A columnist and features writer, a published poet and now a published short story writer, Renée Ranchan, is not new to the world of words, but still her new book arrives to the scene with a whisk of freshness. She speaks to Guardian 20 about her collection of stories To Each With Love, her journey as a writer and the process of writing.
Q. From a book of poems to a collection of short stories, how did you make this journey?
A. There was no journey that was embarked between the writing of the two books. My book of verse, Untwine the Wind, made it to the book shelves six years ago and this collection of stories is just out of the oven. In this space there have been several treks and travels but definitely no specific trajectory between the two. As a matter of fact, doing things simultaneously and concurrently comes naturally to me. The last line of the last story in To Each With Love surprisingly ends with the sentence, “Had the Chairs Untwined the Wind?” That’s what I would say is an entwining wandering.
Q. From a writers point of view, how different is the process of penning down a poem as compared to, say, a story?
A. To me, poetry is about immediacy of expression. Emotional expression makes it precisely and succinctly in a poem. The fragrance is audible, and I find it akin to tattooing in water with colours that string themselves into words. On the other hand, writing a story is an altogether different genre as we all know… A story is built up over time, and sometimes the writer does not know where the plot will go or how a character might become unrecognisable. Seismic shifts may well occur which may either delight or distress the writer; or do both, in a coinciding collide. And sometimes a writer is playing back or forward the film of the story which according to my experience is not the case with verse.
Q. You have been a columnist for several publications. Did that in any way help you in your more creative pursuits?
A. Yes, I have been a columnist and feature writer but for many years now I am on a non-paid sabbatical, travelling terrains dissimilar. Being a columnist, has not, I think, “helped” me in my creative work. Though it has certainly equipped me with an understanding of the social milieu and behavioural patterns of everyday living. Well, as I speak, I semi-revise my answer. The tagline that was continuously carried in one of my columns read, “she writes about lifestyles, trends and ideas that touch us all”.
Q. It’s said that all writers have a “process”. Do you have one too?
A. No, I have no process whatsoever. No defined direction do I take, nor can I even begin to think of following some steep learning curve to graft myself onto a methodology. My father, who sadly is not here to read, re-read, appreciate and criticise in equal measure, would often joke, “Prick her and she’ll bleed ink”.
Q. Do you plan to continue writing short stories?
A. I do not plan as far as writing goes, though of course, I know that my pen cannot sit in the ink pot for too long. The only thing I diligently plan is the day’s menu and pen in, down to the last letter, the daily chores that have to be clocked in if you don’t want life to go askew. However, despite the meticulously chalked out day, life still finds a way of living you instead of you living life.
But to return to the novella question — I would definitely write another if Mr. Reginald Massey would provide me with as flourishing a Foreword as he has done for my next work. “Wordsmiths” is how he addresses writers and with unassuming simplicity likens writers, pardon me, “toiling wordsmiths” with “ironsmiths, silversmiths and goldsmiths”.
Q. What made you write To Each with Love?
A. No pre-planning went into the writing of this book. I had put my pen to paper with my plate full, with too many tongs in the fire. Not asking for anyone to extend a tissue here; merely stating a fact. Whenever some situation or observation takes hold of me they shape into a narrative.
There are so many things that come to you… no, it’s not that you have to summon up from memory these pictures, images, thoughts, grainy stories that need to be flaked off to find tangible form. They film by you at all hours, when cacophony is at a high pitch, or when the drone of silence creates an ache long after it has left. Or, when you are buttering a roll, so soft that it actually swallows itself, and you are transported back to your mother’s kitchen — the one she ran for you.
Q. How long did it take you to research and complete the book?
A. This is no work of history where documentation is needed. Thus, zilch research. I commenced writing the first story, which incidentally is not in the chronological order given in the book, eons ago in 2007 and then other matters, as they always have a way of, cropped up. The curtains closed on the last word of the final story in 2011. And in the following five years I let the stories sit silent, stored away in my desk’s drawer. However, the upside of this story is that in this space I, viola, became ambidextrous.
Q. It’s said that all books have a message, what is the message that To Each with Love contains?
A. I christened it To Each With Love long after the stories had filled up the blank sheets of my diary. The message, if that’s how you put it, is that you should take the Truth with a Grain, as opposed to a pinch, of Salt. That is one, the other is, that there is an Acceptance of people, and so Happenings have to be seen in each context. And yes, there is Surrender as well. So thus, simply throw up your hands to each with love and go on with this business of living.
And last of all, I believed, that I reasonably so, understood human psychology yet I learn revelatory and fresh lessons each day.