09 December, 2018

#Interview with Sadhna Shanker, #Author of Ascendance

About the Author:

Sadhna Shanker is an Indian author, blogger and civil servant. This is her fifth book, and second fiction work after “Never a Disconnect’ in 2010. She has written for the International Herald Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Indian Express, Huffington Post and The Wire. She blogs at http://zindagitalkies.wordpress.com. A PhD in Economics, she is a passionate wordsmith and has an avid interest in books, movies and theatre. She lives in New Delhi and is in the Indian Revenue Service.  

Social links:
Facebook * Twitter * Blog

An Interview with the Author:

How did you come up with the idea of your current story?
Ascendance grew over time within me spurred on by life, being a woman in India and the rapid changes that are happening around us. As sexuality and gender identities have been getting blurred and more fluid, I really wondered what would be the shape of things to come if the reproductive link between men and women is demolished. I do think we are moving towards that in the future. Cloning and incubation of babies outside the female form will dramatically change the way men and women interact. The idea was something I decided to write about.  When I started out I had somewhat nebulous ideas about the potential of technology to transform our existence. As I researched for the book, my own ideas changed. We are moving towards a huge change in human life – I don’t have doubts about it anymore. The future will arrive much faster than we want to accept or can foresee. 

Tell us about your writing process. 
Ascendance took me eight years to bring out in final form. How and where you write depends on your comfort zone. I have learnt one thing in the long years of juggling job, family and writing – there is never a perfect time to write. Or do whatever it is that you want to do. Waiting for a time when all other things will be in place is like an economics model – never a reality. The time is now. You have to find order in the chaos around. I write in my own home on a desktop. I have not got used to a laptop at all. 

What is your favourite scene in the book? Why? 
Ascendance is literary science fiction. It does not have the human race battling alien species or machines. The theatre of the book is the change in life of men and women that is driven by technology. It tries to imagine a world thousands of years in the future, where life is indefinitely extendable and the reproductive link between man and woman has been terminated, and each can clone their off-spring independently. The philosophical underpinnings of the story are layered on top by a whodunit. Interestingly, what I enjoyed the most was writing about Earth in the 23rd and 24th century, and imagining how life as we know it could be transformed with the rapid change in technology in all fields.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks? 
As a writer I feel some character always does reflect some of the author’s beliefs, biases and maybe even prejudices. In Ascendance I feel Maya, the woman’s consciousness from 24th century Earth, who makes her way to the new planet Elone does reflect that. Especially her lust for life and her spirit of enquiry. 

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style? 
Yes I do. Though I must admit when I am writing a book, reading becomes secondary. I pick it up again when I have finished with a book. I love reading fiction, especially whodunits, science fiction, and increasingly non-fiction too. My favourite authors would be Ayn Rand and Agatha Christie. I think the former inspired me to write stories that say something beyond the story, and the latter an eye for detail. These days I am enjoying reading ‘Sapeins’’ by Yaval Harari. 

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer till date?  
The best advice I have got is always from the editor of the book. More often than not, the suggestions enhance the book manifold. A good, sincere editor is your best friend in the rather tedious and often times painful editorial process.

If you were stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry? 
- Blank paper and pen
- My radio
- My swim suit

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
My bucket list mainly is about travel – I want to see the Northern lights and travel to Antarctica. In my dreams I want to go to Mars!

What do you have in store next for your readers?
Lots of ideas are playing in my head. Sometimes I think of a sequel to Ascendance, at others something totally different. I still have to decide.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
When I was young trainee officer, a senior had come to our Academy to address us. He had said that always maintain a hobby, something that engages you apart from work. Overtime I have understood the wisdom of his words. In the hustle, bustle, stresses and strains of everyday life, writing is like an oasis for me. When I get down to write, everything else recedes in the background. So it actually works both as a passion and as a place of my own to retreat to. All of us should have something in our lives that engages and keeps us alive!

