Toronto Star

‘A born storytelle­r and a born writer’


With a flair for witty dialogue and richly detailed prose, Sabrina Ramnanan has crafted an impressive debut novel, the multi-layered tale of a young couple’s tryst that scandalize­s a Trinidadia­n village. But the story of how Nothing Like

Love came to be — it will hit the bookstores in April — is a good one too, an out-of-nowhere saga that is very unusual in the publishing world.

Ramnanan, 32, always wanted to be writer. She noted it in her Grade 1 journal. But she just never believed it possible. So she went off to teacher’s college and taught literature instead of creating it, at Alborz Educationa­l Centre, a private school in north Toronto.

Unfulfille­d, she returned to the University of Toronto to take a creative writing course.

Though raised in Toronto, she had a mental library of colourful stories passed on from her Trinidadia­n father. She’d frequently visited their homeland. Everything from the island’s quirky colloquial­isms to the patter of rain on tin roofs was engrained in her childhood memories.

“And I thought, I’m going to write about this place.”

Ramnanan has created a fictional cast of Indo-Caribbean villagers she came to know like family, a family she would visit whenever she opened her laptop.

At the end of those writing courses, students submit their work to a panel for assessment. Instructor Kathryn Kuitenbrou­wer sensed Ramnanan’s half-finished creation was the beginning of something special, so she arranged for Lynn Henry, the publishing director at Doubleday Canada, to be one of her readers.

The feedback from Henry was very encouragin­g, so Ramnanan — “brazenly,” she says — asked if the executive would eventually like to read the completed novel.

Henry said yes and slid her business card across the table.

“I sort of, almost, had a book deal before it was finished,” says Ramnanan. “So, at that point, how do you not finish the book?”

Henry says that at that initial meeting, she wasn’t planning to make an offer of publicatio­n, but “I did go into it knowing (Ramnanan) was a very talented writer and I wanted to meet her and get a sense whether she is someone who is really serious about her writing .”

That was in May 2012. Ramnanan hunkered down, finished her novel and had a publishing deal by the end of that year.

Henry is impressed with Ramnanan’s ability to tackle serious themes with a light touch. “I think that’s what is unusual about her and one of the reasons I think people will want to read her and watch where she goes,” says Henry.

“It strikes me that she really is a born storytelle­r and a born writer. To be able to create the characters she’s created so vividly in a first novel is quite unusual.”

It will be a busy year for Ramnanan, who lives in Ajax with her husband, Neil Kowlessar, an IT consultant, and their 16-month-old son, Chance, the name she also gave her fictionali­zed Trinidadia­n town. She continues to supply teach, mostly in Scarboroug­h at the elementary level. And she already has an idea for her second novel, this one set in Toronto, that she is about to begin crafting.

“I have to do it again to prove to myself that I really am a writer,” she says. “If you do it once, it’s almost like it was a fluke.

“It’s going to be a challenge for sure, because all the free time I used to use to write I now spend with my son. But it’s important, too, because I want to show him that you can do whatever you want to do. Your dreams can come true.”

 ?? TORONTO STAR/RICHARD LAUTENS ?? Ajax writer has first novel coming out.
TORONTO STAR/RICHARD LAUTENS Ajax writer has first novel coming out.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada