Know your Author

When a book touches a reader’s heart, it is a bestseller, not in numbers (maybe) but in its purpose. Two beautiful heart-touching novels – The Red Butterfly and viagra cialis 69.00 Saanvri were recently launched and Varsha Verma had a chance to meet the authors of these novels – both well-known names from different industries altogether. Excerpts. Avinash Pushkarna, author of The Red Butterfly

Avinash PushkarnaWith his graduation in Zoology (Honours) and later a degree in Law from Delhi University, Avinash Pushkarna joined the State Bank of India as a Probationary Officer in 1983. But his passion to be a Civil Servant made him join the Government of India in 1986. He has put in around thirty years of active service and is presently serving as an Additional Commissioner of Customs, Central Excise & Service Tax. He has received World Customs Organisation’s Certificate of Merit for his distinguished service. A passionate and voracious reader, Avinash aspires to be an author of repute. Published by Niyogi Books, My Red Butterfly is his debut novel.

My Red Butterfly is a modest yet sublime tale of unparalleled love and romance. It could be of any one of us; of requited or unrequited love; successful or torn apart. Set during the late seventies and early eighties, it takes you across many states in India and the ups and fast shipping viagra downs of the protagonist’s journey of life and the people who influence him and shape his life. It’s a story of hope, aspirations deep filial bonds and unadulterated chords of friendship.

On asking about how he came up with the plot of the novel, Avinash replied that he had the ready template of the novel long time back. “I always had the ability to comprehend the emotions of people and romantic stories always appealed to me. So, I always knew that whenever I start writing, it would be a romantic novel,” he shared.

“It’s a story to relive and remember, set in the decade when love was not alloyed with materialism and practicalities and brand levitra 20mg when relationships were not tortuous, but were straight and heartfelt. It’s a story that will touch the inner chords of your heart. There are values, bonding, love, friendship, romance – its sure going to touch the reader’s heart,” he added.

Being such a busy person himself, it would have been difficult to write? “I took five years to write the novel. I really enjoyed giving shape to the idea of my novel; the whole process was so creative. It took one-and-a-half years for the editing and I am happy with the way it has shaped. I do not want to be a run of the mill author; rather I want to be an author of repute. My Red Butterfly is the result of my seven years of toil of passion. Being a totally Indian story, I believe that it will touch many a hearts and will also appeal to the connoisseurs of literature,” added Avinash, who is now busy working on his next novel, which he feel might be a sequel to this.

Vinod Pande, author of Saanvri: The Story of Concubine

Vinod Pande has walked many a path: a civil servant with the British Government, a broadcaster with the BBC, the maker of several documentaries and ad-films, he helmed one of the popular TV networks launched during the late nineties and ran his own advertising agency in London. After his foray into Bollywood, he was a member of the jury for important award ceremonies and chaired the selection committees of the Indian entry for the Oscar Awards on two occasions. He is, however, most well known as the producer, writer and director of the Hindi film Ek Baar Phir; other notable ones like Yeh Nazdeekiyan and Sins; and acclaimed TV serials Air Hostess and Reporter. He lives and works as a filmmaker and author in Mumbai. After Don’s Wife, a story on forbidden love, born in the crucible of crime, Saanvri: The Story of Concubine (published by Niyogi Books) is his second novel.

Saanvri’s tale is about decadence in high palaces of power; the story of a woman who learns to use the wanton carnality in men in a society that uses and abuses her. It is also about the three most important people in her life, all of who use her with impunity. As Vinod shares, the characters are inspired by real-life incidents. “Interestingly, I started working on Saanvri as a film script as one of my friends wanted to make a film on the subject. Unfortunately, the project was shelved and the script lay with me for quite some time. Later, I reworked on the script and presented it in the form of a novel,” he said.

On asking how Vinod feels as an author, he replied that he has reinvented himself in the form of an author. “This gives me more freedom to express my thoughts and I am completely enjoying it. I wish to bring out more books in future and continue writing,” he said.

says Ravi Velloor in a tete-a-tete with GS Jolly.

India Rising:Fresh Hopes New Fears, is published by Konark Publishers, who have sought to set high standards in Indian publishing with a strong list of books on South Asia. India Rising… is a valuable addition in this direction by the publisher with a desire to leave a legacy that readers can be proud of.

Ravi Velloor (RV), who has authored India Rising: Fresh Hope New Fears, is associate editor of The Straits Times (Singapore) and an award winning journalist who has reported from across Asia, Europe and the United States. In a career spanning 35 years, he has been foreign editor and South Asia Bureau Chief of The Straits Times, and previously with Bloomberg news, Time Inc, magazines, Agence France-Presse and United News of India. A Jefferson Fellow and founding life- member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of South Asia and a co-founder of India Club, Singapore, he was in India recently and shared his views with G S Jolly (GSJ), Deputy Editor of AABP on some of the issues he has raised in his widely appreciated book.

GSJ: You mention in your book that caste as the Modi 2014 election showed, may be losing a bit of salience politically as a vote aggregator, but in the situation being created in the run up to the elections in UP and Punjab, the factor is raising its ugly head again.

RV: Caste was initially a social phenomenon and as a social phenomenon – inter-marriage, inter-dining, contact etc. – it is diminishing. In the 2014 elections, Modi’s USP was anti-corruption, infrastructure and development. Caste was not the principal vote aggregator. But that was at the national level. At the local level in states it is still a factor in collecting votes.

GSJ: Julio Reberio, the star policeman responsible for putting down the Sikh insurgency in Punjab has been quoted as saying, “I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my country.” Has the intolerance grown and is the personal safety of minorities at peril in India?

RV: A feeling is being created that insecurity is growing at national level. That is why I say that Modi, to fulfil his promise, has to be emperor of the entire nation and not of one community. The diversity of Indian civilization and its essential tolerance is an important reason for India’s less violent ways. Modi must remember this even as he works tirelessly to raise the welfare of every section of his people.

GSJ: In the chapter ‘China Factor’ you have written that whatever happens in the decades ahead, one thing is clear, the two are not going to carve each other’s names on trees. Do you see any improvement in the situation in the years to come?

RV: I don’t visualize too calamitous a deterioration in the relations between the two major powers of Asia although I doubt they will ever be close friends again. Healthy exchanges between the two civilizational powers should be good enough for Asia. I am more optimistic about India-China than India-Pakistan. Chinese nationalism is not based on anti-India sentiments unlike the situation with Pakistan. The Chinese know that India will stand up and cannot be pushed over. They have no major historical differences with India. The 1962 was unfortunate and it came during a period of turbulence in China, the Great Leap Forward. They also respect the depth of India’s civilization.

GSJ: You have commented that Rahul Gandhi’s failure as a vote catcher has been sealed with Congress’s performance in Delhi state assembly elections in February 2015. Do you see any sign of resurrection of Rahul Gandhi in Indian politics?

RV: The drop was so bad. The Gandhi family always had a spectacular following but that is swiftly ending now Rahul Gandhi is leading the charge. There will probably be slight recovery from its current depths but that will be temporary. It is not that I dislike Rahul. He is otherwise an intelligent man. He has a vision. The problem with him is that he cannot articulate his ideas and he has no vote-drawing power.

GSJ: Media in India is feasted on every misfortune suffered by the government. Do you think the job of media is to magnify every shortcoming no matter how insignificant or immaterial and trivialize any positive news?

RV: Indian media is going through a period of evolution and turmoil, as other media too. It is our job to point out what is wrong. But that said some sections of our media are indeed rather immature.

GSJ: Most writers don’t want intervention and suggestions or questions dealing with the manuscript. Did you encounter any such situation with your publisher?

RV: It is a question of how much your publisher trusts your author and believes in his expertise. But at the same time if the editor wants something to be changed, as an author I would listen. After all, the intention of the editor is to steer your manuscript to more acceptable levels for the audience. I, as an author, would leave my ego behind and listen carefully. As an author it is also my duty to listen and respect the other’s point of view.

GSJ: How much editorial freedom do you enjoy as a newspaper editor compared with a book editor?

RV: Newspaper editors enjoy more freedom, I suspect. In newspapers there is scarcity of time and space and therefore one has to adhere to brevity. A book editor has much more time to go through the book and sometimes he tends to become more interventionist. An appreciation of each other’s skills and knowledge can work to the benefit of both.

says Yashodhara Lal, writer, author, marketing professional and popular blogger.

Yashodhara Lal’s realistically hilarious writings are loved by all. But there’s much more to her personality…a new age corporate professional, a mother of three – Peanut, Pickle and Papad (these names of her kids make one wonder if she is a foodies too), a Zumba instructor on weekends, a Yoga and music enthusiast – so she basically has a lot of interests and often pulled in different directions, all at once! It was a wonderful experience to interact with her as a vibrant author. Here, Smita Dwivedi makes a sneak peek into her world of words!

Yashodhara Lal's USP is in taking the ordinary and making it hilarious. She graduated from IIM-Bangalore in 2002 and has over 12 years of experience in the marketing domain across two large corporations in FMCG and media. She lives in Gurgaon with her husband Vijay, and three small children, all of whom never fail to provide her with material for her entertaining blog. Just Married, Please Excuse is her first book and then there was no turning back.

