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An Interview with Author Rekha Valliappan

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Rekha Valliappan is an award-winning multi-genre writer of short stories, poetry and creative nonfiction. She has been widely published online and in print in hundreds of literary and genre magazines and anthologies including New World Writing, Ann Arbor Review, The Museum of Americana: A Literary Review, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, The Cabinet of Need, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Bending Genres, Lackington Magazine, Aphelion Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy, Saturday Evening Post, and other places. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Besides being published in winners’ anthologies her work was also named Poem of the Week and Best of Fiction by Red Fez and Across the Margin respectively.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I was always a writer. The love for reading and writing was a fever in me since early childhood. There was never a time I could put down a book. This gave me room to explore, live others’ lives, and pursue adventures, histories, period pieces, changing geographies, our untamed world, and space ‘cosmography.’ Once hitched, I could not stop. My earliest stories were written when I was 10-11 years old. There were many works that steered me toward a study of English Literature, and the immersion into French, Russian, American, and Indian literature was explosive. Writers who have influenced me and still do would be Faulkner, Conrad, James, Dickens, Hardy, Collins, Elliot, Shelley, Poe, du Maurier, Wodehouse, Rushdie, and many more—way too many for a comprehensive list. Writing is a growing activity; newer thought processes push boundaries, always at the edge. The stories I write encompass multiple genres.

Describe your dream book cover.

My dream book cover for my collection of short stories would be a speculative hazy design. Since I’m drawn to the sky and the sea and the sand, mountains and valleys and rivers, I see the links, but no details yet.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I was a college lecturer in two different countries. Teaching was my fallback position at classes I conducted at university. With a background in English Literature and Law, access to rows of book-lined libraries, crafting creative work wherever and whenever, the impulse led me to burrow into the demands of lectures, which seemed the attractive choice. Something in my life my readers may not know but might find interesting was how drawn to the stage. Acting became second nature, a natural decision. Annual Speech Day in my college in South India was celebratory because of the prize-giving and widely attended. Traditionally we produced full five-act English plays. I acted in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, lead roles in Moliere’s Le Bourgeoisie Gentilhomme, Chekhov, and others, leading me to produce plays when I was put in charge of theater each year. This extracurricular activity grew in popularity and I enjoyed it as much as everyone did. Places I studied and worked were mostly convents and all-girl schools, so girls took roles of boys in drama.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

My research is a never-ending process. I write short stories and poems. As I said before, I’m guided by multi-layered books and thought processes, from Ayn Rand to Margaret Mitchell, from Harper Lee to Vikram Seth, from Ursula Le Guin to Virginia Woolf. I’m guided by magazine or anthologies’ guidelines, which then steers me toward a particular sub-genre per the preference I’m submitting for. My favorite journals in my writing process are publications like Shenandoah, Ann Arbor Review, London Grip, The Phare, On the Seawall, The Threepenny Review, Black Static, SciPhi Journal, and Chiron Review, to name a few of a widening pool. I’m drawn to Carl Sagan, Thomas Ligotti, M.R. James, Ambrose Bierce, Sheridan Le Fanu, Shirley Jackson, Guy de Maupassant, Edith Wharton, Kurt Vonnegut, and a host of others. Their stories are gripping, diverting, and embracing in a manner that transcends human experiences in the superlative. For poetry I love the poignancy and fervor of my surroundings, the natural world, at its worst, at its best. I strive for connectedness in things that I see, struggling to make sense. Recently I turned to Murakami, and then to Basho, which resulted in ten of my own haikus being published.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

Nothing is more satisfying to a writer than to have a reader immerse themselves in your work, feel the pleasure only a reader who loves to read experiences. I would like readers to read my work, enjoy what they read, be it science fiction, or fantasy, or horror, or historical fiction, or mystery and suspense, or humor, or literary and/or dark/weird/surrealist fiction, or poems, or creative nonfiction essays. I would like them to enjoy what they read as much if not more than the thrill I derived painstakingly working at each, draft after draft, to bring them to light. I do so hope my readers will.

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