About the Book:

The night Seeni died, the fault line reappeared. The existing equilibrium between men and women, the antagonistic species that inhabit Elone began to crumble. 

If a clash happens, how long would it last? What would remain? Who? How many? Were they heading for a time like the last days on Earth?

As each side regroups along the Fence, Maya, a woman’s consciousness from twenty third century Earth, reveals the past intertwined existence of men and women. Would knowledge of their shared past change the course of the future?

Delving into ideas of divergence, immortality and consequent new social constructs, 'Ascendance' is set in a world that represents a possible, and not a dystopian future. 

Book Links:

06 December, 2018

#Interview with Kevin Missal, #Author of The Kalki Trilogy

About the Author:

Kevin Missal is a twenty-two year old graduate of St. Stephen’s College. He has previously released the first book of the Kalki Trilogy, Dharmayoddha Kalki: Avatar of Vishnu, which became a National best-seller and received praise from newspapers such as Millennium Post and Sunday Guardian who have termed it as "2017’s mythological phenomenon". Kevin loves reading, watching films, and building stories in his mind. He lives in New Delhi.

Contact the Author:
Facebook * Twitter

An Interview with the Author:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
Just the envy I had that if other writers can become writers, so can I. Haha. I think storytelling was in me since childhood. I remember playing with action figures and creating a narrative out of them at the age of ten. It was my first stint of being a storyteller. 

What inspires you to write?
Mostly, my readers nowadays. And also that I need to get paid regularly haha. 

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
It was all in Kalki Puran. I just had to make it contemporary. 

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Absolutely. Around 100 unpublished books. I broke my last laptop which held all these stories, unfortunately. I would have read them otherwise. 

Tell us about your writing process.
I sit down. I plot my book. I begin writing. I eat food. I continue writing. It’s very simple. There’s no trick here. Though, I do listen to a lot of musical themes. 

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
In Kalki Book 2? It’s Arjan’s final showdown with Urvashi. I think that was a defining moment for the character. 

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Oh hell, no. Though they did inherit my friend’s quirks. 

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
That I can’t write if there is noise happening in the room. It has to be complete silence. 

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I love reading. I love Brandon Sanderson and he taught me everything about characters, structure and most of all revision. 

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
Write what you know. 
It was by a very popular literary agent in India and I didn’t listen to him and I ended up writing about gods and battles. So yeah, that was the best piece of advice I never executed. 

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Enjoy what you write. If you are not enjoying the process, the reader won’t too. 

What would be the Dream Cast for you book if it was to be turned into a movie?
I really don’t think I am eligible for saying this. I guess when the producer comes on board, he will decide but I would really want Tiger Shroff to play Kalki. 

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
A boat. 
A map to my home. 
And enough food for the boat ride. 

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
Not really. I chill with my friends and watch Netflix. 

About the Book:
Explosive Sequel to National Bestseller 'Dharmayoddha Kalki: Avatar of Vishnu' (Book 1)
After a defeat at the hands of Lord Kali, Kalki Hari must journey towards the Mahendragiri mountains with his companions to finally become the avatar he is destined to be. But the road ahead is not without peril . . .
Not only is he trapped by the cannibalistic armies of the Pisach, he is also embroiled in the civil war of the Vanars. And in midst of all this, he meets a face from the legends.
Meanwhile, Manasa, the sister of the late Vasuki, plots to overthrow Lord Kali by bringing a massive war to his kingdom. But Naagpuri, her homeland, has been infiltrated by their sworn enemy, the Suparns. Not only does she need to protect her kingdom from the Suparns, she must also protect her close ones from the league of conspirators at her own home. Who can she really trust? And will she be able to put an end to Lord Kali’s rule?
As the plot thickens and Lord Kali sees his ambition crushed right before his eyes, he comes to know about his race and its history that threatens to destroy the very fabric of this world’s reality. Kalyug has begun.

