Friday, April 11, 2014

PUYB Blog Tour: Interview with Annu Subramanian, author of 'Another Heaven'

Annu Subramanian is 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.

Her latest book is the factu-fiction, Another Heaven.

Visit her website at

About the Book:

Annu Subramanian's new novel, ANOTHER HEAVEN, exposes with unflinching honesty and deep psychological insight the twisted relationship between terrorism and human trafficking. ANOTHER HEAVEN may be difficult to digest in part, but its frankness and refusal to turn away from the unsparing horror of its terrible premise make the book an essential addition to the literature of terrorism and its links to international human trafficking.

Subramanian, a self-described “writer of conscience,” employs her considerable literary skills in the service of shining a bright light on human rights abuses and terrorism. In her previous novel, WAITING FOR THE PERFECT DAWN, Subramanian focused on bringing awareness about the suppression of women and domestic violence.

Purchase your copy:


Can you tell us 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 write your book?

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.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Main character:
Tina Matthew- an American doctoral student in the field of psychology from Pennsylvania. She goes to India for an internship in counter-terrorism, and her visit changes her life forever.
Supporting characters:
Dr. Neil Shaker - An American psychoanalyst who is on a temporary assignment in Chennai, India (who becomes Tina’s mentor)
Usman- antagonist (a master terrorist who recruits and trains missionaries for terrorism-some of the missions are terminal)
Maya- the key victim of human trafficking (her horrific and tragic experiences change the course of the novel)
While completing her thesis in India, Tina unknowingly is thrown into a terrorist’s plot based on religious fanaticism. With the help of her mentor, Dr. Shaker, she learns how Usman executes his crazed religious righteousness through psychological manipulation of trafficked victims. After encountering real-life trauma faced by the victims, Tina’s resolution to address terrorism turns into a passion and becomes her calling.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters are from my imagination. However, they represent figures generated from current world issues, my observations, and my interviews with various individuals.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

I am aware of the plot before I begin to write my novels. The plot is the seed that develops slowly through the chapters.

Your book is set in United States and India.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Due to the sensitive nature of the issues addressed, I have given imaginary names to the cities where the episodes take place.

Further, I use Another Heaven to speak about social issues which affect the global community. As a writer of conscience, I want my readers to think about these issues as a universal concern and not as a secular or territorial problem.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes. This is a novel that brings both the eastern and the western worlds together to discuss social and global issues.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

A homeless boy, about 12, has been targeted as a likely candidate by one of the recruiters of human trafficking. The boy is an ideal target; poor, homeless, and vulnerable. The recruiter has been observing the boy for a while and in this instance, he tries to make an impression in the child’s trusting mind by being very kind and friendly.

An excerpt from the page:

       “When do you go home?” asked Imran, smiling warmly at the destitute child.
       And the child liked the smile that held something he had not felt in a while—a long-forgotten caress, a touch of affection—and he cherished it for a few moments. “I don’t go home,” he responded softly, looking away. He wouldn’t look at the man’s face because he didn’t want to cry. And there were unshed tears sloshing within his small frame, trying to break loose. “I don’t have a home.”

Is it hard to get a literary/contemporary fiction book published?

Yes. Publishing is a competitive business. In addition, the topics covered must be of interest to a publisher.

Is it hard to promote a novel of conscience book and where do you start?

It has been a wonderful experience promoting my novel. Readers are concerned about human rights issues and they welcome a book that addresses two global issues, human trafficking and terrorism, under one project. I communicate with my readers, on a daily basis, about women’s issues, empowerment, and other social issues through my Author Page on Facebook. I work with a publicist who shares my concern for the issues I try to address.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

So far, I have not suffered from this ailment.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

Make a pot of tea. Turn on classical music. Read a chapter from To Kill A Mocking Bird, or Pride and Prejudice, or one of Agatha Christie’s short stories.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

Thanksgiving. I like the idea of a harvest festival that brings friends and family to say thanks to farmers; the salt of the earth. It also reminds me of my childhood in India when we had similar, earthy celebrations.

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

My favorite place for lunch is any tea lounge and my most favorite one is The Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa, New York.

What do you like to do for fun?

Writing, listening to music (mostly classical and jazz), taking long walks, baking, visiting Lake George, collecting odds and ends from antique shops.

Can you tell us about your family?

My husband came to this country over 35 years ago to study. He is working in a multinational company as an engineer. My son is in the U.S. Air Force. My daughter is working in Washington D.C.

What do you like the most about being an author?

I love how I can talk to my readers, one-on-one, about life, love, relationships, and how I feel at home with scattered words and ideas which magically come together. When my readers write to me that they feel happy and empowered after reading my scribblings, I feel truly grateful for being an author.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

Making a difference in somebody’s day. When readers share the passion I have expressed in my stories, I feel gratified and fulfilled.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

“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.”

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