outside the Magic Circle. 
I did not expect to write this book. I write for adults and for children, and though I have never confined myself to a single genre, I was never inclined towards writing Historical Fiction / Biographical Fiction. This changed when I chanced upon an article about how Charles Dickens had treated his wife and children. Catherine’s story preyed on my mind for a long time and finally I gave her a voice in Outside the Magic Circle.

Writing this book was a different experience. I had to think like a woman who maintained a dignified silence in the face of open scandal and yet, on her deathbed, told her daughter to give certain letters to the British Museum so that 'The world may know he loved me once.' I had to bring out her balance between external calm and internal turmoil.

Outside the Magic Circle taught me to appreciate my legal rights which are an outcome of feminist movements the world over. As recently as mid-nineteenth century, the law did not give a woman right over property, or minor children.
What’s the best thing about writing fiction?
Writing fiction is an act of discovery. I start with an idea and a plan but until I bring it to life, I don't know what shape the story will take. As the writing gains momentum, it feels as if different fragments are falling into place.
How do you get inspiration?
An idea can come from anywhere, though not all ideas live up to their promise. Sometimes a long forgotten memory gives birth to a story. Sometimes it is a conscious attempt on my part. For example, I decide to write a mystery and keep thinking about it. And on rare occasions, a complete book arrives in a flash and all I have to do is write it. 
Did you have to do a lot of research during the writing process?
I’m very particular about authenticity so if the story is set in a different locale or time, I do my homework.

In the case of Outside the Magic Circle, I read a number of articles and books about Charles Dickens’ marriage and separation. The facts were already there, uncovered some decades after his death but I wanted to be sure. I also had to research into the legal position of women’s rights in those times. Above all, the language was very important because some of the present day words were not in vogue during the nineteenth century.
gita-reddy, heera-datta, author

What draws you to writing about the past?
I'm drawn to writing anything that resonates with me which is why I write in different genres.  
The stories are all different yet they have something in common: their link to the present. Like Catherine, women continue to be used and dumped. Female children in many cultures continue to face discrimination. Even today, political upheaval and strife lead to homelessness, looting, rape, killing, and the loss of identity. 
The present is an extension of the past , and this is what draws me to (read and) write about the past.
What’s your writing process?
I like to understand my characters well. Once I get an idea for a story, I start thinking about the characters. If the story needs any research, I first take care of it. If I get stuck somewhere, I go back and rewrite. After the story/ book is complete, I edit it a number of times.
Which authors inspire you?
Different books and authors have influenced me at each stage of my reading life. Classics, both English and Indian, the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, P G Wodehouse, Munshi Premchand, Maupassant…I would say I have always had favorite authors to match a mood and they have all inspired my writing.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
This is for those authors who, like me, are self-taught. Accept criticism and keep working on your craft.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I want to be known for good writing and original storytelling. To achieve this, I try very hard not to repeat myself. Whether it is with my stories for children or adults, I take up different themes.
What are you currently working on?
A collection of short stories set in India, to follow a few of my earlier books.
What are you reading at the moment?
P.G. Wodehouse. I need some laughs.
Outside the Magic Circle is available to buy now. For more information about Gita and her writing, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

5 comments:

  1. I've read almost everything that Gita has written and loved everyone of them... Her children's books are wonderful and should be read and shared with every child. Each of them include a lesson of life. I always look forward to anything that she pens.

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    1. Thank you for the lovely words, Dee - it's always great for authors to hear positive feedback about their work!

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