Rohini Sunderam, one of the prominent authors known in Bahrain has agreed to talk to us about her books, Corpoetry and Desert Flower, as well as answer a few of our fun questions! In this interview we discussed her workshops, the Bahrain Writers’ Circle and could she possibly be thinking of co-authoring a new book? Read on to find out!
NQD: How did writing find you? Could you tell us your story?
RS: I was probably around five years old when I realised I had a little story-telling elf in my head. Our mother or father would tell us stories every day, sometimes made up impromptu (to get us to eat something we weren’t too keen on) and sometimes at night they’d read to us. My dad’s favourite was to do a variation of Robinson Crusoe or Swiss Family Robinson with us kids as the main players and we’d make these up as it went along. So, this is a family thing. Over long, hot, summers in India I would do the same with my brother and sister, when our parents were sleeping in the afternoon and we kids were also supposed to be sleeping. Depending on what I was reading at the time, this could swing from ghost stories to Famous Five (a la Enid Blyton) style adventures or misadventures. We’d all pitch in to add spice to the stories, sometimes taking pot shots at each other, but I think it was mainly my plot (as purloined from my most recent book) that drove the story.
NQD: Talk to us about your inspirations behind your two books, Corpoetry and Desert Flower? Where can one find them?
RS: Chronologically Desert Flower came first although both were inspired or rather instigated by my colleagues at The Herald, the provincial paper of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Desert Flower was sparked by a colleague asking me, “How hot does it get in Bahrain?” If you’ve never left Canada, it’s hard to imagine the heat, just as hard as it is to imagine the biting cold of a sunny winter’s day in Nova Scotia where, with the wind-chill, the temperature can plunge to -30C. I was trying to explain it to him when I thought, ‘wait, I’m a writer, why don’t I write it down?’ When I sat down to write, suddenly this story quite literally sat on my shoulder and insisted that it be written. It took me seven lunch hours of mesmerised writing for the story to be done. That’s also why the opening lines are, “How can I explain this heat to you?”
Corpoetry was similarly sparked off by a chance remark by another colleague. The managing editor of the paper was visiting our department (advertising) and probably said something to make our boss laugh a little more heartily than he might otherwise have done. My colleague looked at me and grinned, saying, “Ah! Corporate laughter.” The phrase buzzed around in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone until I had ‘written it out of my system’. Thereafter several instances sparked off another and yet another poem until I had around 25. To amuse myself I’d create little illustrations using Paint Box. I didn’t think it had any publishing potential until I came back to Bahrain and shared it with my illustrator and friend Linda Strydom who said she’d illustrate them if I found a publisher. A Canadian publisher was interested but said I’d need to bump the poems up to at least fifty. By then I was working back here in FP-7 so it didn’t take long to do so. Unfortunately, by then the Canadian publisher had diverted his funds to another poet.
I do also have a third book, a novella titled Five Lives One Day in Bahrain, that was initially written for a BWC competition, that didn’t happen as the sponsor pulled out.
All three are available as e-books on Amazon as well as through my publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing: https://www.ex-l-ence.com/rohini-sunderam.html
NQD: Finding the right publishing house can be a challenge if you’re just starting out. How did you come about Ex-L-Ence Publishing and why did you decide to sign with them?
RS: Some years ago, I subscribed to a database for publishers called Firstwriter.com and saw a call for submissions from Ex-L-Ence. I sent in a query for Corpoetry and he was interested and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
NQD: What is your favorite part about writing?
RS: Just sitting down and writing. Especially those times when the words or the story take wing and I’ve no idea where they’re going until that spell is broken, usually by the clock (as I usually write at night) and I think, ‘Oooh it’s late I’d better go to bed.’
NQD: If you were to co-author a book with anyone who would it be, and what would it be about?
RS: I don’t think I could. It’s okay if the other person is an illustrator or visualiser for a film — I’ve done that when I worked as a copywriter, it’s different then — but to actually write a book along with someone. I don’t know. Poetry, maybe, if we’re doing a theme-based anthology then that person writes their poems and I would write mine.
NQD: You’ve been known to give workshops on poetry. While teaching the Bahraini community, have you found a lot of untapped potential? And through teaching, have you also learned through your fellow writers?
RS: This is one premise and two questions in one, I will respond sequentially.
Firstly, I haven’t actually given any ‘workshops’ on poetry. I don’t know where you got that idea! What we do at the Bahrain Writers’ Circle is encourage poets, and indeed all writers, to read a variety of poetry or other writing; to share their own words with other sympathetic poets, and see if we can nurture the writing. The whole purpose of the Bahrain Writers’ Circle is to encourage writers and aspiring writers to write.
Have I found a lot of untapped potential? Of course! There is as much potential as there are people. It’s up to each individual to tap into their own personal wells of emotion, experience and knowledge in order to begin to realise their abilities as people and as writers or artists.
As I said, I don’t ‘teach’ poetry, but while exchanging writing and ideas of course we learn from each other and then I like to also read poetry, so I follow a few writers and poets and learn more as I read.
NQD: Could you give us one quote you live by as a wordsmith?
RS: Wordsmith? Not sure about that! But ‘read more to write better’. It’s a good dictum to build on.
NQD: What can you tell us about Bahrain Writers’ Circle?
RS: A lot. So, I may go on for a bit. I am passionate about its purpose and all that we’ve achieved since the BWC was established in 2011. Briefly: The Bahrain Writers’ Circle is an informal group of writers and lovers of the written word, launched by Robin Barratt — best-selling author of true crime. We welcome all writers at all stages of their writing lives and aim to create an encouraging environment that: nurtures creativity, improves the craft of writing, and promotes networking with other writers.
We have two sub-groups — The Second Circle and the Creative Writers’ Workshops.
The Second Circle is for poets to share their words and work towards our annual Colours of Life poetry festival. It is now an established event in Bahrain’s cultural calendar. The other group is the Creative Writers’ Workshops for prose. This is dedicated to honing the craft, sharing our writing and getting peer feedback.
Details of monthly meetings, as well as creative writing and poetry workshops can be seen on the EVENTS page of the BWC website bahrainwritrscircle.net, on the BWC Facebook Group, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NQD: To those who suffer from writer’s block, what is your suggestion to them?
RS: I usually say, write something else for a bit or do something else. When you return to the work, you’ll either realise why it’s not working or you’ll figure out what needs to be fixed further back in the story so that it flows better.
NQD: Would you share some of your literary hopes for the future?
RS: I hope to finally finish a work in progress, I am slowly coming to the end of it. When it’s done, I’ll know what to do with it.
NQD: Do you have any upcoming books that we can tell our readers about?
RS: Not in the immediate future. But I keep entering competitions and submitting work to online or print magazines and as and when and IF they’re accepted, I’ll create the mandatory hoopla.