Author Interview Series: Interview 16: Milan Vohra

10477958_10152547745466948_7265709654729815909_nThe first Indian author for Mills and Boon, that is just one facet to Milan Vohra.
Her visiting card succinctly describes her as Author. Advertising consultant. Insomniac.
Milan entered the world of authoring a Mills and Boon where no Indian had ever ventured and created a niche for herself. From top notch advertising writer to becoming the first Indian author to write for the legendary Mills & Boon series…Milan Vohra has two novels to her credit, ‘The Love Asana’ (the first Indian Mills & Boon published by Harlequin India in 2012) and ‘Tick Tock We’re 30’ published by Westland Books Ltd in 2013.
Milan Vohra’s short stories for Young Adults have also appeared in ‘Love like that and other stories’ by Penguin India in 2013. But in fact, Milan informs us, her first published work was in end 2011 – some short stories that were quite far removed from the romance genre that she has now come to be better known for.  These stories explored child sexual abuse and its genesis as well as gender identity and teenagers at a crossroads. The stories were published in the award winning anthology ‘Vanilla Desires’ by Unisun Publications.

From writing literary short stories… to writing short stories for young adults…to the headlines making first Indian Mills and Boon ‘The Love Asana’ that outsold best selling author Penny Jordan with four times as many copies sold in India, and became a huge best seller in South Africa too…to her latest book ‘Tick-tock we’re 30’ – a page turner of a rom-com that’s had glowing reviews from every mainstream newspaper, magazine and blogger.. it seems like Milan is charting her own way and making it all seem fun and effortless in the process. Thank you, Milan, for giving me this opportunity to chat.

 

At the outset, please tell the readers a bit about yourself.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, when both my kids were in their teens (my daughter was just getting out of her teens and my son was just getting into his) , my husband got great joy out of telling everyone there were three teenagers at home! I think anybody who knows me will agree that’s a pretty good description of me. I’m a slightly unpredictable mix of impulsive, let’s go do this *right now*, and I mean RIGHT NOW kind of person and the kind that likes to pull back, breathe, think things through,  ‘respond’ not ‘react’. It keeps most people never really sure what’s next..including myself!

 

From advertising to writing a book, how did this come about?

Well advertising was the most interesting career option that was available to me when I was in college — doing Economics honours at Delhi University to make my dad happy. With my fascination for people watching, eavesdropping, language nuances, wondering often about things that we can universally relate to, that made for interesting anecdotes, quirks, well the theatre of human behaviour really..and then there’s always been my obsession with pop culture..it felt natural to be using this to create stories too within another kind of fiction…that is advertising.  And I say this with utmost affection because I do still love that world and the thinking and craft it involves.

Writing fiction was something I had been doing for myself, short stories really and never with a view to getting published. Strangely to me getting published never was and never is the reason why you must write. If you choose to.

Anyhow, one January night on my wedding anniversary,  after a slightly disastrous dinner with house guests where everything that could be wrong did go wrong….the chicken was too chickeny,  the ice cream was too sweet (you get the drift).. I’d come home, looked at my comp. The inbox had some mails a few friends had forwarded to me for a Harlequin contest to search for the first Indian author.  It required a love story of 2000 words and I decided a wedding anniversary called for some romance, dammit 🙂
I ended up writing a story called The Love Asana in the space of two margaritas but because I write long hand (pen on paper) the real challenge became how to get it to make the transition from page to screen. I did a rough calculation of my handwriting…about how many words on every line going zig zag and all the crossed out rewritten stuff. It was then probably twice the length it needed to be. A girlfriend called around midnight, my friends know the best time to reach me. I read it out on the phone to her as she keyed it in. We giggled and had a blast as we argued and I convinced her of utterly critical things such as the rightness of why the hero needed to be wearing linen pants not track pants and so on.  To cut a long story short, my story about a yoga instructor who falls in love with her student went on to win the nationwide contest from amongst several hundred of entries.

This did not mean though that I had the book contract in hand. It only meant that I’d won a contest with lovely prizes (my personal favourite among them being a year’s free subscription to 10 M&Bs every month!)

What came next was actually an interesting period interacting with the M&B editorial team in U.K, understanding what the various M&B series were all about especially as so much had changed from back when I read them….some of the newer lot also got prettty steamy. Then there was my sharing with the U.K editorial team an Indian perspective and sensibility.. which is so different from say, a British woman’s. The process resulted in a book contract about a year later and the book and its quite incredible success some months later. Some of the things I think it did was make everyone realise how ready Indian readers were for their own unique Indian romances within the M&B brand which stood for a lot. I think it probably also made the editorial acknowledge and accept the Indian sensibility better. To me this acknowledgement seems reflected positively in the Indian edition books that have followed. So a win win resulted really!

 

How does it feel to be the first Indian to author a Mills and Boon?

It was great not just because it was something so unexpected but in a sheer childlike wish fulfilment way. The kind of thing you might think on a winter’s day, when all the leaves are brown and the sky is grey. ..oh wouldn’t it be be such fun to write a Mills & Boon someday… it was that very simple pure kind of happy kick it gave me. Yes there was a lot of media attention, worldwide even, with BBC and CNN and the Times London etc and it was all exciting of course. But I was quite clear in my head that my 15 seconds of fame were very cool and of course I was grateful to have that unexpected burst of being in the spotlight but I also wanted to not be in a tearing hurry to write more of the same…at least not immediately. I wanted to think through what I wanted to write next.

 

What motivated you to write a book?

Initially I’d thought it can’t be too difficult taking the short story that won the contest and developing it into a book but the challenge of developing a plot, journeying the highs and lows of your characters, keeping it convincing emotionally and not have it become a Hindi movie scenario where if all else fails you bring out some baddies usually an Amrish Puri breathing fire out of the nostrils kind of dad.
For me it was also a different kind of personal challenge because I’d written a play some years earlier.. A musical comedy complete with all the song lyrics. I found writing a book similar in terms of plotting or thinking through your characters and motivations.. but otherwise just not similar. It was interesting to let the writing flow,  balance dialogue and narrative, a luxury playwriting couldn’t give.

The biggest reward?

Meeting readers. A lady recently and repeatedly in reviews online and on my fb page told me she read my book ‘The Love Asana’ seven times and will soon read it again. Gosh. That feels incredible.

Tick-tock, we’re 30 is a fun, quirky, relatable book. Personally I found myself literally laughing out loud many times while reading it.  What was the inspiration behind the book?

The book is inspired by the fact that I had a group of friends I grew up with in Anand Niketan in Delhi.  We had all planned a reunion at the millennium but years went by with no sign of anybody ever actually making it happen.  Finally I decided this was my revenge. I would write about a bunch of people and a reunion that would be so much fun, it would make them want to make ours work out!
Then of course once you start imagining things I had my main female protagonist Lara also have a pact with a guy from the group Nishad. A pact to marry each other if neither had hooked up with anyone else by the time they were 30. That’s when it gets nice and loony because Lara doesn’t want to give Nishad a chance to say he was right – about her being so wrong about Randeep, the guy she was dating back then. Enter Perzaan aspiring Turkish model, flame bartender and Lara’s pretend love interest in the book.
Actually this book has been getting some really good feedback not just for the romances within it (yes there’s more than one) and the humour but also as a story of old friendships revisited.

 

Did you start writing after taking a professional course or is it natural?

I didn’t study writing from any course per se but if you’re a keen reader hopefully your learning is constantly happening 🙂

I don’t think writing can be taught.  Like charisma you either have it or you don’t.
It helps to have feedback for sure to improve it and to strengthen weak areas. But even while you’re writing – you know when the words or construct isn’t sitting quite right. Each writer has their own process to come back, fix it. But you do usually know.

 

The covers of all your books are very nice? How much say did you have while designing the covers?

For ‘The Love Asana’ the cover was designed especially to create a separate look from their existing series’ templates. The Love Asana was not falling into any of the existing series they had. So the Harlequin team decided to call it a Special India edition. They brought in elements of yoga with a yoga mat and used Indian models on the cover. A band with silver foiling flagged the introducing the first Indian author on the front. I was shown the cover but didn’t really have a say in it. I was pretty delighted though that the country head also fought to retain the original title of my winning short story for the book. It’s so much nicer than ‘ A shocking proposal ‘ don’t you think? 🙂

With ‘Tick-tock we’re 30’ I’d asked to be involved in cover design and especially coming from my advertising background I guess I do like to be able to get into it. And the editor and graphic designer were both open to it. I asked Vrinda Goyal, an art director friend, who had worked with me in the past to do the design and she and I brainstormed on it, went through many many options, illustration styles, various fonts, graphics, or only typographical routes before arriving on this final design. Happily for us, everyone at Westland too liked it.

The numeric 30 in place of the 12 on a clock along with graphic symbols on every hour of the clock to represent some of the major characters was a pretty neat idea. For instance we had a graphic hookah to represent Pathak – a guy in the group who is often smoking up and is a conspiracy theorist; there was a potty seat representative of Thin Riya a character in the book who is quite OCD and constantly constipated.
I wanted to choose symbols that also conveyed the overall feel of fun which was what the group of friends were all about. So there could be no dark motifs.

I was also pretty sure I didn’t want a pink cover for the book… synonymous with chicklit. This book is about a group of 12 friends – 6 guys and 6 girls and the real story of ‘Tick-tock we’re 30’ is actually about what happens in the week that all these old friends meet. The old baggage, the old jealousies, the old familar comaraderie, leg pulling, protectiveness as well as new equations and working out of things from the past. On the back cover you see a graphic of a lot of pairs of legs..really to tell the reader browsing in a store that this story is not just about two people falling in love…it’s a many-character story. There’s also a graphic of a dog..because through the story there is a pajama wala uncle with a mad dog who is pretty much a character too. Finding just the right kind of illustration for the dog was crazy. I knew how I’d imagined that dwag. We went nuts.. kept getting vicious dogs that looked like they were going to go for your balls right off or some sad morose types or big outright wusses. This doggie fella had the right mix of looking slightly mental and someone you could hope to out manoeuvre.

 

I know it is difficult for an author to choose between her books, but which of these, is closer to your heart?

The one I’m writing now. (Until I finish writing it then it’ll be the one I’m writing after it) 🙂

 

You have mentioned that you read a lot. Can anyone who is a reader write books?

I assume you mean does just about anybody who reads a lot also be able to write?

Sadly not. Though I’m pretty sure it would be hard to find anybody who writes who hasn’t been obsessed with reading.
Arre it’s a little like saying if you love to eat you’ll be a great chef. Nah.

Who is your favourite author? Any author who has influenced your writing?

That impossible question again 🙂

How how how can anybody answer this?

Roald Dahl, Amy Tan, Marian Keyes, Enid Blyton, Tennessee Williams, Bob Dylan, Elizabeth Gilbert Jones, Vikram Seth, Kafka, Wodehouse, Capote, Neil Gaimon, Mary Higgins Clark, Hemingway, J. D Salinger, Douglas Adams, Woody Allen , Tina Fey…..Good writing, whatever the genre (or not) should of course leave you with wonderful things to think about etc etc but here’s my thumb rule – it should never feel like something you have to ‘work’ at reading.

 

What is the next project that you are working on? When is the next book scheduled for release?

I can only say it’s pretty different from what I’ve done so far. It’s still early to say anything more. I’m also working on a very fun screenplay for an international project but am under a non disclosure contract. Will be happy to share details once I can.

 

Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

I’d say…Don’t try to be like anyone else. The same story told by five different people will sound interesting and different if each one does it in their natural way. Know your story, your characters and just tell your story your way.
Thank you once again Milan for sharing your thoughts with your readers.

 

Social Media links of Milan Vohra for reader to find/follow/like:

website: www.milanvohra.in

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Milan-Vohra/257690834354018?ref=hl

twitter: @milanvohra

google+:https://plus.google.com/115752486941470520904

google+ id. : https://www.google.com/+MilanVohra

milan books

If you are interested in Milan Vohra’s Books, here are the links:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00B99C694

http://www.flipkart.com/search?q=tick-tock+we%27re+30&otracker=start&fromAS=true&showAS=true&

http://m.timesofindia.com/life-style/books/Book-review-Tick-tock-Were-30/articleshow/18428022.cms

Tick-Tock we’re 30 – Check out this book on Goodreads: Tick-Tock we’re 30 http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17311334-tick-tock-we-re-30

 

 

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Monsoon Memories by Renita D’Silva

17694603Monsoon Memories is the first novel by Renita D’Silva. The story revolves around Shirin, who lives in London with her husband, Vinod and Reena, her niece, who lives in Bangalore.

The Blurb:

“English rain smelt and tasted of nothing at all. It had none of the fury, the passion of the monsoons. Instead, it was weak; half-hearted.”
Exiled from her family in India for more than a decade, Shirin and her husband lead a comfortable but empty life in London.
Memories of her childhood – exotic fragrances, colours, stifling heat and tropical storms – fill Shirin with a familiar and growing ache for the land and the people that she loves.
With the recollections though, come dark clouds of scandal and secrets. Secrets that forced her to flee her old life and keep her from ever returning.
Thousands of miles away, in Bangalore, the daughter of Shirin’s brother discovers a lost, forgotten photograph. One that has escaped the flames.

Determined to solve the mystery of an aunt she never knew, Reena’s efforts will set in place a chain of events that expose the painful trauma of the past and irrevocably change the path of the future.
An unforgettable journey through a mesmerizing, passionate land of contrasts – and a family whose story will touch your heart.

The story:

The book starts with Shirin having a nightmare about her past. She is haunted by the Eyes that follow her during her daydreams and nightmares She discusses it with her husband and her friend, Karen. They tell her that she is ready to revisit her past and she longs to back home to India. But, she cannot.

Reena is her brother, Deepak’s daughter reads Nancy Drews and is on the lookout for a mystery to solve and even maintains a “detective casebook”. She is excited when her parents mention a trip to their hometown, Taipur, as she feels that she would find a mystery to solve there. In Taipur, one afternoon, wnem everyone is sleeping, she finds a folded old photograph of three children, she identifies one as her father and the other as her aunt, Anita but is unable to identify the third child in the photograph and is curious because she looks a lot like Reena, but is unable to ask any other member of the family and asks Madhu about her. Thus, opening the Pandora’s box of secrets.

The story moves back and forth between London and India; between the past and the present as well as the main characters, Reena and Shirin.

My take:

The simple story has been beautifully narrated, depicting all the possible values and emotions. The characters have been developed well. Reena is a typical eleven year old, imagining herself to be Nancy Drew and on the look out for a mystery to solve. I liked Madhu’s character. Though the start is slow, the book catches up and cannot be put down. Though the secret can be guessed at the beginning from a conversation between Vinod and Shirin but there is something about the story that I had to finish it. The story is very moving and there were many instances when I had tears in my eyes. The author has described the life in rural India and that in England very well. I read till 2AM in the morning even though I had to get up at 5 for my kids’ school the next day.

A beautiful read, highly recommended.

Book Source: Bought

Publisher: Harlequin India

Author Interview Series: Interview 15: Priya Narayanan

priyaPriya Narayanan is a traveler, writer, designer, and a doting mother of two – all rolled into one. While as a child, she loved to dream, she now has to make do with daydreaming over many cups of coffee and chocolate chip ice cream. She believes that there are stories lurking around every corner, waiting to be captured and revealed to the world. Her debut book, The Moon wants to be spotless, was published by Leadstart Publishing in 2013.

Thank you, Priya, for this opportunity.

 

Hi. Priya, please tell the readers about yourself?

Hi Arti. The introduction sums me up quite perfectly. To add to that, you could call me a paradox personified at many levels. For one, while I am a person of very few words (I mean spoken words here), I am in love with the written word and can read or write in as many words as you could conjure. I have this great fear of public speaking, but I could be a great speechwriter! Then again, I like what you could call an organized mess and an impulsive routine. J

Apart from being an author, I am also an interior architect. I guess I’m drawn to any and every sort of creative activity. So I love photography and painting too, which I pursue whenever the mood strikes. But though many would argue that cooking is also a creative process, if there is one thing that I dread in this whole world, it’s cooking!

 

How did you think of writing a book? Who inspired you?

If I had to pick my favourite mode of expression within the parameters of writing itself, it would be poetry. I have written so many poems, I do hope to compile them into a book of verse some day. At the same time, I have also been writing short stories since long. I like the fact that stories allow you to explore characters in depth and share them with the readers, because in poetry, you can only hope that the reader gets your perspective right. So I hop into the short-story mode every time I get an idea that I feel would be too constrained within the poetic verse.

Writing for children was a natural progression, when I had my first child. I found it a whole new ball game and it was exciting to step into the mind space of little children and start to think like them. And because children are so non-judgemental, writing for them is truly gratifying.

When I won the first place in a contest held by a leading children’s publisher for my story ‘The Jungle Cinema’, the prize was a copy of my story in the form of a professionally laid-out book. It was just one copy, which I had the freedom to replicate and distribute to children around me; but holding that small book in my hand kind of triggered the idea that maybe I should write a book and try getting it published! After all, what writer would not want to see his/her work in print? So when I thought I had just the right concept for a book that 5-8 year olds could enjoy, I decided to approach publishing houses and test the waters. The result was my debut book ‘The Moon wants to be Spotless White.’

 

How did you think of the plot of The Moon wants to be Spotless White?

I cannot emphasize less, my enduring love for the moon. I can spend hours staring at the moon, imparting a different identity to it every time. For instance, I have imagined the moon to be the open mouth of a giant with a million eyes, a secret door to a parallel universe and what not, through my growing-up years. So when I had to explain the spots on the moon to my child, I decided to do away with stereotypes like the old man or rabbit on the moon. I thought, why can’t the spots be actual dirt patches splattered all over the moon? That triggered a series of ideas that finally culminated in the form of a story.

 

The cover of the book is very nice. Did you have a say in designing it?

Isn’t it? And frankly, though I could have had a say, given that my editor sent each and every illustration in the book for my approval, I did not have to say anything at all! I found it just perfect in the way it is sketched and painted as well as in the way it captures the essence of the story in just one picture. The illustrator, Suhita, seemed to have read my mind!

 

How do you manage to find time to write from your busy schedule?

I am essentially two things – restless and a night owl. Much to the chagrin of my grandmother, I am not at all an early morning person. So, after a day spent at work and substantial time in the evening spent with my family, I carve out that ‘me’ time once I’ve put the children to sleep. I like the quiet of the nighttime – it allows me to stare out of the window, undisturbed, and search for ideas in the darkness. And that’s when the moon talks to me J

 

What kind of books do you read? Who is your favourite author?

I read almost all kinds of books – fiction, non-fiction and books for children and adults alike. But I love the classics the best.