Can Kalki become the avatar in time before it finally unfolds? 
Will Manasa fight through the internal politics to bring an invasion against Lord Kali? 
Can the secret that changes everything change Lord Kali as a person too? 

Book Links:

03 December, 2018

#BookReview :: Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot #17) by Agatha Christie

The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything - until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: `I'd like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.' Yet in this exotic setting' nothing is ever quite what it seems... 

Goodreads * Amazon

I recently re-read this Agatha Christie book for a reading challenge. I had last read it while I was still in college.

Death on the Nile is a typical Agatha Christie Mystery in the sense that her best works are the ones where the cast and characters are kind of stranded or confined in a limited space. ‘And Then There Were None’ and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ were two of her other such works that has been widely appreciated. In this case, the murder happens on a cruise boat on the river Nile and the victim is Linnet Ridgeway, a girl who had it all – money, style and a handsome new husband. So, why was she shot in the head while on her honeymoon? Well luckily, Hercule Poirot happened to be on the cruise too and who better to look into the matter?

The mystery wasn’t a big deal in this book. I am sure that many mystery aficionados will be able to guess the murderer correctly before the grand reveal. As is usually the case with Hercule Poirot mysteries, the fun and entertainment lies in watching Poirot put his ‘grey cells’ to work. Trying to think like the detective while reading the book is half the fun and the other half lies in tallying up at the end of the book. Each dialogue and interaction is important and it is impossible not to pay attention to it all completely.

With ‘Death on the Nile’, Ms.Christie once again proved her insights into the human nature. There is a wide range of characters on the boat and while at first it seems like only one of them had a direct motive for the murder, but as Hercule Poirot delves into the case, we find that nothing is at it seems. People who are apparent strangers may have a connection to Linnet and Jacqueline isn’t the only suspect. Through Hercule Poirot, her master creation, Ms. Christie peals back layers and layers to reveal different aspects of human nature.

This book has a comparatively slower start as Ms.Christie takes her time in setting up the plot. But a total worth it book that I am sure to re-read again in the future.

30 November, 2018

Quotable Quotes from John Green

Young Adult literature for the most part has been criticized and looked down upon. Teen romances have been dubbed as YA Literature, and for diehard fans of the same it has been a difficult journey. For one thing, YA is a reading age and not a genre! YA include a variety of genres in itself such as drama, comedy, tragedy, dragedy, sci-fi, supernatural etc.

Authors like John Green, therefore, with their works of fiction make a world of difference to everyone's perception of YA Literature.

It was in 2012 with the release of his sixth novel, The Fault in Our Stars, that John Green came into the limelight. He had written novels before - all YA Literature - but none of them spread quite like the wildfire that was TFIOS. That book was made into a movie within the next year.

John Green's first book was Looking for Alaska, (which as irony would have it, is currently in its movie production stage.)

And even though it was Hazel and Gus' story that put John Green on the map, he had been sharing profound quotes with his readers for years. His latest novel, Turtles All The Way Down, have quite a few of them too.

Here's looking at some of the deepest quotes courtesy of one of most popular and well beloved authors of Young Adult Literature:

“We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken.”Looking for Alaska

"The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely." Turtles All The Way Down

My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations. The Fault in Our Stars

It is so hard to leave – until you leave. And it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world. – Paper Towns

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.” An Abundance of Katherines

"And the thing is, when you lose someone, you realize you'll eventually lose everyone." – Turtles All The Way Down

“Those awful things are survivable because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be.” Looking for Alaska

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” — Paper Towns

“I mean, anyone can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.” Turtles All The Way Down

“You like someone who can't like you back because unrequited love can be survived in a way that once-requited love cannot.” Will Grayson, Will Grayson

And we keep turning to these wise words for comfort, until John Green shuts himself in a room and writes another story for us! Do let me know if your favourite John Green quote made the list or did I miss it out in the comments section below.

28 November, 2018

Want to learn how to write? Sign up for Fiction Writing for Beginners

An online writing course from author Kelli A. Wilkins
Hi everyone!

