“I wanted my readers to relate to my characters.”

Prem Rao, author of It Can’t be You.. A Spiral of Vengeance, is a talent management specialist and executive coach with over three decades of work experience. Dabbling in writing contests and being an active blogger, this debut author has just penned a psychological thriller. He is passionate about writing and believes in connecting his characters and his readers.

– Shana Susan Ninan

IBR – What made you write a psychological thriller as a debut?

Prem Rao – I wasn’t overly conscious of it being my debut novel. This book sits at the intersection of two major interests. For psychology and for the military. It was, I guess, natural that a psychological thriller emerged. The theme sounded interesting and I went for it. As an avid reader of thrillers, I had dreamt years ago that I should write a thriller some day! Today that dream has come true.

IBR – As opposed to writers of other genres, what traits should authors of psychological thrillers possess?

Prem Rao – I can speak of a book like mine. Authors should be able to “live the lives of their characters” in their minds. They should think the way the characters would, yet always keep the reader in mind. One should never underestimate the intelligence of the reader. The plot should be gripping while being credible at the same time. The author needs to be able to create a strong desire in the minds of the reader to want to know more while making it seem as if the reader is on the right track towards solving the mystery.

Can you share with us the major thoughts that went through your mind while writing ICBY, with regards to characterization – major and minor characters?

I am glad you asked this as I have spent huge amounts of time in building my characters. I honestly feel that in a novel like this the characters are probably more important than the plot. I wanted my readers to relate to my characters. They should seem so life like that the reader should be tempted to say “Hey, this looks like someone I know or have heard of”. You could have a wonderful plot but it would fall through if the characters are not strong enough to carry off what is expected of them. I also gave major emphasis on the internal conflicts that plague individuals. These are less written of than external conflicts which are all too obvious to see and therefore perhaps more written of. Most of my characters had to wrestle with internal conflicts within them. I am particularly fond of my minor characters. They have, I believe, added considerable credibility to the story. Be it the faithful Bir Bahadur, Post Master Hanumiah, Aunt Roshan or the old man who saw the killer leave the apartment, they all mean a lot to me and I hope the readers will feel for them the way I do.

Why did you choose a Kodava to be a protagonist? Why not someone from another Indian race that’s equally prominent in the Army?

I am from Karnataka myself and have a lot of friends from the Coorg, or shall I say Kodagu, area. Historically they are famous as a martial race. It was natural that a Kodava became the first choice.

How do you think someone in the Army would see this novel?

I eagerly await their reactions. I hope they will acknowledge the pride of place I have given for our Defence personnel. As I said in the Author’s Note, this book stems from my admiration for that great institution which is the Indian Army. In a small way, I have used the book as a platform to draw attention to causes like the Missing Personnel Relatives Assn and the traumatic experiences they had of not knowing what became of their loved ones who were captured as prisoners-of-war.

Have you received any comments about your novel from anyone in the Army?

No, not specifically but as I mentioned earlier, I eagerly await their feedback!

If there is one mystery/ crime writer whose work can be linked to yours who would it be?

I am not deserving of any such honour. I have charted my own course. I call It Can’t Be You an unconventional thriller because apart from the usual suspense and mystery, it has elements of family drama as well as historical fiction.

Have you published any work of yours earlier?

This is my first published work.

When did you start your blogs? Did writing on them help you write the novel?

My professional blog as an executive coach and talent management specialist called ‘People at Work & Play” was, if I recall correctly, started in 2006. Only a few months ago, I began a writing blog called “Writing To Be Read”. These blogs helped me develop the discipline of writing frequently. Beyond that I won’t say they particularly helped me in writing my novel. What they did do was to provide me a platform as an author which has become frightfully important these days. Thanks to my blogs, presence in LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, I had a good start to creating my platform as an author.

Are you active on online book forums and discussion sites?

I have participated in many. In the initial period, I spent a lot of time in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) site and was active in the forums there. I have done this for both the years I did NaNoWriMo. You gain a lot by learning from others and sharing your experiences and thoughts with them.

Have they improved/changed the way you write?

I got a lot of fresh perspective and many useful tips on what it means to write a book and get it published. It prepared me for the many challenges involved in the entire chain of events from conceptualizing a book to finally marketing it.

So NaNoWriMo was a major stepping stone for you…

I am delighted that It Can’t Be You came from my debut effort in NaNoWriMo 2009. It arguably made me the first person from out of India to have a debut novel published based on a debut effort in NaNo WriMo.

Are you working on another book now?

I am working on my second novel, Lucky For Some, Thirteen. This too was founded on my writing NaNoWriMo, this time in November 2010. I hope to have this book published in 2011. My dream is to become a Thriller-A-Year Author!

I would love to hear from readers who can post comments on my blogs or Facebook Pages or write to me at: bpremrao@gmail.com.

Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to share a few thoughts.

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“I wanted my readers to relate to my characters.”, 8.8 out of 10 based on 16 ratings

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This entry was posted on Saturday, March 5th, 2011 at 6:27 pm and is filed under Authors, Interview, Psychological Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.