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Author Interview: Pratima Cranse

on Thu, 01/07/2016 - 22:23

By Renee Roy

Debut New Hampshire author Pratima Cranse took a few minutes recently to talk about her first novel, All the Major Constellations, and offered some insight as to how her past has acted as her muse.  

Cranse, a New England native, was born and raised in Vermont. She now lives in southern New Hampshire, after earning her MFA in fiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University. She said she draws much of her inspiration from her parents. “My father is also a writer and, just as important, he’s a really great reader,” Cranse said. “He forever has a new book or article that’s occupying a part of his brain. He encouraged me to write, to read, and to think for myself. My mother’s influence on me is just as significant. As a minority in an almost entirely white community -- she is Nepali -- she experiences life from the always fascinating perspective of the outsider. Outsiders are a big theme in my work. My mom is also a terrific reader. She has passionate relationships with books.”

Cranse first considered herself a writer in the fourth grade.

“I was good at it and I liked the idea of it,” she said. “I liked saying, ‘I’m going to be a writer,’ to adults and kids alike. The adults would then say, ‘You mean journalism, technical writing?’ and I would clarify and tell them I wanted to write novels.”

Cranse lived up to her dream when Viking published her first novel, All the Major Constellations, in November. Her story offers an authentic encounter of friendship as she follows three individuals, Sara, Andrew, and Marcia. It was inspired by her career in healthcare.

“When I was in nursing school I worked as an aide on a neurology floor of a major hospital,” Cranse said. “There were three teenage girls who were in comas for different reasons. The experience of caring for those girls and seeing what their families went through left a deep and almost traumatizing impression on me. Sara came from that experience.”

Cranse came up with the character of Andrew a bit differently.

“Andrew’s been a character in my world since I was eighteen, actually, younger, I think sixteen. I started writing about a guy who outwardly seems pretty laid back, but inwardly is consumed by an obsession with an unreachable girl,” Cranse said.

Cranse’s third character, Marcia, comes from the author’s personal life.

“Marcia is based on my grandmother, Marcia Cranse, who is the only character in the book that’s based on a real person,” Cranse said. “She was a very smart lady. Like, valedictorian of everything, read a book a week, breezed through the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle kind of smart. But she was a victim of her times and wasn’t able to pursue a career that would have utilized her intelligence and ambition. It was THE regret of her life, and something she spoke about often to me in her final years. I wanted to recast my grandmother in a more enlightened era both as a tribute to her and to see if she would have been a happier person if she could have had the career of her choice.”

Cranse novel not only examines feelings of companionship, but also looks at how people deal with life in the wake of a tragedy.

“Sara gets in a car accident and is in a coma. Marcia, who wants to be a doctor, becomes preoccupied with taking care of her, while Andrew becomes a total drift,” Cranse said.

The story then takes a fascinating turn when Laura, a Christian girl and someone Andrew has loved from afar, unexpectedly reaches out to him.

“Andrew is a smart guy and he realizes that her interest in him is probably in converting him to her faith because he is vulnerable and grieving, but he still wants her and he doesn’t care what her motivations are. This is where the story really takes off,” Cranse said.

Although Cranse’s novel is newly published as of November, she has already received numerous laudations for her work. Cranse’s thought-provoking story brings up feelings of unrequited love, loss, and the power of faith. Cranse hopes her story leaves readers with something important to think about.

“I think the most important line in the book is when Andrew is freaking out about his apparently destructive influence on the Christian youth group and Marcia reassures him by saying, ‘They were all screwed up to begin with, just like everybody else.’ Just like everybody else. We’re all flawed, I guess that’s my message, and the best you can do is try and be a good person.”

All the Major Constellations is available ($15 to $18 in hardcover) at local bookstores, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.