Being an author!

Yashodhara LalAfter having a successful corporate career, her writing career kicked off after the birth of her two little bundles of mischief…her twin boys, as she said, “I started in 2010 when I wrote the draft for my first book Just Married, Please Excuse. It was in the aftermath of a complicated surgery after I had my twin sons and realised that life was short, so I should better get down to doing what I was meant to do. I’d always loved to write, but had lost the ambition somewhere along the way in the corporate world. In fact, it’s the best thing I could have ever hoped for, being published!”

And within a short span, she has actually poured all the emotions…thoughts and plots that were churning inside her creative brain…for so long. And talking about her latest book There’s Something About You, which was released in July 2015, her third book she narrated “After my first book, my second one was Sorting Out Sid, followed by this new book, which is being positioned as a love story, but ‘not a typical love story’ for many reasons – it’s about an overweight, single, unemployed girl called Trish who is the star of the book, and her journey as she finds her own place in the world – and yes, she finds love in the process. It’s doing very well, and it actually debuted at No. 2 on the AC Neilsen charts in its launch week.”

Juggling…can be fun too!

It was obvious to enquire about her writing routine, and with a sigh and smile, she replied “For my latest book, it took me a few months. I tend to write in fits and spurts, so over a three months period; I’m usually done with a first draft. I don’t know if I write fast, but at least when I’m writing, I try to write everyday and tend to feel very restless until I can get the ideas down onto the pages!”

Sharing about a few hardships, she added, “The major challenge in my writing career is to try and consider it a serious career. I make much more of a living in the corporate world than I do from writing, and so have decided to view it more as a passion than a career.

I think that’s better anyway, because it takes away some of the pressure from it. Major challenges are always about getting noticed, even if you sincerely believe you’re writing something worth reading – there’s so much competition out there, and I don’t just mean from other books. People have short attention spans these days, and I find it strange that books aren’t valued much – I personally think they’re the most wonderful things to own!”

“The hardest part is usually having the courage to get started. Once you’re in the flow, it’s not that hard to carry on and finish. Just building up the necessary momentum is the hard part", she added further.

All about books!

On asking about books that is her all time favourite, she added, “I have always really enjoyed the The Thron Birds by Colleen McCullough as a brilliant story that spans generations. I’d love to write something like that one day.” Further adding on what she is reading currently, she shared, “I’ve been reading a lot of non-fictions of late, so I’m reading a book called The Antidote, which is more about the downsides of positive psychology and talks about how negative thinking can actually be a good thing!”

And talking about her favourite, she said, “I love Bill Bryson’s writing as it’s just so funny and natural. I think he’s just hilarious and I am so happy that his A Walk in the Woods has apparently been turned into a movie. What strikes me about his work is his dry style, completely inimitable.”

On a concluding note!

On asking about her inspiration she added, “I think I am innately inspired to try and achieve my full potential. I’m a restless soul (which doesn’t mean I don’t get lazy sometimes!) – but in general, I need to be inspired to slow down, I think! And for my readers, I will bring something different from what I’ve done before. There’s a book for kids coming up his year. But in my genre, I’ll want to explore the corporate world in more detail, and may be writing something with a little more dark humour.”

Authors always look out for new subjects for their books. Here, we bring two authors who have delved into past to concoct interesting tales. While one writes about the courtesans of Karim Street, another writes about lesser-known Pradyumna, the son of Lord Krishna.

The Courtesans of Karim Street – by Debotri Dhar

Debotri Dhar is a cultural theorist, traveller, storyteller. She has lived multiple lives in India, the USA, the UK, and other named and unnamed countries in-between. She is passionate about higher education and interdisciplinary research and enjoys giving public talks and teaching in the university. Her new book The Courtesans of Karim Street is a love story set in India and the United States, that straddles the historical past and contemporary present. Here, Varsha Verma finds more about this book.

Debotri DharI believe the best stories are those that draw creatively from our own worlds, the spaces we inherit and inhabit. I have attempted to do that, in order to create authentic characters and a fastpaced, audacious (but hopefully still believable!) plot, with mystery, history, romance, ideas, interpretations.... The geographical settings in the two countries, from Princeton and Newark on the US east coast, to Delhi (New Delhi as well as the old city), are those I am personally very familiar with. Travel in all its complex dimensions has been a recurring thread in my life, so I was able to draw from that. The university classroom scenes are inspired by my own experiences as an academic in America, just as the references to music draw from my training in Hindustani classical music. The research had mostly to do with the courtesan culture of our yesteryears, the stories of the courtesans’ lives, loves and longings against a shifting political, cultural and material landscape. I wanted to take these themes, transforming them to weave a very contemporary love story, tells Debotri

