21 August, 2014

#Interview with Shobhan Bantwal, #Author of Full Moon Bride

Shobhan Bantwal is the author of six novels and co-author of two anthologies. Her books combine contemporary women’s issues with romantic elements. Her articles have appeared in The WriterRomantic TimesIndia AbroadLittle IndiaNew Woman, and India Currents. Her short fiction has won honours/awards in contests sponsored by Writer’s Digest and New York Stories. She won the First Place Award in New Woman magazine's 2005 Short Fiction Competition for her story, Lingering Doubts. Her debut book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, won the 2008 Golden Leaf Award. THE UNEXPECTED SON won the 2012 National Indie Excellence Award. Shobhan lives in Arizona, USA. Visit her Website or her Facebook page.

Interview - Shobhan Bantwal, author of The Full Moon Bride (Fingerprint Publishing - 2014)

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
I am an accidental author and a late bloomer to boot. I was a fairly competent writer since childhood, nonetheless I never wrote anything beyond the required school essays and thesis for my master's degree until I took it up much later in life. I stumbled into writing at the ripe age of fifty, when my husband and I became empty-nesters after our only child left home to pursue a career. Since I already had a demanding full-time job, I took up creative writing purely as a part-time hobby. At some point, suddenly and unexpectedly, my humble pastime exploded into a full-time second career.

What inspires you to write?
My inspiration primarily comes from observing people and reading/watching the daily news. As a first-generation immigrant living in the United States for nearly forty years, I have faced many personal challenges: the initial adjustment to the American environment, raising a child in a mixed culture, juggling a demanding career with homemaking, leading a hectic social life, and finally, taking up fiction writing. These life experiences as well as my passion for Indian women's issues such as dowry deaths and female foeticide provide me with both story ideas and creative stimulation.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
The idea for The Full Moon Bride is based on my observation of my own daughter (now a grown and married woman with children) and others of her generation. These highly independent young women and men raised in the American culture often struggle to fit in with their peers while simultaneously meeting their conservative parents' expectations. Having noted the many ways these bright, bold individuals met and married their respective spouses, I decided to make an interesting and romantic story out of the their combined experiences.

Is there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Yes, I do indeed have a stash of stories that have not yet seen the light of day. While they took time and effort to create they were somehow just not right for my American publisher's taste or perhaps not quite suitable for the loyal readership that I have garnered for my published books. I have two mystery-romances and one literary story that were completed years ago but never submitted for serious consideration to an agent or publisher.

Tell us about your writing process.
I am not a disciplined writer, therefore I write whenever the mood strikes, and that too without a defined outline. It is not the most efficient way of writing, but it has worked quite well for me since it becomes an adventurous journey in itself, with unexpected twists and turns. Writer's block also plagues me more frequently than I would like. It can be frustrating, but time is at a premium, so I deal with it by self-editing what I have already written during those creative periods when my muses are active.

What is your favourite scene in the book? Why?
My favourite scene in The Full Moon Bride is the one outside the Indian restaurant following the hero Rajesh's successful theatre debut. This is the scene where Siya, the heroine, furiously accuses the penniless Rajesh of being an unscrupulous opportunist using her father's money to bankroll the production of his play. But at the end of the scene, when Rajesh walks away from her, she finally realizes that despite her rage she cares deeply for him and cannot afford to lose him. Nonetheless she stubbornly tries to hold on to her pride. But at what cost? This is my favourite scene because it embodies the classic dark moment in the story, and the timeless conflict of principle with love and family, pride with happiness and security.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Being a strongly opinionated woman I believe many of my heroines portray a few of my own quirks. In fact, some of my close friends have pointed out that certain dialogues in my books sound very much like they came out of my own mouth. They think it is quirky and hilarious. I am quite sure this phenomenon is not unique to me. Most authors who put their heart and soul into their books inadvertently infuse some of their own qualities and convictions into their characters.

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
I am an avid fiction reader and have been since my early years in India. My favourite childhood author was Enid Blyton. In adulthood my all-time beloved author has been Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird). However, as a lover of romance and mysteries my inspiration now comes from prolific American writers like Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, John Grisham, David Baldacci, and Dan Brown, to name just a few.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?
When I first started to write my mixed-genre stories, I was hesitant to dream big because no other Indian-American was writing mainstream/romantic books at the time. Besides, publishers and readers expected only sombre literary fiction from Asian authors. However, after joining the Romance Writers of America, many of my fellow writers encouraged and advised me to pursue my unique kind of Bollywood-ish fiction with Indian characters. There was clearly the need for Indian romances in the American market, and I wanted to fulfil it. That led me to seriously start querying literary agents. I was stunned when one of the top American agents signed me on, mostly because what I wrote was new and refreshingly different from the stereotypical serious literary novels produced by most South-Asian writers. That bit of sage advice from some RWA authors led me to getting published, and it is something I will always cherish.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favourite place to go and unwind?
Since I recently retired from a demanding full-time job, most of my free time is devoted to reading. In fact I start to panic when I am finished with my to-be-read pile, and immediately make a trip to the local library for more reading material. My husband and I also like to spend time with our two young grandchildren, and that is the most enjoyable recreational activity we like to indulge in. We also have an active social life, so we often cook and entertain family and friends. International travel is yet another pleasant past-time for us.

Thank you so much for interviewing me for your popular blog. I enjoyed answering your insightful questions.

Shobhan Bantwal's compelling new novel explores the fascinating subject of arranged marriage, as a young Indian-American woman navigates the gulf between desire and tradition.

To Siya Giri, arranged marriages have always seemed absurd. But while her career as an environmental lawyer has flourished, she remains a virgin, living with her parents in suburban New Jersey. However, she now wants to get married, and for that she is finally ready to do the unthinkable!