When people learn that I’m a writer, they often tell me: “I want to write a book, but…” and then they go into longwinded explanations about why they can’t write it. Usually they don’t know where (or how) to start, or they say they don’t have the time. 

Well, I’ve got a solution for all that. 

My online writing course, Fiction Writing for Beginners, is perfect for anyone who is interested in writing and needs practical advice on how to get started, PLUS motivation and encouragement to keep writing. 

Thirteen easy-to-follow classes cover the writing process from start to finish. You’ll learn where writers get ideas, how to create characters, get expert tips on writing your story, and find out how to submit it for publication. Everything you need to know to start writing is wrapped up in this comprehensive and fun course.

Each class is self-contained and self-directed. This way, you can learn about a specific topic at your own pace, and not worry about completing the class by a certain deadline. Short writing exercises at the end of each class highlight the subject matter and get you writing.

Why did I write this course? Because once upon a time I didn’t think I could write anything. I knew I wanted to write, so I enrolled in writing classes at a local community college. Without those classes, I never would have been educated, inspired, and encouraged to pursue my writing dreams.

I created Fiction Writing for Beginners to pass my knowledge along to people who want to write, but don’t know how to start. This course was a fun way to share my writing tips, advice, and first-hand practical experience. Anyone who has ever dreamed about writing fiction (in any genre) whether for publication or just for a hobby, will benefit from this course.

The classes are grouped into four sections, and each section focuses on a writing theme. Here’s the breakdown:

Section 1: Getting Started
Class 1: The 5 Ws of Writing
Class 2: Getting in the Writing Zone & Staying Motivated
Class 3: Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? (Part 1)
Class 4: Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas? (Part 2)

Section 2: Creating Your Characters
Class 5: Creating Characters
Class 6: Developing Heroes, Villains & Secondary Characters

Section 3: Get Writing!
Class 7: Plotting Your Story
Class 8: Scenes, Sequels & GMC
Class 9: Point-of-view & Dialogue
Class 10: Setting, Details & Research

Section 4: Revising, Submitting & Promoting Your Story
Class 11: Revising Your Story
Class 12: Getting Feedback on Your Story
Class 13: Submitting & Promoting Your Story

Here’s a short excerpt from Class 1:

What do you want to write?
Now that you know why you want to write, what do you want to write? Do you have a specific story in mind or a genre of fiction that interests you? Fiction can take many forms, from historical romance novels to science fiction short stories, and everything in between.
One way to figure out what you want to write is to consider the type of fiction you read. If you love curling up with a cozy mystery novel, you may want to write your own mysteries. Love being scared? Consider horror fiction. Can’t wait to be swept away to the 1700s Scottish Highlands? Historical romance is for you.
Here’s a hint: If you don’t enjoy reading a particular genre, you probably shouldn’t try writing in that genre. After all, you’ll be living with your short story or novel every day, and you won’t be motivated to write it if you’re not excited about it.
Forcing yourself to write something you’re not interested in is not fun and the story will certainly suffer. (That is, if you even finish writing the story.) It’s better to write the type of short stories (or novels) that you like to read. Your love of the genre will shine through in your voice, characters, and plot.
Should you write a novel or a short story? That’s entirely up to you. If you only read short fiction because you find novels “too long” to sit through, then the answer should be obvious. But if you love losing yourself in a 300-page novel filled with interesting characters and plot twists, try writing a novel of your own.
Only you know what type of story you would like to write—and there’s no rule that says you can “only” write short fiction or “only” write novels. In fact, many authors write both. (I do.) And where I write might surprise you…

If you’ve always wanted to write, Fiction Writing for Beginners will get you started. Visit the course page and enroll here: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/

I hope you’ll check it out.

Happy Reading… and Writing!

Kelli A. Wilkins

About the Author:

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories. 
In October 2018, Kelli published Cupid’s Schemes, a collection of sweet mini-romances. 
She also released her first online writing course, Fiction Writing for Beginners, through Teachable. This course is perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to write. Visit: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/ for more details.
Kelli’s historical romance, Redemption from a Dark Past, was published in 2018. This full-length Gothic novel is set in the kingdom of Hungary in 1723 and blends a sensual romance with mystery and suspense.
If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her latest novella, Nightmare in the North.
Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor

Visit her website www.KelliWilkins.com and blog http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/  to learn more about all of her writings.

26 November, 2018

Books with beautiful writing!

As a self-confessed bookworm, my reading taste varies based on my mood and the trends in the book world. Only a very few series and authors have captured me to the extent where I have to read all the books under the banner the moment they are released, and sometimes wait and pre-order. But basically, I classify the books I read and loved into two broad categories – those I loved for the story, and those I loved for the writing.

There is a very subtle difference. Some books have extraordinary story lines while the writing would leave something to be desired – making me feel that the book would have attained another level if the writing had been better. Some other books make an ordinary story into an extraordinary and memorable tale with their engrossing and wonderful narrative.

In this post I am curating a list of my recent favourite books that won me over with their writing, and the way they made ordinary stories into something wonderful. For the purpose of clarity and coherence I have tried to limit it to those written by Indian Writers in English instead of classifying by genre because that is a bigger sea of vagueness.

Without ado, and in this order, the books that captured me with their writing.

The Silent Raga by Ameen Merchant

This book came highly recommended by many friends before I took the plunge – for all I checked, it was by a first-time author and had only five star reviews, a fact I had grown wary of recently. But when a favourite bibliophile insisted, I picked it up and that was the proverbial ‘there was no looking back’ point for me.
The story was about Janaki Asgar (née Venkatakrishnan) who grows up in a middle class Tamil household, as a young girl denied her education, and who then goes on to chase her dreams and go to Bombay after marrying the famous actor Asgar. The book begins with a suspense. The runaway Janaki reaches out to her sister Mallika (who is, incidentally, left to ‘handle the shame and problems’ that follow Janaki’s elopement and has grown into a bitter woman) after two decades.
Narrated in two voices, that of Janaki and Mallika, the book captured my attention and I had to read it thrice back to back to get enough of it and move onto another book. To me, this book was a good representation of things I could know and relate with in my home state.

Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Yet another book I hesitated to pick up for multiple reasons but eventually fell in love with. Was, thankfully, my own choice.
What with the Bollywood references, and the inherent philosophy, coupled with an element of mystique – I loved everything about this book. If I had looked for a particular type of story, I would have perhaps found the book wanting in that regard. But like life usually does, there was a wide variety of stories that were woven onto one huge canvas. Half of them made sense, and the other half was left to the readers’ interpretation.
Wonderfully written, with more than its share of memorable lines, this book is an all-time favourite. Special mention to the other books by this author, ‘Palace of Illusions’, and ‘Before We Visit The Goddess’.

Songs of the Cauvery by Kalyanram Durgadas

This book came to me as a recommendation from a dear friend, and I am thankful I read it immediately. This book helped me in my journey as a writer and reader, enriching me with different writing styles.
At the turn of the twentieth century, a lot of things happen with respect to the freedom movements in India. The nation had awoken and unified their voice. How does this national situation affect the little known hamlet somewhere in the Southern part of Tamil Nadu? As waves of people are swept by the passion of the fight for freedom, a small family from the village also gives up its only son to the nation.
The writing won me over because of the analogies and descriptive detailing sprinkled over the novel. This is a classic example of an ordinary storyline made extraordinary by the narrative.

The Poison of Love by K R Meera

A brilliant find from a memorable Facebook share. I bought this book on a whim and read it in one sitting.
The story touched on the widows of Brindavan, and the despicable state of a woman who was scorned. The book was short but the writing was powerful, making it very memorable. This is one book that won solely because of the writing, because the story was not my favourite, and I did not like the ending / conclusion / climax that the book had. But it still finds a place in my list of must read books because the narrative hooked me enough to keep me reading a story I did not particularly like.
This book gave me lessons in writing, and descriptions.

The Honest Season by Kota Neelima

Incidentally, this book came to me for review, and I am thankful to this day that I picked it up. At the beginning the book seemed too long, and the pace slackened in many places. But about halfway in, the story began to grasp me and then pulled me in. The genre was different, the story even more so, and this book made me look differently at journalists and politicians, even giving my idle mind a few conspiracy theories to chew on.
The long book was interesting in many ways, be it in the descriptions or the characterisations or the twists in the plot. One of the really unexpected favourites that gave me brilliant dialogues to ponder over.
These are the books that stayed with me and those I revisit occasionally to help me tide over my reading slump that happens often these days.

A Guest Post by:

23 November, 2018

#Interview with Patrick Canning, #Author of The Colonel and the Bee

About the Author:

Patrick spends as much time as possible turning coffee into collections of words that look like books, shorts, and screenplays. Most of his stories attempt to look for the meaning of life in an
adventurous way, and often employ humor, important since the search usually doesn’t turn up much.

Contact the Author:
Website * Instagram * Goodreads


Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Definitely. I’d say the majority of ideas and even stories never see the light of day. While it’s never fun to hit one of these dead ends, the good news is you can steal from yourself. Bits of dialogue or characters or anything really from old projects can always be transplanted into something current (if it fits of course), which lessens the sting a little when a project dies.

Tell us about your writing process.
Assemble ideas for a long time, mold into an outline, first draft, revise, beta readers, revise a lot, work with an editor, revise a lot more.

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
I’d say the ending is my favorite. Without spoiling too much, I’ll say things go from a grand scale involving sword fights above volcanoes before focusing down into an intimate dinner party. It’s been a little divisive with readers so far, but I like that underneath all the action and comedy, it’s the simple relationships, expressed by the characters in an unadorned way, that matter most.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
I can’t remember where I heard/read this but something about ‘exploding a moment’. Basically identifying particular events in your story where you can really dig into the senses. You can’t do it all the time or the book would never end, but in just the right spots, it’s fun to really flex the descriptive muscle and give every angle of what’s happening.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I’m a big fan of playing volleyball though I’m not that great at it. I habitually re-watch The Office (US), but it holds up even after the forty thousandth viewing.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
Learn to play blues harmonica. Also, own a beehive.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
I’m left handed, I think mashed potatoes are the greatest food of all time, I’d like to go to Norway someday.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
A suburban murder mystery involving a dead goat and a cyberpunk novel that deals with propaganda.

About the Book:
Beatrix, a spirited but abused acrobat in a traveling circus, seeks more than her prison like employment offers. More than anything, she wants to know her place in the world of the halcyon 19th century, a time when the last dark corners of the map were being sketched out and travel still possessed a kind of magic.
One night in Switzerland, the mysterious Colonel James Bacchus attends Beatrix’s show.This larger-than-life English gentleman, reputed to have a voracious appetite for female conquests, is most notable for traveling the world in a four-story hot air balloon called The Oxford Starladder.
Beatrix flees that night to join the Colonel and the two of them make a narrow escape— Beatrix from her abusive ringleader, the Colonel from a freshly made cuckold. Beatrix, feeling the Colonel may have the answers to her problems, pledges to help him catch the criminal he seeks in exchange for passage on his magnificent balloon. 
The criminal seeks a precious figurine, The Blue Star Sphinx, but he’s not alone. The Sphinx’s immense value has also drawn the attention of the world’s most deadly treasure hunters. A murder in Antwerp begins a path of mystery that leads all the way to the most isolated island on earth.

Book Links:

21 November, 2018

#Interview with Mohini Durgampudi, #Author of Sweet Neem

About the Author:

Mohini Durgampudi is an entrepreneur, food safety instructor and assists at a culinary incubator. She started her career in the IT sector but took a very happy and eager detour into the food industry. An avowed bookworm, her writings have so far been anonymous contributions to travel and food blogs and crowd sourced websites. Sweet Neem is her first book and it brings together her love of food, travel, family, history and culture.

Get in Touch:
Website * Facebook


When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
No particular light bulb moment or revelation really. I read a lot, so it was a natural progression. When my kids were little we would play a game where one of us would start a story and after a few sentences would pass it on. Kids imagination has no bounds and some of those stories were incredible. I found myself  thinking of those stores and extending them and making them into coherent plots long after they were asleep. Maybe that was when I consciously decided to give it a shot.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
I love food but there are so many amazing cookbooks, bloggers and youtubers out there already. I am a History buff, like to travel and learn about different cultures. I wanted to show how much the urban food scene in India has changed. The Indian palate has expanded so much in the last few decades. I chose a location that was familiar to me and decided to put it all together and the result is Sweet Neem.

Tell us about your writing process.
I do not have any formal training as a writer and this is what works for me. I write, or type really, in a frenzy when the mood strikes… in disjointed paragraphs and chapters. And then I spend hours weaving it together and editing. 

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
Oh wow… hard to come up with just one. I like all the kitchen banter and chatter peppered throughout the book. Because it talks about my most favorite topic - food! There is something I like in each chapter, and that is what I named the chapters after - they are all names of a dish, ingredient, cooking technique or food industry lingo.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Not mine, but a lot of my friends and family. I even mention that in the preface. I thank all of them for all the anecdotal stories, tidbits and family lore they told me. Hopefully, nobody will get mad when they see a bit of themselves in there!

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
Absolutely, I read. A lot! There are so many favorites, and I have favorite books rather than favorite authors. I like to think I have my own voice, especially with Sweet Neem. My next one is historic fiction, so for that I will look to established masters in the genre to find a style.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
“Just start writing. Everything will fall into place.” 
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Don’t let writer’s block kill your spirit. Everybody gets it, and it will pass. Give yourself plenty of time. Find your rhythm, some people write every morning, some will go without writing for weeks. Some will build it in their heads and put it on paper while others will dream and sleep with a notepad by the pillow to jot down their dreams. Find what works for you.

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
A strong metal cooking pan, a big sharp knife and something to make a fire. Oh, yes… I am practical AND think about food all the time :-)

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
Free time? What’s that?! The kitchen is my favorite place and I bake to forget about everything else.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
I am working on a historical fiction. Also about food but set around 200 years ago. We tend to think outside influences on Indian cuisine is recent. But, in the late 1700s South India had the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French jockeying for power. Large numbers of traders from China, Egypt and the Americas were around. The ruling class had transplants from the Middle East. Mercenaries from smaller European kingdoms and slaves from Africa also roamed the streets. It was a volatile dangerous period but also a very heady and happening time. And all these people brought their foods with them!

About the Book:
The groom died in a celebratory gunfire after the wedding. What to do with the big fat Indian wedding feast already prepared for the hundreds of guests?! Sri and Mia have to hit the ground running when they move to India to take over the struggling family business, Restaurant Annapurna.

Set in Hyderabad, also known as the City of Pearls, this is a story of three generations coming together in the span of a year across cultural, social and generational divides. The family deals with life and death and grapple with love and loss. They celebrate the many festivals of India, a wedding and their grand reopening. The younger ones are awed by the ancient City with it’s ultra modern trappings while the elders witness the magic and power of digital revolution and  social media.

They also sample their way through Hyderabadi cuisine, an intoxicating mix of Mughalai, Turkish and Arabic influences on Andhra, Telangana and Marathwada foods; street food at midnight, a mango feast at the Taj, Anglo Indian at an old friend’s, eclectic gastro-pub fare, Indian Chinese, fusion desserts at the latest bakery, cheeseburgers in a tropical tree house… but, what about Annapurna? And why Sweet Neem?

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