Interview with the Author: RUPA BHULLAR

new.jpgRupa Bhullar was born in India and spent her early childhood years in Jaipur before moving to Chandigarh, the place she still calls home. She relocated to the United States in 2000, and currently lives with her family in New Jersey.

She serves as the Director of Finance and Business Development at a leading software global corporation that provides digital and financial software solutions.

She holds a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Charter and a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration.

Thank you, Rupa, for sparing time and agreeing to this interview. It is indeed a pleasure to interview you.

Please tell us something about yourself.

For me, I have a very basic life. I am married, have two sons and I live in the US. And workwise, my background is essentially all finance. I work with a software company in the capacity of director of finance. Writing however, is where my true passion lies.

From a finance person to a writer, how did this transformation happen?

What happens is that when you are younger, you really don’t know who are, you don’t sit and analyse or chart a path the compliments you as an individual. You go through a natural progression say after class twelfth, you take up commerce and then MBA and onto CFA, one thing leads to the other as a logical sequence to the preceding step. Then you refer to your friends, oh that’s what they are doing, OK might as well do it. You don’t think about choosing a career that early on in life. And then by the time you start to realize who you are, it’s mostly too late because you already have the experience under your belt, you have the qualification that you’ve been building on top of. Sometimes not having done much actually can leave a lot of things open to you. But I think, my struggle started to show up when I would be at work. I know I am good with what I do but I don’t think I am really the numbers person.

For me it was that conflict. I felt I was more creative and I was always the dreamer and I would often think. What am I doing? I felt trapped as though I was cheating on myself. But now the problem was how do you tell someone that after all the years of doing what I have done, I want to write a book. It was a constant debate which started to haunt me louder as I got to that point in life when people will tell you that you must be really happy, you have a good career, kids and all that. That’s where the disconnect makes you realize it is not like that, somewhere you feel inadequate because you want to express yourself, you feel like you are compromising on your truth. I think that to me that was kind of very hard. I am so glad this book happened as a reconciliation for me (laughs).

Can you tell us about your debut work of fiction, The Indigo Sun, what came first, the title or the story?

They came together. The book was somewhat underway when I discovered the title with my Jodhpur travel. By the time, two chapters were down. From the moment I arrived in Jodhpur, there was a connection. In the middle of this desert in the scorching month of June, we were greeted by a rain shower which to me indicated something good. I could sense parts of my story thriving around me, there was a sense of belonging. Jodhpur is known as the Indigo City and the Sun City, I decided to call my story The Indigo Sun. Now I had the title and I did not know how it would fit into the story. I was thinking, as the book is based in Rajasthan and Indigo Sun is very appropriate, but how would it link into the book was the question, but it all came together and it merged beautifully.

What is the premise behind this book?

The premise behind the book was the same fundamental question that I was struggling with. That a big part your happiness in life is being able to live who you authentically are. And I think it’s not what you have in life, it’s not even a certain amount of money or the lifestyle.

Like Maya, at heart, she didn’t really care about a lot of things. She even had a good relationship. All she wanted was an expression of who she’s forgotten within her. So, that to me is the premise of the book.

Finding yourself and discovering yourself is important in life and then expressing yourself is even more important. And third is giving back to the society. Because it is one thing to say that I can go out and do something for myself but the big message in the book is also that happiness becomes very shallow when it is limited to you.

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

A little bit, yes. But they did a fabulous job. The credit goes entirely goes to the team- I will not take any credit personally. The only thing I had was with the girl to be representative of Maya, we were debating but they just came up with it and I saw it and I loved the cover. I had a vision of Maya in my mind, but this is entirely subjective, each one of us will have a different Maya in mind so the cover leaves much to imagination and a little to thought. It is fantastic.

Even your Maya had blonde hair?

Actually, I did not think of her hair while I was writing about her and when I did see the image, I thought, isn’t this too blonde for my Maya (laughs). But as I said every person would have a different Maya in their mind. So I think, this worked well for most and it is a beautiful cover.

The experiences that Maya undergoes, does that have any relation to the events in your life?

A lot, actually, for me. I do feel that for me to write about something, there has to be a touch of reality. Does not have to be an entire description of what I went through, but something even very small like that Jaipur part of it. We lived in Jaipur for two years, so for me, it gave me a logical authority to say that this is how it was for me.

I think questions and dilemmas that she faces in her own life are similar to the ones I agonized over. So I think a lot of things are inspired from my own life and even from lives of people around me. So it is very close to reality.

So actually, you grew up in India?

Yes, I grew up in India and moved to the US in 2000, so it is eighteen years I have been there.

Now about the characters in the book, were they figments of your imagination or influenced by real people?

Characters were just a figment of my imagination. And it was also that the characters were slowly coming together as the story evolved. I didn’t really sketch it out that this would happen in the first chapter and this in the second chapter, I just wrote. And I think chapter by chapter, even when I would start to write, I would not know who’s going to come into the story today. So, I think, they came on their own and then I tried to determine a little bit of the character but as you progress, the character develops itself, you almost feel like that they are living there, that it is happening and this is what they are saying and sometimes, it would be like, now I do not want to write about this. But then the character insists that you make them do certain things in certain ways. So it becomes a very dynamic equation. Just living with those characters and seeing, you almost are a spectator at times and at times, you are the director. So, it’s a happy marriage (laughs).              `

What were the challenges faced while writing the book?

Biggest challenge was time, the only challenge was time (laughs). Everything else was pretty smooth. I think I was really lucky to have gotten such a great publishing house, this was the first publishing house I approached, they took me on, the book came out and now it is on the bestseller list, Oh my God. I guess it was really meant to be.

But the only challenge was finding the time, how do I do it? It was extremely frustrating because I would only write on weekends because there is home, work and everything else. You have to drive your kids and you have to be at work. So I would write Friday afternoon to Sunday. But by the time you would start the next weekend, you forget what you had written. So then you have to go back, start reading and dissecting and then when you are in the flow of the moment, when the story is going somewhere interesting, it is just getting there, and suddenly you have to drop it and leave it all to come back to it. It was very frustrating.

I would often feel, why doesn’t everyone just leave me alone and not talk to me for two months (laughs). But it is all about balancing, for every woman it is a challenge to do the things you want to do. But you just have to make the best of it.

That was my next question, how do you strike a balance between your work and your home?

There is no balance. I feel I am always running behind (laughs). So you just manage. You don’t ever really feel like this has been done perfectly. You just do what you can do, when you can do and how you can do it.

But maybe the advantage of taking it up the next week would be that you would be editing the previous part and then you would proceed further.

Yes, so actually I would review my work. Better to look at the silver lining, what happens, happens for the best (laughs).

What was the hardest part of writing your book, other than time? 

Other than time, I think editing. Writing was very easy but going back, changing things and reading it over and over and the review, I think that was the bigger part of the process that was challenging. Just revisiting, constantly questioning, deleting, editing, all of those minute repetitive things, those were tiresome. Writing on the other hand was very enjoyable.

Do you see writing as a career? 

Absolutely, it is my career, it’s my retirement plan (laughs).

What are you writing now?

I am going to start my next book very soon and that is going to be not as philosophical as this one. It should be a lighter read, but it will also be about questions related to life, love and relationships. What I want to project in there is a little bit of flashback. I think, it is going to be the present moment characters sometimes going back into their past, maybe set somewhere in the 50s or 60s, in early India.

I do think it will be a romantic novel but not in the stereotypical sense. It will be a delicate interplay of human emotions, past and present and the unanswered questions that life poses.

The protagonist is looking at current day relationships in light of her past. As with all I love, there will be plenty of travel.

And when do you think, you would be done with this book?

I am hoping to start soon, but for now I owe a little more time to The Indigo Sun that is already out and being received well, so I think another two months, I should be ready to start. But I want to do two things before I write my next one– one is some research, specially related to the cities and times, to make it as real as I can for the reader and the other thing is, I want to travel to a couple of places even if for a day or two to get my fix of reality.

So, you’ll be coming back to India?

Yes, I’ll be coming back to India. If I can do it even for a few days, I would be happy.

What is your favourite genre, when you pick up books to read?

I really gravitate towards philosophy (laughs). I don’t read fiction a lot actually. I enjoy some of the works but typically I like poetry, I like philosophy, something that makes me think and of course I am a dreamer at heart (laughs).

Which book are you reading now?

Right now I have started reading some of the Indian authors because that’s one thing that I hadn’t done much of. So now when I spend time with my books, I can conveniently claim that I am investing in my industry (laughs). I read Preeti Shenoy’s A Hundred Little Flames just recently.

On the US side, I am going back to classics. I recently read Hemmingway’s The Old Man and The Sea which had been on my reading list for long. I am also halfway through Wuthering Heights. For me these are essential timeless reads so I want to get through these first.

Who is your favourite author?

Present day authors, definitely Paulo Coelho, I like him a lot. And in general, Kahlil Gibran was another one that I liked a lot. Rabindranath Tagore, Rumi. Among the fiction authors, I like Elizabeth Gilbert, I really enjoy her writing.

Any author who has influenced your writing?

All of the names I mentioned above. Especially, Tagore is a huge influence, Kahlil Gibran is another one. Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist was one of the first books I’d read. All these authors are very instrumental in shaping my thinking.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? 

New authors, well not exactly new but I would say Elizabeth Gilbert- I look forward to her books, I like her writing style, she’s funny, she is very understated. So I like her writing, I look forward to her books. I am also exploring the scene with the Indian writers. I’ve started to read a lot of them but the challenge is that my reading style is rather limited (laughs).

I feel I read only certain types of books, plus time is another thing I constantly strive to create. So I do a lot of audible actually, audio books, because I drive a lot. It is the most productive use of my driving hours. I look forward to my drives. I always supplement it with a physical book, so when I am home, I pick up from where I left off and then when I get in the car, I listen to it and the story continues.

Any advice for new authors?

My greatest advice for all aspiring authors is to just believe- in yourself and in the power of stories that want to be told. Do not overthink it, do not question and do not hesitate. Just be determined and don’t stop walking even when you can’t see the path. It may not happen in your time but if you want it enough, it will happen for sure.  Excuses will always be plenty, and excuses will always be there but dreams …. They are special and worth holding onto … never give up on those.

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

I have not experienced it so far, like I often joke that I did not have the luxury of thinking that I could afford the writer’s block. I was in such a rush to finish it that this time I escaped maybe next time it’ll come get me. I’ve heard of it so I’m sure it exists. But with me, I don’t know if it was time constraint or I was plain lucky that it didn’t happen.

You have the support of your family in your writing?

My family has been very supportive, but there are time bound demands I have to meet. Overall, they have been as supportive as they can be even with the travel, after-promotions. They are all helping out. But, initially, just to convince them that you are serious about it especially when you are going into something that’s so unrelated and random, people are skeptical. There is also a level of self-doubt and guilt on if you are taking time away from this and you are taking time away from that, is it worth it? So that skepticism is always there. I think it is really challenging. Initially nobody is going to say that leave everything, write your book, it is your dream. This does not happen in real life.

In real life, you have to make do with everything. You have to prove it to the point where people start believing in it.

Thank you so much for the interview, Rupa. All the best for the next book, looking forward to it.

Social Media links of Rupa Bhullar for people to find/follow/like
Twitter: rupa_bhullar

Goodreads: Rupa Bhullar

Instagram: rupa_bhullar

website: rupabhullar.com

facebook:  Rupa Bhullar @BhullarRupa (author page)

I am thankful to the publisher, Rupa publications for givingme an opportunity to interview the author.

Author Interview Series: Interview with Adiana Ray

author picAdiana enjoys reading murder mysteries, classic romances and playing Pictionary (the noisier the better). She believes in the Zen tenet ‘each state has a 1000 truths’. Every person brings their own unique experiences to a situation, which makes them see things differently and interpret it in their own way.

Couple this with the winds of change that are sweeping across the Indian sub-continent, with the rise of the meritocracy, breaking down of social barriers, rising education levels and professional representation for women in the work force, and more and more men and women working side by side on a daily basis; at the same time family ties, ideas of beauty and attractiveness in a partner and cultural expectations haven’t exactly been thrown out of the window.

All these things together throw up interesting circumstances, actions and reactions among people. This is what inspires her to write, trying to see each relationship in a different way, and always having a new story to tell. When she writes, her story could be a fantasy, but will be a believable one that could happen to anyone of us and her focus, above all, is to entertain the reader. Rapid Fall is her first published book.

Thank you Adiana for agreeing to this interview.

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

I like reading, cooking, traveling and trying out new stuff. About five years ago I made a promise to myself to try two new things every year; I have managed to keep that promise. So done things like belly dancing, learnt to play golf and tennis, went for a web designing class and toboggan riding etc, etc. This year it is going to be mahjong and swimming. It has been great fun. I absolutely dislike pseudo intellectuals and drama kings and queens. I believe change is ever constant and when you move on don’t look back.