My favourite author has changed with time –  it was Enid Blyton as a kid, James Harriot as a tween (would you believe that I got initiated into Roald Dhal’s children’s books only after I had read his books for adults?), Erle Stanley Gardner as a teenager (I loved the Perry Mason series!), Ayn Rand and George Orwell as a college fresher . . . I guess each of these authors kind of complemented the mood I was in at that particular space in time.

Between entering college and now, I’ve read a slew of authors of varying genres and it is indeed a task to pick a favourite. But because of my love for the classics, I’ll pick Fyodor Dostoevsky. What happens with most authors is that you like the first book you read of theirs and then find the next one okay, the third so-so, and so on. But somehow, with Dostoyevsky, I’ve enjoyed all his books equally. So yes, he’s been my favourite for quite some time now.

 

What book are you currently reading?

I usually read 2-3 books of varying genres at a time. So currently, I’m in the middle of Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’ and Fritjof Capra’s ‘Tao of Physics’.

 

Any author who has influenced your writing?

I wouldn’t say any particular author has influenced my writing in terms of style, because I’m consciously trying to develop my own. But yes, I love Walt Whitman’s poetry and Dostoyevsky’s prose. And JRR Tolkein’s Mr.Bliss just knocked me off! A quirky story apart, you can feel the love he had for his children in every page of the book, which he himself has illustrated. Back home, I like almost all of Kushwant Singh’s short stories and at the risk of sounding predictable -Ruskin Bond’s work both for children and adults.

 

What is the next project that you are working on? When is the next book scheduled for release?

My next book is also an illustrated story for 5-8 year olds. It deals with the topic of death in the family and I have tried to approach the subject with a lot of sensitivity. It is expected to release early next year and I hope readers will receive it with as much love and enthusiasm as they have given my debut book – The Moon wants to be Spotless White.

 

Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

I can only say – ‘don’t procrastinate’. Whether it is with putting your pen on paper and getting those ideas rolling or reaching out to publishers with you manuscript, just don’t get tangled in the web of the everyday routine and put things off for some other time. Because that ‘later’ never really comes.

 

Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts with your readers.

 

Social Media links of Priya Narayanan for readers to find/follow/like:

websitehttp://www.priyanarayanan.com

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/priyanarayanan.authorpage

twitter: https://twitter.com/moonspotting

blog:

google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+PriyaNarayanan-author/about

moond

If you are interested in Priya Narayanan’s Book, here are the links:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Moon-Wants-Spotless-White/dp/9381576343/

 http://www.flipkart.com/moon-wants-spotless-white/p/itmdx9ywh2yvxv2e?pid=9789381576342

 http://www.crossword.in/books/moon-wants-spotless-whit/p-books-9789381576342.html

 

or if you want to find all links in one place, just visit:

http://priyanarayanan.com/buy-the-book-now.html

 

Next on the Author Interview Series: Interview 16: Milan Vohra on 31st July 2014

Scars of Love by R.S. Khambete

41wYl1BcwaL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU31_I received the book, Scars of love by R.S. Khambete as a review copy from Indireads. Thank You, Naheed, for the book. It is the story of Seema Trivedi set in Ahmedabad.

The Blurb:

A freak accident turns Seema’s perfect life upside down. Horribly burnt and in pain, her hospital bills are mounting, her job is at stake and her handsome fiancé seems more and more distant. If it wasn’t for the annoyingly determined doctor, Seema would have given up long ago. After all, what was there left to live for?

What will it take for Seema to accept her own scarred body, and fight to reclaim all that she has lost?

The story:

Seema, 27, an MBA is the manager of Intellitel Corporation’s branch office at Ahmedabad. She lives with her mother and younger sister, Reema and is engaged to Manoj Prakash, an investment banker. The story begins on Seema’s birthday, when she accidentally burns her thighs and right arm in a freak accident and her fiancé takes her to Parikh hospital for treatment. She does not know her doctor’s name and refers to him as the beast. When she is fit enough to go to office, she finds that the company is on the verge of bankruptcy due to non-payment of loan. She approaches her fiancé to help her but receives help from an unknown benefactor. And the doctor also helps her.

My take:

I liked the story a lot and the characters, especially the doctor who is considerate and understanding. The author has touched upon the reality of life very subtly. A well written book.

Book Source: Review copy from the publisher

Publisher: Indireads

Format: ebook

 

 

Author Interview Series: Interview 14: Shuchi Singh Kalra

unnamed (1)Shuchi Singh Kalra is a writer, editor and blogger based in India. She has been writing since 2005, and has freelanced with popular magazines such as Femina.in, Good Housekeeping, Home Review, Parent & Child, Vista, Dogs & Pups, Women’s Era and Time ‘N’ Style among many others. She also writes a monthly travel column for Investors India. She is the owner of Pixie Dust Writing Studio, an editing firm that services a global clientele, and the Indian Freelance Writers Blog, which is a fast-growing resource for Indian writers.

