Q. Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you launched into a writing career?
I had always been surrounded by books and writing. Grandpa, dad, some aunts and uncles all lawyers were all involved in writing and editing Law Journals in India so from birth books were part of my upbringing. I used to write for fun when I worked full time as a teacher and did a Saturday morning leisure class on writing as a hobby. When I took early retirement from my post as Principal Teacher I decided to indulge in my hobby. Writing both poetry and prose gives me a great deal of pleasure. Putting words down on paper is something I love. The poetry collection and the two novels ‘Twice Born’ and ‘Bombay Baby’ are the result.
Q. So what is Bombay Baby about?
It is a story of a young girl who is Scottish but has Indian origins and the novel traces her journey into discovering her roots.
Q. What inspired you to write this book?
It was a single photograph in the ‘Times’ newspaper that sparked the story. It made me ask the question ‘why’ and the story was born. You need to read the book to get more details.
Were you writing from “what you know”?
A lot of the information was research based and hearing from friends and family added a touch of reality to the experiences of the young girl, Tina the protagonist in the book.
How did you go about physically writing the book, was there a particular writing ritual you prescribed to?
I do have a writing schedule in my life. Monday to Friday starts with a short visit to the gym in the morning and writing in earnest begins everyday anytime after 12 and goes on till 4 or 5 pm. Once a novel starts the writing is more intensive and I spend many more hours sometimes from morning till 6 pm. Evening and weekends are for family time. I rarely compromise on that.
As a Scottish Asian how do you feel about Scottish Asian representation in books in general?
One of the reasons for publishing my work is to address this very subject. For years I looked for books written by Scottish Asians in bookshops and found very few. There are a lot of Scottish Asian contributions in dance, drama and art but few in literature. I feel strongly that the next generation must make a concerted effort to participate in mainstream literature and tell our stories.I am sure that it will happen in the next few years as parents accept that the usual professions of medicine and law are not the only careers worth pursuing. Like all other immigrant groups Scottish Asians writers will emerge strong in this field too. Professor Wily Maley of Glasgow University has mentioned this in his book ‘Discovering Scottish Literature’
Q. Do you mind people labelling you as an Asian author, do you think its helpful in any way?
I am proud of both cultures. The land of my birth and the land that has nurtured me. Both Scotland and India are important to me. As long as the label ‘Asian’ is not used to marginalize my work in anyway I am happy to take that on. I have received enormous encouragement from the Scottish writing fraternity. The writing groups I have been involved with, the poetry groups and my local bookshop and library have been exceptionally supportive of me. The Asians form only one percent of the population in Scotland so even in the urban areas there are only a few actively participating but I’m sure they support my writing venture.
Q. What are your writing resolutions for 2012?
I have started a Family Memoir and I must finish that. It is not for publication. I’m working on a poetry collection. Novel 3 is in planning stages.
Q. Finally what advice would you give to anyone writing a book?
Believe in your work, be passionate about your work, write because you want to.
Leela Soma was born in Madras and now lives in Glasgow. She taught Modern Studies before deciding to write full time. Her poetry and short stories have been published in a number of anthologies and publications most recently, Issue 5 of Gutter magazine. She won the Margaret Thomson Davis Trophy for Best New Writer 2007 for her then unpublished novel Twice Born which was later published on YouWriteOn. She is on the Committee of the Milngavie Book & Art Festival and the Scottish Writer’s Centre. Her writings reflect her experiences as a first generation Indo-Scot.