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?

Book Links: