Reshma Ruia’s short story collection, Mrs Pinto Drives to Happiness, was published by Dahlia Publishing on 12 October 2021.
Reshma kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Mrs Pinto Drives to Happiness.
Mrs Pinto Drives to Happiness is a collection of short stories that spans continents and cultures. The stories explore universal themes of identity, culture and home and are about characters who are grappling with the socio-economic upheavals of contemporary life – everyday people whose lives oscillate between worlds and are shaped and reshaped by an imperative to anchor to a map or a feeling. The book has received praise from Colm Toibin, Catherine Menon and Irenson Okojie.
2. What inspired the collection?
The stories have grown organically over the years. They have been long/short listed for awards and they reflect my preoccupations as a writer. I am interested in the choices people make when they choose to migrate and leave behind the familiar-whether geographical or emotional. How do they construct a brand new life whilst being true to themselves and what do they regret leaving behind. The stories will resonate with readers who may be all too familiar with the refuges crisis and the migratory patterns of today’s world.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I wish I could say I was a methodical writer! The truth is I am guided by words or an image that takes hold of my imagination. The structure comes later and it is an exciting journey for me because I often don’t know where the characters or plot will take me.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?
The general premise is that the writer produces the work and lo and behold, it sits in a bookshop all glossy and new. The truth is much more laborious and long winded. From finding the right publisher who is willing to take a chance on you to drawing up the contract, and proof reading, the whole process can take an inordinate length of time and there is a whole industry behind production of the cover, the soliciting of blurbs, the marketing and placement of books. It takes a village to write a book.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I have kids, even though they are quite grown up now, a lot of my emotional time revolves around them. I am fond of listening to music, walking and travelling.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
It would have to be Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. I love its epic sweep and portrayal of humanity with all its flaws and virtues. It captures the spirit of India, of a country finding itself after long years of colonisation and its ending still reduces me to tears.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
The question would have to be what does fame mean to you as a writer?
I came to writing quite late; having raised a family first so I think fame for me has different connotations than for a twenty something young writer. I would like my work to stay with the readers long after they have read it. I would like my writing to resonate with readers, to surprise them and reassure them. Fame for me is the kinship that can develop between a book and a reader.
Awards and five figure royalties are welcome of course but I want to fulfil my potential as a writer and be the best I can.
About the Book
A lonely woman develops an unhealthy obsession with a celebrity writer. A young man attends the funeral of his gay lover. A feisty woman escapes a life of domestic drudgery. Reshma Ruia’s stories feature characters who confront ageing, love and loss with anger, passion and quiet defiance. They are in search of new beginnings and old certainties; everyday people whose lives oscillate between worlds – geographical, cultural, and emotional – in a constant flux, shaped and reshaped by an imperative to anchor to a map or a feeling.