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Interview with Rama Ramani, author of The Next Innnings



Rama Ramani's The Next Innings is a suspense fiction novel that employs the stream-of-consciousness technique at times. It interleaves time and life of a set of people, with various twists and turns. The primary plot is setup with Vishwanathan, a life coach, living in Chennai and a young couple, Jagan and Lakshmi, moving to San Francisco. What happens when their lives intersect forms the crux of the plot. Vishwanathan lives in Maaya's Presence with his humanoid assistant, Corlexa, and his dog, Future. There is a hidden room in the mid-flight landing which has a spiral stairway. Maaya's Presence is a state-of-the-art apartment complex circular in shape and built with glass. Simple love stories can carry profound meanings too. Two Indians, Lakshmi, an educator, and Jagan, an IT engineer, bump into each other in a bus. Unknown to them, their lives are about to take on new, unexpected directions as they fall in love and move to San Francisco after marriage. Cricket is fused into the storyline via the character of Sandhiya Rajalakshmi. Sandhiya achieves her dream and takes Indian Women's cricket to great heights and also leads a local Women's Premier League team, the Chennai Wolverines. She works together with Thala, who joins the team as a head coach as his next innings. "As an English teacher, I had the pleasure of teaching Rama in high school. I'm not surprised at his ability to manage a potent mix of cricket (a sport that he loves dearly) the impressions of powerful women who have left a lasting impact on him and entertainment," says Chitra Sundarraman, Retired High School Principal. “The Next Innings is an amazing handling of a simple love story with a profound meaning. The storyline uses concepts from technology, which made this into an engaging story, keeping the momentum and making it thought-provoking,” says Rama Narayanaswamy, Retired Head of Calibre Academy & Volunteer at the Sathya Sai Super Speciality hospital. Sudharshan is a young man who is trying to find his passion in life. He is a doting brother, who has a conflicted relationship with his dad. There is an element of youth brashness in him, putting him in tough situations, but eventually finding his calling in life. The storyline is a potpourri of emotions – dreams, optimism, challenges, and love. The metamessage of the novel is for everyone. “The gripping storyline feels like time-traveling with the main characters. It all appears to be like “Maya.” The portrayal of strong women characters who are determined to make a mark in their chosen field, be it cricket or education, is fascinating, ” says Lakshmi Balakrishnan, Educationist & Entrepreneur “An interesting story that is very close to my heart – the protagonist is named after my grandmother, Mrs. Rajalakshmi, the former Dean and Director of the Padma Seshadri group of schools. I am confident that this story will evoke interesting memories from Indian cricket, which we all will appreciate more today,” says Madhuvanthii, Actor & State Executive Committee Member BJP Tamilnadu The narration keeps the reader keenly engaged and ends with a question: What would you do in challenging times? “The Next Innings'' is set to debut on September 14, 2020 on Kindle.

Interview Questions 

1. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? 

[Rama Ramani] Yes, I read each review. Feedback is a key proponent for self improvement. I believe that one has to listen to all input, process it internally, and then decide to act or ignore it. Good ones are inspiring and provide energy to sustain the 4 AM wake up. When the good review comes from people I respect, the effect amplifies. I used to be affected by bad reviews, not anymore. It is essential to switch off our internal voice and listen to the "bad review." It could have a crucial message for us to improve and reach even greater heights. Not all bad reviews are bad. These could be great Learning moments. But if the review is crap, I ignore it – I listen to "kuchh tho log kahenge" and move on. कु तो लोग कहेंगे- 

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

 [Rama Ramani] I wrote my first book in 1999, America Ahoy. I went through the GRE process and wanted to capture those guidance tips for others. This book writing and trying to sell with friends was fun. In 2010, I wrote my technical book. I realized that the book medium is a way for me to express myself. The real breakthrough came in 2017 when I wrote Open Field Tackle, which compared and contrasted American corporations with American football – the recruiting process, the rewards process, how coaches & players inspire us and so on. I loved this. The Next Innings is a continuation of this sports theme but is a suspense fiction novel. It asks a fundamental question, "What will you do in challenging times?" and also takes one point from Open Field Tackle forward. It also seeds a scene which is the basis of my next one.

 3. What is your poison for writing?

 [Rama Ramani] Life is a potpourri of emotions – joy, sadness, challenges, triumph, loss, win, and so on. I look at these experiences and think about them. I discuss it with my close friends and family. When one thinks about negative things and starts writing them, it leads to a negative mindset. I believe incorporating these experiences into a book but focusing on the optimism and positivity helps oneself. That is the poison I choose to pick. 