Shuchi started writing fiction only recently and has written a short story in anthologies such as Love Across Borders. Her first book, Done With Men was published by Indireads. Before she took to writing, Shuchi was an Optometrist at one of India’s leading eye hospitals and she believes it was the best decision she ever made. A self-confessed travel junkie, she now leads a happily nomadic life with her fauji husband and livewire toddler.

Thank you Shuchi for agreeing to this interview.

 

At the outset, could you please tell the readers about yourself?

For the most part I am a thinker and a dreamer who spends her time poring over books. I live in my own idealistic little world and am cruelly jolted back to reality every once in a while when earthly responsibilities beckon. I have been writing professionally for over seven years now as a freelance writer and editor, and I also run a small firm that goes by the name of ‘Pixie Dust Writing Studio’. While I have contributed to some anthologies in the past, Done With Men is my first solo offering.

I hold a degree in Optometry from the Bausch & Lomb School of Optometry. Realizing that I wasn’t really cut out for the profession, I went on to pursue a Masters in English Literature just for the sheer love of it. I spent my growing up years between Libya, Lucknow and Hyderabad, and now I roam the length and breadth of the country with my fauji husband and a toddler. When someone asks me “Where are you from?” I really have no answer because I feel that I belong everywhere and yet nowhere. I love traveling, books and food, not necessarily in that order. Oh, and Bollywood!

 

From an optometrist to a writer, how did this transformation come about?

I have always been fond of writing since I was a kid – it was something I was good at and I would often pen down my thoughts in a personal diary. While I enjoyed it, I never thought of it as a viable career choice (I come from a generation where everyone was expected to crack IITs and PMTs).  I worked as an Optometrist at a leading eye hospital in India and soon realized that peering into slit-lamps and prescribing glasses wasn’t my thing. I took up some freelance writing assignments to earn some extra money during my internship and only then did I realize the scope of it. Not surprisingly, I quit my job as soon as I could and got into it full-time. My family thought I was crazy to dump a seemingly good and lucrative career prospect to become a full-time writer. But as I look back, I believe it was the best decision I ever made.

 

You have written hundreds of articles. What motivated you to write a full fledged novel?

I have had the author itch for as long as I can remember. Writing and publishing a book has been on the top of my bucket list and I tried to write my first novel when I was ten years old. I watched a sci-fi movie on television and liked the story so much that I decided to pen it down as a novel (in one of those huge, hardbound registers). That was my first (plagiarized) attempt at novel writing.

Every time I would go to a bookstore, I would imagine a book with my name on the cover sitting on the shelves and visualize myself signing copies for eager readers. I have nearly half-a-dozen incomplete manuscripts lying in my computer, and as many story ideas in my head.

 

What were the challenges faced while writing the book?

I had a lot of fun writing ‘Done With Men’ and it was smooth sailing for the most part (except for the occasional writer’s block). The real challenge was marketing it – I wish the process wasn’t as time-consuming and energy sapping.

 

Is the book based on someone you know or heard of?

A friend of mine was telling me about her sister who went on a vacation to recover from a bad breakup and landed up injured in the hospital. That sparked the idea for this book and I just cooked up a story around it. Most women will be able to relate to Kairavi, the protagonist, because she is so real. She is the quintessential modern, urban, working girl who loves to travel and is a writer. Like any single girl her age, she is has her own wonky ideas of romance and is clumsy enough to land into trouble at the drop of a hat.  Many of her personality traits are borrowed from people I know. In fact, she is modeled after a random girl I spotted while walking around in Nainital. I was in the process of sketching out Kay’s character and that image of the girl just stuck. The choice of name also has a long story behind it – it means “moonlight”, which is also the meaning of the name I chose for my daughter. I just wanted to establish some kind of connect between my first biological baby and my first literary one.

 

The cover of your book, Done with Men, is very nice, did you have a say in designing it?

Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it. I didn’t have too much of a say in the cover design which is a good thing because Mariam Iftekar – a very talented artist from Pakistan – has handled it pretty well.

 

What kinds of books do you read? Who is your favourite author?

There are just too many! I have been a voracious reader since childhood and I never missed a chance to bury myself in a book. From the Bronte Sisters  to Enid Blyton, and Shakespeare to Sophie Kinsella, I’ve lapped them all up. I believe that my writing style carries the influence of all the authors I have read till date.

 

When you pick up books to read, what is your favourite genre?

While I enjoy most genres, chicklit holds a special place in my heart. Whether I am traveling, feeling blue or just plain bored, nothing lifts up my mood better than a lighthearted chicklit novel. I think the genre works for so many women because the characters are just like us, and are going through the same day-to-day problems. Then there are BFFs, clothes, shoes, fluffy romance, humor, lively pink covers – what’s not to like!

 

Which book are you currently reading?

Revisiting ‘The White Tiger’ by Arvind Adiga.

 

What is the next project that you are working on? When is the next book scheduled for release?

At the moment, I am working on another frothy romance than involves a plus-sized girl. The character is very close to my heart because fat girls never get to be heroines (which is so not fair!). Other than that, I have a couple of half-baked manuscripts, which I am trying to develop further.  The fantastic response from readers has prompted me to put my freelancing business on the backburner for a while and focus more on my role as an author. If all goes well, my next one should be out soon.

 

Any word of wisdom for aspiring authors?

Read the kind of books you want to write. Most importantly, chart out a schedule and stick to it. Write a little every day.

 

Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts with your readers.

 

Social Media links of Shuchi Singh Kalra for readers to find/follow/like:

websitewww. shuchikalra.com

facebookfacebook.com/shuchisinghkalra

twitter: @shuchikalra

blog: http://www.indianfreelancewriters.com/

google+: https://plus.google.com/107260296359759045861

 

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Buying links for Done with Men:

http://www.flipkart.com/done-with-men/p/itmdtksfkbwgc6zw?pid=DGBDTJKZETFDVQP3&otracker=from-search&srno=t_1&query=done+with+men&ref=bce8b44a-49e8-406e-89b5-173ca3a05a6e

Next on the Author Interview Series: Interview 15: Priya Narayanan on 29th July 2014

Piece of Cake by Swati Kaushal

Piece of cake by Swati Kaushal is the story of Minal Sharma, a 5’10” tall, career oriented 9780143065081girl set in Delhi.

The Blurb:

Minal Sharma, MBA. Five foot ten twenty-nine-year-old with a hyperactive conscience and a ton of attitude. Minal wants it all-a successful career at International Foods, a lifestyle to match, and a ‘totally cool’ guy who’ll buy her diamonds, bring her flowers, and laugh at her jokes. But given the unending record of her life’s embarrassments, it’s not going to be that simple. Especially when her mother has decided to take charge of the matrimonial front, and the choice Minal has to make is between a wild and sexy radio jockey and a brilliant but boring oncologist. And it doesn’t help that her new colleague on a make-or-break ‘Cakes’ assignment is a nasty, grudge-bearing kid from her childhood who just might be out to sabotage her career.

The characters:

Minal Sharma, 29, works with International Foods (IF) as an associate product manager. Her mother is a typical Indian mother who wants to see her marries and even posts an as in the “miscellaneous’ section for a suitable boy and sends a clipping of the ad as well as shortlisted grooms for her to peruse and meet.

The story:

Minal is asked by her boss, Vik, who is her hero, to shift from selling biscuits to cake. In comes Rana, her old classmate and enemy, and joins International Foods. She has to work with him in the cake venture and he does not miss a chance to put her down. Her project fails and she is transferred to the branch office. Her struggles continue.

On the personal front also, things are not going too well, she has to meet the boys chosen by her mother and then to top it all, she thinks her neighbor, who is also an RJ, is cute. Her mother comes and they meet an old family friend and she ends up getting engaged to him, but is she satisfied?

My take:

Interesting, realistic characters, simple writing and humour in between makes the book interesting. I identified with Minal at times. The author has used her experience in sales to tell the reader the hardships faced by the sales people. But where is the hero????

Book Source: Bought

Publisher: Penguin India

Author Interview Series: Interview 13: Aarti V Raman

unnamedAarti always wanted to be either a lawyer. Or a writer. So she tossed a coin and picked writer. Or rather, it picked her. Since then, she has valiantly struggled to put words to paper and bring characters and stories alive that make people sigh and laugh and enjoy every moment of. She has studied Journalism from Mumbai University, Creative Writing at Deakin, Australia and considers herself a student of life. Her three favorite words are, Happy-Ever-After. She is a Contemporary Romance Writer who has written several novels and published two. Her first book White Knight was published by Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd; in 2012 under the name Aarti V and her second book “Kingdom Come” was published by Harlequin India in 2014. She has written a short story in An Atlas of Love published by Rupa Publications. She loves Haagen Dazs ice-cream and dreaming up new plots for new heroes.

Thank you so much Aarti, for agree to this interview.

 

At the outset please tell us something about yourself.

At the outset, I would first like to thank you so much for having me on your blog. I adored your review of KC. Everything there is to be said about me, you’ve already said in the lovely intro you’ve given me, Arti. And it is a double pleasure to talk to a fellow Arti, albeit with different spelling. But if you do insist on knowing something about me, I adore French Fries. And I have given up on them for now because they make me sleepy when I should be writing.

 

How did you think of writing a book? Who/ What inspired you?

Kingdom Come was a labor of laziness, and then a frenzy of writing that happened in under one month. 27 days to be exact. I had always been fascinated with Kashmir and after visiting J&K in 2011 I was obsessed with setting a story here. But the story had to be equally special as the place and so I lazed around for a year before finally hitting on a hardened Bomb Defusal expert named Krivi Iyer and Akshay Kumar and Edgar Ramirez who are very much the inspiration behind the shaping of his character.

 

What were the challenges faced while writing the books?

White Knight is a story that is very, very close to my heart because it was the first novel I wrote that I decided was even close to “publishable”, if such a term exists. The challenging in writing it was that I stopped writing it back in 2008, while pursuing my Master’s in Australia. I only revisited it in 2010 after I had gotten my degree and started on a day job as a commercial content writer. Once I revisited it, all it required was a few weeks of diligent research, brainstorming with a pal of mine over the plot and I was off and running with the first draft.

With Kingdom Come, the challenge was time. The novel was to be submitted for the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award by January End. And I heard about it on Christmas Day, 2012. Luckily, the plot came fully formed into my head once I really sat down to figuring it out and I could just get on with writing it as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard. And of course, the other challenge to writing KC was The Woodpecker. How far is too far, was the question I kept thinking of, when I wrote those parts.

 

I know it is difficult for an author to choose between her books, but which of the two, is closer to your heart?

You’re wrong, Arti. It’s impossible for an author to choose between her books. It’s like asking me if I want French Fries with salt or ketchup! Both of them are special to me in their own way. With White Knight I got to see my name as the writer of a book. And with Kingdom Come I got to tell a story that I loved, from beginning to end. But, gun to my head, I guess I WOULD have to say that it is Kingdom Come which is more dear to me, simply because it has been published with my favorite publishing house, Harlequin India. Two birds, one stone and all that.

 

Between all the characters that you have created, who is your favourite?

You don’t ask easy questions, do you, Arti? (laughs) If I have to pick an absolute favorite, it would be a tie between Ariana White from White Knight and Noor Saiyed from Kingdom Come. Ariana White is a red-haired firecracker of a foreign news reporter, she is my alter ego in a lot of ways, right down to her love of high heels. And Noor Saiyed is bubbly, chipper, vivacious and intelligent on a variety of topics from Fashion to Faust. And my heroes Brandon and Krivi are both yummy enough to be the man of any girl’s dreams, including their creator.

 

The covers of the books are very nice, did you have a say in designing them?

Well, Arti, I was asked to think about what I wanted the cover for White Knight to look like and I sent them a movie poster of “The Adjustment Bureau” And as for, KC, I believe the technical term used is “iterations” and the end result was the fabulous cover everyone adores, including.

 

What kinds of books do you read? Who is your favourite author? Has any author influenced your writing?

I read mostly fiction. Thrillers, romances, chicklit, fantasy, young adult, young adult urban fantasy and the classics too. My most favorite author in the entire world would have to be Nora Roberts. I read her when I was 16 and I have been hooked onto her words ever since. She is the epitome of what all good writers should achieve with their writing. To not just write, but to inspire a generation of future writers.

 

When you pick up books to read, what is your favourite genre?

I am afraid, the answer is romance. I absolutely adore romance of every kind.

 

Which book are you currently reading?

I am reading India was One by An India, Paul Hoffman’s “The Left Hand of God” and contemplatingpicking up Adite Banerjie’s next without meeting her, because of your lovely review.

 

Both your books are thrillers, what is your next book like? When is it scheduled for release?

Both my books are romantic thrillers, not just mere thrillers, Arti. And as for my next book, there are two that I am currently writing. One a romantic thriller for Harlequin India, and another a traditional romance for M&B, as well as one in the pipeline with Rupa. Releases for all of them should happen as early as next year. 2014 belongs to Kingdom Come.

 

Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

It’s hard. It should be. All good, worthwhile results comes from toiling hard. But if you have an irrepressible imagination and access to a keyboard, get started on it today. It’s never too early to start typing “Once Upon A Time…”

 

Social Media links of Aarti V. Raman for people to find/follow/like
Twitter: @RT_writes
Blog: aartivraman.blogspot.in
Goodreads: Aarti V Raman

 website: www.aartivraman.blogspot.in

facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/aartivraman

google+: +Aarti V Raman +kingdomcomethebook

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Buy Links:

At Crossword, Landmark, Granth and other Bookstores

Online Retailers

Infibeam:http://tinyurl.com/pmmtsy3

Amazon India:http://tinyurl.com/oanlpd8

Flipkart: http://tinyurl.com/nvayakt

 

 

 

 

Next on the Author Interview Series: Interview 14 Shuchi Singh Kalra 0n 27th July 2014