How did you think of writing a book?

Well I love to read and have always liked to write as well. Went through the usual gamut of writing opportunities in school and college. Then did an MBA and besides reports didn’t write much else till I gave up working when my children came along. It was my publisher Indireads who asked me to send them a few story ideas and then we just took it from there.

Have you done a course on creative writing or is the talent natural?

No, I haven’t done any course but I would really like to do one as I think that would help me a lot as a writer.

What motivated you to write a full fledged novel?

Meeting up with Indireads…I guess. They asked me to send them a few story ideas and then we discussed it and Rapid Fall was born. However technically I still have to write a full fledged novel as Rapid Fall is really a novella due to it being shorter than a novel.

What were the challenges faced while writing the book?

I didn’t know anything about structure, flow, character development or anything so I had to research stuff as I went along and of course the editors could be quite ruthless. Besides there were times I was just stuck and didn’t know how to proceed. I knew where I wanted to go, just didn’t know how to get there. Vocabulary was another challenge. In our day to day life our vocabulary is so limited that even though you have access to words and phrases your short term memory has a problem retrieving them. So you know there is a better word out there but it is just floating around beyond your grasp, Which is what I found very, very frustrating. Besides due to it being a ‘novella’ you have to work within a smaller word count and that does constrain your descriptions and character development: on the plus side though it can move at a fast pace and I like that.

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

No, not directly. In fact I make it a point not to use friends or their experiences in my stories. When I say fiction it is completely and wholly that. Having said that I lived in a working woman’s hostel when I first came to Mumbai and the character of Sonia could have been based on many of the girls who had come to the metropolis to make a living. Also I have worked for many years in Mumbai so do know how corporates operate which gave me my background.

The cover of your book, Rapid Fall, is very nice, did you have a say in designing it?

That was wholly the publisher’s design. They showed it to me after it was done and luckily I liked it. Authors don’t get too much say in this area.

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

I am a very eclectic reader and go with anything that comes my way; result is my list of favourite authors keep changing. Right now I would go with Suzanne Collins.

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

All time favourites are legal dramas and romance; recently though I seem to be veering towards fantasy too.

Which book are you currently reading?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Norwegian Wood by

And some of Jazz Singh’s romantic novels that are in the pipeline.

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

Working on two or three things right now, including a collection of short stories and a historical romance. When is the release scheduled? That my dear is the million dollar question…wish I knew.

Any word of wisdom for aspiring authors?

Read! Read! Read! Anything you can get your hands on. Read critically; look at their structure, their dialogue, their descriptions to get an idea of what you like and what would work for you.

 

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

 

Social Media links of Adiana Ray for readers to find/follow/like:

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adiana.ray

twitter: @adrayyyed

blog: adianaray.blogspot.com

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

 

rapid-fallBuying links for Rapid Fall:

Amazon : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H0NPS16http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H0NPS16

Amazon India: http://tinyurl.com/motkghahttp://tinyurl.com/motkgha

Flipkart : http://tinyurl.com/lk6f5dqhttp://tinyurl.com/lk6f5dq

http://tinyurl.com/lk6f5dq

Indireads : www.indireads.comhttp://www.indireads.com/

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Interview with Adite Banerjie

3c001-adite2bbanerjie2bclose2bup2biAdite Banerjie discovered Mills & Boon romances and their amazing assortment of drool-worthy TDH heroes in her teens. Around the same time she fell in love with song-and-dance Bollywood romances. Growing up in a home with a filmmaker dad who worked in the world’s largest film industry (yes, Bollywood!) and a voracious reader for a mom, it was inevitable that she would come to love both films and books. During her exciting and fulfilling career as a business journalist, she found the time to indulge her passion for both Bollywood romances and M&Bs. But after years of reporting and writing about the real world, she chose to return to her love for fiction and turned screenwriter. She turned Harlequin author after winning the 2012 Passions Aspiring Authors Contest. Her debut novel was released in September 2013. Her second novel  “Trouble Has a New Name” was released by Harlequin in July 2014. Thank you, Adite for sparing the time for this interview and congratulations on the International launch of your debut novel.

 

At the outset, please tell the readers something about yourself?

I was a business journalist for many years. Then I got into content writing; worked on projects for research agencies and social development organisations before getting into fiction writing. I also write screenplays for documentaries and feature films.

From a business journalist to an author, how did this transformation come about?

My father was in the film industry and I have always been interested in writing screenplays. However, writing Mills & Boons had not crossed my mind until I saw an ad for the Aspiring Authors Contest. My journey as an author started when I won the contest.

And now a screenwriter, are you working on something now?

I have many ideas for scripts and plenty of half-written ones in my computer. Right now, as I have a contract with Harlequin to write two more books, I’m focusing on those. But you never know when opportunity knocks, and should there be a chance to write a screenplay, I’ll definitely grab it!

What is more difficult, writing romances or scripts?

They are different types of writing and both have their own sets of challenges.

How do you draw inspiration to write?                    

I draw inspiration from everyday stories in the papers, magazines, the internet. Sometimes some image may trigger off a thought and I go down the ‘what if?’ track.

The covers of both the editions of your book are very nice, did you have a say in designing them?

The covers are designed by the Harlequin team’s talented designers and I have been fortunate to get such beautiful covers for both editions of my first book and my new book, Trouble Has a New Name.

How does it feel to be an international writer?

It’s quite surreal and I still haven’t quite got used to the fact that my book is now available internationally.

You are a voracious reader, did this is some way help in writing books?

Earlier, I used to read only to enjoy the story. But ever since I have turned an author myself, I have become very conscious about how different authors structure their stories, how they use point-of-view and other finer points. I do think reading different genres has helped me in my writing.

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

I read across all genres. I enjoy romances as well as thrillers, historical novels and non-fiction. My favourite author is Amitava Ghosh.

Has any author influenced your writing?

Amitava Ghosh’s writing is always an inspiration. I also admire many romance authors including Sarah Morgan, Kate Hewitt, Nicola Marsh, Sophie Kinsella and many others.

Trouble has a new name has just been released and has been a stupendous success. How do you feel?

I don’t know about ‘stupendous success’ but I am ovewhelmed at the stupendous response the book has got from readers and reviewers. It’s  a fantastic feeling and I’m loving every moment of it.

What are the new projects in the pipeline?

Am writing a romantic-thriller for Harlequin India which is tentatively titled “No Safe Zone”. Hopefully, it should be out sometime mid- next year. Fingers crossed! 🙂

Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

Believe in yourself and keep working on your craft.

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

Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Arti.

 

Social Media links of Adite Banerjie for people to find/follow/like:

website: http://aditebanerjie.com

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AditeBanerjieWriter

twitter: @aditehttp://twitter.com/F2tweet

google+: adite99

 

Book Links for Trouble has a new name

Flipkart.com: http://www.flipkart.com/trouble-has-new-name/p/itmdx9v2nfbruhsn?pid=9789351065135&otracker=from-search&srno=t_1&query=trouble+has+a+new+name&ref=22f9dc86-9d63-44ea-ac39-84c0bb2a41b2

Harlequin India: http://www.hqnindia.com/title/trouble-has-a-new-name                       fa1a7-thebookclub-logo                      17780-troublehasanew2bname

 

 

Interview with Sundari Venkatraman, the author of MEGHNA

Three books down and many, many more to go, Sundari Venkatraman believes that books should transport one into a world of wonder. She has tried drawing, painting, tailoring, embroidery, knitting, gardening and an umpteen other things before she discovered WRITING. A voracious reader, she is a fan of Georgette Heyer, Julie Garsundarivenkatramanwood, Janet Dailey and Penny Jordan. Jeffrey Archer truly inspires her and a hot favorite is JK Rowling. Thank You, Sundari, for taking out time from your schedule for this interview.

Thank you Arti for hosting me on your blog and for that lovely introduction!

 

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

I am a voracious reader since I was about three years old. I have always been fascinated with words. I used to feel envious of authors who can write so beautifully. But I was hopeless at stringing even a couple of sentences together. While being a great fan of Mills & Boon, I used to visualize Indian heroes and heroines every time I read a book. When inspiration struck suddenly at the ripe age of 40, I began to pen my first novel. There was no looking back after that.

 

All the three books are romances.  Are you a romantic person at heart?

Absolutely. I love reading romances and writing them even more so.

 

The plot of your first book, Double Jeopardy, revolves around a girl and twin brothers. How did this come about?