Response so far…

“Well, the book has just been released in India. I flew down from the US for the launch… The response has been quite heartwarming. Several readers from across the country have written to me to say they have enjoyed the lyricism of the prose, the conversations between cultures, the friendships, the love. We have had launches in two cities in India so far, Delhi and Kolkata, where the audience was so lively and engaging. I also did a book reading and talk at JNU, at an event organised by the English department and the Forum for Mutual Learning at JNU. It was a joy interacting with the students, especially the Ph D students. A wonderful review in the Sunday Guardian described my novel as having succeeded in addressing the historical silencing of courtesans in public discourse and presenting an alternative reading of the present and future through an array of Indian and American characters. I am really looking forward to more readers reading the novel, bringing to it their own interpretations, and deciding for themselves if I’ve told a good story,” she shares.

Journey as an author…

“I ’m an ear ly career academic, so academic research and teaching take up a lot of time. When the day job ends, the night job of writing fiction begins. When I wrote my first novel, I was an undergraduate preparing for final exams! In the years that followed, I was only able to write short stories as I completed a Masters degree from Oxford University and a Ph D from Rutgers University. Some of them were published in literary journals in the US, UK and elsewhere. One, I remember, won a literary award…I was so thrilled! These were later published as a collection. It was only when I was close to completing my Ph D in 2013 and had a lectureship that I wrote this novel on the courtesans. A friend owned a beautiful home on the outskirts of Princeton, and I wrote some portions of it there, the parts that are based in Pennington, US. It’s been a very interesting journey for me as an author, an academic and an individual.

Future plans include academic books, non-fiction as well as fiction. I’ve currently joined the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, so may be that setting will inspire a new novel. I just want to keep writing…,” she shares. So, as a writer, what does she aim to achieve? “To tell a good story and connect with my audience. Academic writing and fiction are two different forms of writing, different audiences. Since I already write for a specialised audience as far as academics is concerned, I want to make that my fiction is more fast-paced and readable, with romance, humor, adventure, eccentric characters and attractive, entertaining storylines,” replies Debotri.

Most difficult part of being an author…

“I would say the hardest part of writing a novel is definitely the marketing aspect! Perhaps it seems harder to me, in comparison to those writers who are gifted with a keener sense of selling. Earlier writers could afford to be reclusive, but these days the writer is a commodity to be consumed in the market. I am an idealist, I live in a world of ideas, even while recognising the role and importance of the market. One has to learn new skills everyday…,” she shares.

What reading means to her?

“There is such cacophony in the world sometimes… relaxing with a book will always remain a great option. Besides, what other form of entertainment allows us to retreat into beautiful worlds of ideas and expressions? Yesterday, a young reader confessed that she had hesitated to pick up The Courtesans of Karim Street. Turns out she was worried a novel written by an academic would be boring! But then she found it such an engrossing read that she stayed up the entire night and finished it in one go!” shares Debotri.

What next?

“I’m doing a non-fiction book on gender. As far as fiction is concerned, a work of social satire is already underway. It’s a humorous story of a young woman, set against a backdrop of contemporary local and global politics,” concluded Debotri.

Pradyumna – son of Lord Krishna –by Usha Narayanan

The urge to be different motivated writer Usha Narayanan to explore the life of the lesser known mythological character, Pradyumna, son of Lord Krishna. Janani Rajeswari S chats with the author about memories associated with the book and her journey as a writer. Usha Narayanan has donned many hats in her career. From teaching to corporate communication, advertising, e-publishing and finally writing. “As I moved from one to another, the scope for creativity became limited. I finally landed in writing to explore it better,” she says. It all began with a short story that she penned for an anthology a few years ago. “But I discovered that novels were favoured to short stories,” says Usha. Thus, began her journey as a novelist with Madras Mangler, a thriller novel in 2014. It tells the story of five college girls whose lives are altered by the entry of a serial killer. Usha also reminisces a little about creating the character of the villain in the book. “It was indeed a challenge as his character was completely contrary to my sunny nature. So, I needed to improvise the character by adding more evilness to it,” adds Usha. But for a voracious reader who enjoys almost every genre of writing, she chose mythology as the base for her second book Pradyumna- Son of Krishna.

The ‘Pradyumna’ connect

Usha NarayananDescribing the hero ‘Pradyumna’ in a line, the author says, “He’s a super hero, an amazing lover, every man’s destination and every woman’s dream.” But that wasn’t the only reason why Usha picked the little known warrior scion, Pradyumna. “I also connect with ‘Pradyumna’, as the hero of my first book was called Vir Pradyumna,” Usha adds. She says that Pradyumna played a vital role during his times and also bears a lot of similarity to the man of today’s age.

Epic fantasy and authenticity go hand in hand

Usha prefers to call Pradyumna- Son of Krishna a fantasy epic. “It is not a retelling. Different versions of the story are available today. One of them is presented in Amar Chitra Katha. But my story takes off at a tangent that suits today’s sensibilities, “says Usha. That would be mean adding facets to suit the hero’s stature while adding depth to his character She adds only half of her book is truly fiction. Usha points out that mythology has always been a challenge. To authenticate facts in the book, Usha’s research took her to Pancha Dwaraka and visiting the places looking for research and evidence in the form of literary works. “The palace of Lord Krishna from that era still exits. I found out that Pradyumna was called ‘Kalyan Rai’ as he was believed to have brought prosperity to the kingdom,” she reveals. Incidentally, he came into existence at the very beginning of the Kali Yuga. Also, he was weighed down by pressure of saving his Yadava clan that was cursed to doom by Queen Gandhari. She adds that there is evidence in research works that Lord Krishna’s Yadhava clan did not end after him. Pradyumna actually made valiant efforts to save the clan. Usha includes a version of Bhagavad Gita in the book. In this version, Parasurama guides Pradyumna just like Arjuna was instructed by Lord Krishna. “There is evidence that different versions of The Gita also existed. The Gita was initially a conversation between Lord Krishna and Surya Deva (Sun God),” she says.

Journey & responses

Usha reveals that ‘Pradyumna’ gave her a chance to rediscover the richness of our native literature. “It was a multilayered experience with respect to finding out interesting facts about the hero. There are research works that show that Pradyumna was an incarnation of Kama Deva (God of Love) who was burned to ashes by Lord Shiva,” she adds. For instance, the research gave her a chance to explore the meaning and significance of the names of some characters. ‘Ghatothkacha’ means one with a head shaped like a clay pot. It is not a completely serious story. She offers a comic relief through the adventures of Ghatothkacha (son of Bheema). Usha also sticks to the language that was pertinent to that age but ensures that does not mar the flow of the story. Her first reader was a 10 - year old girl. “ She told me that Amar Chitra Katha gave her only a sketch about the life of Pradyumna. She also encouraged me to continue writing mythology,” says Usha. She adds that some readers appreciated her on the human dimension offered to the character of Pradyumna. The book reflects on his thoughts in different situations – what is his responsibility towards an ending race and so on.

What’s next?

Usha‘s next is a rom-com ‘Love, Lies and Layoffs’ set in the corporate world that goes into office politics and other challenges. The next year will see the release of the sequel to ‘Pradyumna’ that will narrate his attempts at redeeming humanity. “Through the likes of Pradyumna, I would like to contribute to the redemption of interest in our native literature in a small way,” adds Usha.

says Manjiri Prabhu, founder and director of Pune International Literary Festival and an author of several novels, in conversation with Varsha Verma. Manjiri Prabhu has always tried to do something different in the literary world. While, she became the first author to pen down astro-detective novels, she also founded the Pune International Literary Festival (PILF) to celebrate the written word. Here, she talks more about her love for the literature.

Varsha: As founder and festival director of PILF, let us know about PILF and how it has been doing till now? What is the role of PILF in the literary world?

Manjiri: PILF has been started with the vision to engage, explore and experiment with all forms and genres of the written word that will inspire you to fall in love with them ...and light the lamp of knowledge. Now in its third year, more than 250 authors and creative personalities have participated in the last two years, making the festival a remarkable success. We have the mission to offer an exciting and interactive platform in Pune for writers, publishers, media, film & TV writers and readers and creating a star position for Pune on the international literary canvas.

From last year, as a social responsibility of PILF, we began highlighting an important social cause. Like in 2014, our social theme was ‘Environment Protection through Animal Welfare’ and our focus was on adoption of street dogs and save the tiger. Maneka Gandhi inaugurated the festival and did a one-hour session which was life-changing for some. This year, the theme is ‘The global image of India’. Every citizen should work towards upholding the core moral values of society, contribute to the social and environmental welfare of the country and be a global ambassador for India. This year’s social cause includes Safety, Security, Cleanliness, Tourism and Empowerment.

Varsha: When is the next PILF scheduled and what new can the visitors expect?

Manjiri: This year (2015) the festival will take place from September 4-6, 2015, at YASHADA. More than a hundred authors and creative personalities will participate and there would be discussions, workshops, and an interesting exhibition on the queen of Crime – