Our guest today is Annu Subramanian, author of the factu-fiction, Another Heaven, which is based on human trafficking and terrorism. She is also the director of the Writing Center at Brown School, Schenectady, New York. She co-founded Albany Women Connection, a support group in Albany, New York. She was chosen as one of four national finalists by the Norman Mailer Center and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in 2011 for her short story, SO FAIR AND VERY LOVELY. She was chosen as Educator of Excellence in 2011 by the New York State English Council.
Thank you for this interview, Annu. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I am a mother who misses her grown-up children who have left the nest, an enthusiastic educator, a writer of conscience, and a happy wife who has been married for over 30 years. I am passionate about writing and believe in writing for a social cause. Although I have been writing for a long time on various topics, I decided to get my first novel titled WAITING FOR THE PERFECT DAWN published in 2008.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Another Heaven is a novel that addresses the horrors of human trafficking and terrorism. The story focuses on three elements—human rights abuse, fanatical religious beliefs, and psychological deception of terrorism—and shows how the antagonist justifies human rights abuse by balancing radical religious beliefs and psychological deception. In essence, all three elements feed each other.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
While teaching a high school course titled Eastern Literature, my research invariably led to two global issues; human trafficking and terrorism. Compelled by the more recent events involving acts of terrorism, I decided to write this research-based novel. An incident that occurred close to my home in India, an explosion that was triggered at the end of a dispute between two religious groups, cemented the purpose in my mind to expose the atrocities associated with human trafficking and terrorism, and I began to write the first chapter of Another Heaven. This is a story I had to tell.
What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
My greatest challenge was moving forward with the topic of terrorism. It is a sensitive subject and difficult to address. However, as a writer of conscience, I decided to accept the challenges and write about it. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has been a great influence in my writing. I believe in his definition of the role of a writer (which he has presented in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech). According to his definition, a writer is a critic of society and government, he is a spokesperson for his country, he seeks the truth and shares them with the world. In addition, he says that world literature is a common body and spirit, a living, heartfelt unity reflecting the growing spiritual unity of mankind. My goal is to be such a writer and to present the kind of literature that would make a lasting impact in my readers’ minds.
Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
University press-Apprentice House.
Was it the right choice for you?
Yes, it was the right choice because the publisher understood my rationale behind the novel and supported my cause.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
I have a fan page on Facebook, a website, a publicist, and many like-minded volunteers/readers who share my passions regarding my project: my campaign against human trafficking and empowerment of marginalized individuals.
How is that going for you?
It is going very well. For example, my well-wishers write to me on a regular basis to share their concerns about the issues I have addressed in my novel.
Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
I organized a panel discussion on human rights during my book launch to raise awareness about the issues addressed in my novel. I accept invitations to speaking engagements and writing workshops, particularly addressing the following topic: teaching humanity through creative writing and literature.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I direct a writing center, but writing is my primary profession.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
“Be passionate about the topic you have chosen. You are writing a book and allowing your readers to step into a different world because your voice is bursting to come out. Speak to the world as freely and as often as you can.”
What’s next for you?
I am working on a collection of short stories. Each story is narrated by the key character of that story, and the narrators come from all parts of the world, who are waiting to talk about different shades of life: love, greed, honor, loyalty, and much more. My other work is a book of reflections (a narrative non-fiction). Most probably, the book of short stories will be published in 2015.
Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
You can pick up your copy of Another Heaven at Amazon.