The UN Economist – turned Writer

Leading Light

Rani Singh Monday 03rd November 2014 09:35 EST

Reshma Ruia has a PhD in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking from the University of Manchester and post graduate and undergraduate degrees from the London School of Economics.

She started her professional life as a development economist with the United Nations and the OECD, but turned to writing after moving to Manchester.

A Mouthful of Silence,’ is her second novel.  It was short listed for the SI Leeds Literary award.

Her first novel, ‘Something Black in the Lentil Soup’ was published by BlackAmber Books, now an Arcadia imprint, and by Penguin India.

Reshma has written short stories and poems which have appeared in anthologies, magazines and also broadcast on Radio 4.

A Mouthful of Silence’ is set in Manchester and India. It challenges and re-examines accepted assumptions regarding love and identity, what it means to grow old and still be consumed by fire.

Reshma was born in India, but spent her formative years in Rome, Italy.  She has also lived in Paris and London and sees herself as a product of different cultures and her narrative portrays the inherent tensions and preoccupations of those who possess multiple senses of belonging. 

She told The Asian voice that literature was always a passionate interest. She decided to follow her passion after moving to Manchester and has not looked back since then.

“For my first novel-‘Something Black in the Lentil Soup,’ I simply submitted my work directly to a publisher and was lucky to be picked up by PenguinIndia and Black Amber Books. I am looking for representation for my new novel, ‘A Mouthful of Silence.’ The whole publishing industry has become much more complex with the arrival of e-publishing and Amazon.”

 Reshma said that her work technique depends on the stage of her writing. “I will spend a lot of time thinking when an idea is germinating. The first draft is excruciatingly difficult to write, but once I am caught in the flow, I am oblivious to time and can happily sit at my desk for ten hours. The outside world becomes irrelevant.” 

She says that it’s not always easy to find an alternative to sitting at her desk, but “I do enjoy walking and try and do yoga and pilates. I hate competitive sports. I try and keep fit mentally by extensive reading and learning about new ideas.

I travel a lot and am lucky that my job as a writer allows me to be mobile and flexible. All I need is a computer, a notebook and a wandering mind.”

 Reshma’s perceptions have undoubtedly been shaped by her cosmopolitan background.

“Rome had a profound impact on my creative psyche. There is a sense of nostalgia and appreciation for beauty and a less hurried pace of life where one walks hand-in-hand with history. My memory of Rome is always pine-scented and filled with warmth. I might be over-romanticizing but one tends to do that with the past.

London seems to be the centre of the Universe right now! I was a student here at the LSE and have always enjoyed its buzz, and eclectic cultural offerings. It is a polished and sophisticated city that is not afraid to flaunt its wealth.

Manchester is smaller and more intimate by contrast but it benefits from top class academic institutions. It is by no means the poor country cousin to London, but has its own self-confident identity and a sense of optimism and brashness that can be very attractive.”

The differences between radio and novel writing are distinct and clear for Reshma.

“The biggest difference would be time and structure. Writing for radio demands brevity, a clean plot line and dialogue to keep the listener engaged. The cadences of voice and pace are critical.

A novel by contrast is a slow-burning process. One can build up an entire new world with elaborate plots and character construction. The narrative can be as convoluted and deep as the writer’s imagination. But just as in radio, it is the writer’s job to keep the reader turning the page. Audiences for both genres can be fickle or loyal.


“It is the writer’s job to keep the reader turning the page.”

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