4. What inspired you to write this book?

[Rama Ramani] Last year (2019), I attended the Cricket World Cup in London with my tenyear-old son and we stayed at my cousin's place. My sister-in-law, Sharmilee Sriram (@mileesvoice on Instagram,) brought up the topic of writing a book on cricket. That was the genesis of this book. As I thought more about it, it became clear to me that a story that weaves cricket with two interlacing narratives would be exciting. I let that thought sit, and kept thinking about it on and off. Our family went on vacation to Chennai last August, and the previous trip was four years before that. My brother and I had a five-day trip across India, visiting multiple cities. I had always wanted to see the Golden Temple, at Amritsar, and while we were at the temple, I saw the news that my principal from high school, Mrs.Rajalakshmi – popularly known as Mrs. YGP – had passed away. I saw thousands of messages flowing across the world and friends expressing their tribute. Mrs. YGP was such a dynamic lady. Her sheer presence, the confidence in her voice, and the kindness beneath the stern exterior was motivating. She had started a school in an era where it was even more difficult for women to try anything other than raising children! She built a brand that is world-recognized today. My brother went to the same school, as did my cousin's and friend's kids. If I had lived in Chennai, my kids would have gone there. Sri Gurubhyo Namaha (my salutations to my teacher.) We learned that term in school, and how true it is. My friends and I are what we are due to our teachers. HERE'S TO THE TEACHERS OF THE WORLD! The lead protagonist of this book was inspired by Mrs. YGP and became crystallized in my head. I was inspired to write a character who would achieve amazing things in life and be the beacon of light for others to follow. I created characters that do amazing things – Sandhiya Rajalakshmi becomes the captain of the Indian Women's cricket team and also leads Chennai Wolverines (a fictional club team) I want my daughter, Shrishti, to believe she can achieve whatever she wants, like my other two boys.

5. Was there any research you did for the book? Tell more about the process? 

[Rama Ramani] Not a whole lot. I have no background in fiction writing. Once I am excited by a topic or activity, I love to dig my teeth into it. I can get to the flow state and find the time. It will be running in my mind all the time. I am not always like that. I go through periods of lull, and then I pick it back up and go full steam. I have close friends and family with whom I re-iterate. I get their feedback, especially the direct ones. Some of them, like BK and Jerry, are my friends over 25 years, they will be straightforward, and I will learn and fix. I also took a fiction coach and then used paid contractors around the world (via Fiverr) to deliver the work like marketing, voice-over, editor, PR, artist, and so on. I give all these folks detailed instructions and follow up to make sure it is on track. I don't approve unless I am convinced on the deliverable. I do appreciate the talent and have always tipped them (ask them ). I focus on the core content of the book and then scale my work leveraging this fantastic talent. 

6. Do you believe in writer's block?

[Rama Ramani] I have experienced it. It is real. "This too shall pass" is how I process it. At every stage, there will be some leanings. I let the writer's block stage to also envelope me, and it will provide some perspectives when analyzed at a later time. Friends & family members will motivate me to come out of it, and then I go at it in full steam. Even for this book, the block was collectively over 8 months and actual work happened in 2 months. I took 5 weeks off work and then made the most progress in that time. 

7. What is your work schedule like when you're writing? 

[Rama Ramani] I read several articles about how seasoned writers do it – all of them have a strict schedule. Some of them write the frame and then go at it. Some of them let the story take them wherever it goes. The detailed schedule part doesn't work for me – I tried it. I create a rough plan and don't go the entire plan. For example, I wrote the 1st section (act), 2nd and 3rd in 2 weeks. I then kept refining it and started working on the 1st act. This led to changes in the overall, but I let that happen. My work schedule is set up on a weekly plan – write at least 2000 words, ideally 7500 works in a week. I wake up around 4 AM every day in this phase; otherwise, I wake up at 6 AM . I use the time from 4-7.30 AM to work on something – the overlying arch or the 'TODO" I added or the marketing plan. I talk with my friends when walking the dog – I bought a hands-free leash so that my hands can use the phone. When I drive alone, I think, and sometimes I record my thoughts. 

8. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 

[Rama Ramani] I jump from section to section when writing for 2-hour stretches. For example, I will write for thirty minutes on the opening and then write thirty minutes on end and then jump to the middle section. I will be super focused within thirty minutes. I give myself the freedom to even write on the next book and make notes on it. That switching keeps it fresh in my mind, and I can sustain the marathon effort. 

9. What should readers expect from The Next Innings? 

[Rama Ramani] It is going to throw a lot of things at you. You have to be patient. Each section has a twist and I have enough clues for you to figure it out. I'm not too fond of that aha moment when something unexpected happens where the reader had no clue. If you are scratching for details, there is a reason there are missing. But to be fair, I am also a new fiction writer, and it is possible I did miss something. If you have constructive feedback, I will read it and apply appropriately. It is about strong women who have an impact on people. It is about a teacher who is different in her thought process, a woman who challenges the status quo, a daughter who plays cricket for India, and a Chennai club team. It is about a husband who transforms himself. It will leave you with a question: "What would you do in challenging times?" I have tried to answer it using the characters. It is about optimism and enthusiasm in spite of challenging times. Believe in your future, in your next innings. 

10. What do you like to do when you're not writing? 

[Rama Ramani] I spend time with my kids, my wife, my family, my friends, my garden, my cooking, with myself. I watch a lot of American Football and Cricket – a fan of Seahawks and Chennai Super Kings. I discuss ideas with people and, when at work, try different things across projects. 11. What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book? [Rama Ramani] This was indeed the biggest surprise for me. I assumed that the most creative process and personal enjoyment was done when I had completed about 40K words written. When I got feedback, for example, that the love scenes didn't cut it, I started thinking more, and then suddenly, I got excited. I wanted it to be different, I imagined some


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