Tell us a bit about your family. My father is a gastroenterologist who grew up in Burma and India, and my mother is a retired nurse and former midwife from England. They immigrated to Canada with me and my brother when I was five years old so that Dad could pursue greater opportunities in nutrition research and clinical practice. (I wrote a book, Lifeliner, on one of his first game-changing patients here in Toronto.) My sister was born after we arrived here. Our parents taught us to strive to be the best and do the best you can. My father told me many hilarious stories about experiments going awry when he was a student, but also taught me a lot about persistence and dedication to one’s work. My mother is the eternal optimist and is a model for volunteerism and initiative.
What is your favorite food? Chocolate! I love dark, rich, organic chocolate. Truffles best of all.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? My education in Bombay, India began very early in life so that I was already writing by the time I was 3. My first clear memory of school was getting to write, “The cat sat on the mat.” I loved the feel of pencil on paper and perfecting my letters. Both my parents were big readers, and I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. My Dad and his brother told lots of stories. My mother’s side loved poetry, and Dad’s mother would sit me on her lap to tell me fairy tales over and over with no end of patience with my unceasing demands to hear them again. All this reading and story-telling fueled my imagination.
My research skills — the ones I use for my non-fiction writing especially — I learnt in high school and university. But my Dad also taught me about the realities of research and got me started in using the university library when I was still in high school. My fiction too profits from these skills, for I try to ensure I get factual details right … unless I deliberately want to skew them to suit my story.
When and why did you begin writing? I wrote stories and poems from the time I was in grade school and into university. I wrote them because I daydreamed a lot and wanted to write some of the stories I told myself. Writing was just unadulterated fun.
When did you first know you could be a writer? I didn’t consider writing a career for me until I was in my 20s. And even then it seemed optional; I felt that I wasn’t a writer anyway. But I continued to write short stories and articles. And in the 1990s, I began the background research for Lifeliner yet still didn’t think I could be a writer. I didn’t consider myself a writer until after my brain injury in 2000. That turned writing into a must-do for me else I would go crazy even though I had to relearn how to write. I write differently now than I did before the injury. After I published Lifeliner in 2007 and saw the way people responded to not just the story but the way I wrote it, I finally believed that I could be a writer and was one.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I’m rather eclectic. Every book of mine is different. The one I most enjoyed writing was a time travel novel that I hope to publish this year.
What inspired you to write your first book? I was at the memorial for Judy Taylor, the person Lifeliner is about, when a former boss of mine and fellow Total Parenteral Nutrition patient of Judy’s turned to me and said someone should write her story. I had one of those lightbulb moments. I began working on Lifeliner immediately.
Genre – Christian Fantasy
Rating – PG13