Twins have always fascinated me. But I wanted my book to be different from Bollywood twins where one usually gets lost in childhood and they find each other as adults. Normal twins grow up together, playing pranks on the world around them. I had Arth and Ansh in my book and one heroine Sanya. I wanted both the men to be good but Sanya had to choose only one of them. Thinking along those lines, I landed up with the plot. I wish I could have made it a longer story with more interaction between the twins. But that did not fit in with the editorial guidelines and hence the story is what it is today.

 

Your second book, The Malhotra Bride, is based on an arranged marriage. Do you believe in them at this day and age?

The Malhotra Bride is the first book that I ever wrote. Arranged marriages happen all around us in India. In fact, many NRIs flock down to India to find a bride. The methods of ‘meet and greet’ have evolved in metros. But I don’t think arranged matches will fade away from Indian society completely, ever.

 

Your third book, Meghna, is a sweet story on family friends. Was this story based on someone you know or heard of?

No, I don’t think so. At least not consciously.

 

The covers of all the books justify the saying, “A picture speaks more than words”. How much say did you have while designing the covers?

Double Jeopardy’s cover was a complete and awesome surprise. Shehna Khan is the artist. Indireads, the publisher, had that made for the book. The Malhotra Bride and Meghna – I take responsibility for the cover ideas while the artists’ Prashant Kamble & Nithin Narayan did super jobs of both of them. They had to redo quite a bit before the final product was done to our mutual satisfaction.

 

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

First of all, I would like to make it very clear that I love all my books. There are more than three, by the way. If you insist on my choosing, then I would say The Malhotra Bride as it is my first book. The book amazed me as I penned it as I never could believe that I was capable of writing before this one was born.

 

You have mentioned that you are a voracious reader. Can anyone who is a voracious reader write books?

Only a voracious reader can write books.

 

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

I love Jeffrey Archer’s books – his novels and short stories. My favourite romance authors are Carole Mortimer, Penny Jordan, Janet Dailey, Margaret Way, Julie Garwood, Nora Roberts and many others. Indian M&B authors like Adite Banerjie, Aarti V. Raman and Reet Singh are truly inspiring. I like a lot of Indireads authors – Sumeetha Manikandan, Andy Paula, Zeenat Mahal, MM George, Jazz Singh, Neelima Vinod, Parul Tyagi & Yamini Vijendran to mention some.

I recently read Ravi Subramanian, Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi and liked their works.

My all-time favourite is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Ms. Rowling is the most amazing author I can think of.

I adore Georgette Heyer’s works. I sincerely hope to write like her sometime in my life. Her characters are so witty. I wonder whether I could ever manage that.

I think all the authors I read have influenced my writing in some way or the other.

 

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

I am working on an anthology of short stories – all romances. I plan to release it by end of September, 2014.

 

Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?

Keep writing and never give up.

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

 

Social Media links of Sundari Venkatraman for readers to find/follow/like:

facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/AuthorSundariVenkatraman

twitter: https://twitter.com/sundarivenkat

bloghttp://sundarivenkatraman.blogspot.in/

google+: Sundari Venkatraman

 

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If you are interested in Sundari Venkatraman’s Books, here are the links:

MEGHNA:

USA: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KUPUURS

INDIA: http://www.amazon.in/dp/B00KUPUURS

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00KUPUURS

CANADA: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00KUPUURS

AUSTRALIA: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00KUPUURS

 

THE MALHOTRA BRIDE:

India: http://www.amazon.in/dp/B00IE4R20U

USA: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IE4R20U

United Kingdom: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00IE4R20U

Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00IE4R20U

Australia: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00IE4R20U

Germany: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00IE4R20U

 

DOUBLE JEOPARDY:

http://www.indireads.com/books/double-jeopardy/

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H7QUELU

http://www.amazon.in/dp/B00H7QUELU

 

Author interview series

10366261_352308101583987_7067645022377159720_nThank you dear authors for being a part of my endevour. I had never expected such a heartwarming response. The interviews gave me an insight into successful writing.

I would once again like to thank all of you, not in any particular order, Aarti V Raman, Anuradha Prasad, Reet Singh, Ruchi Vasudeva, Sundari Venkatraman, Adite Banerjie, Priya Narayanan, Tanu Jain, Sumeetha Manikandan, Sarita Varma, Milan Vohra, Neelam Saxena Chandra, Shweta Ganesh Kumar, Falguni Kothari, Bhargavi Balachandran and Shuchi Singh Kalra. THE SWEET SIXTEEN.

This has motivated me to do some more author interviews. I hope the responses are as overwhelming as this series.

 

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

 

 

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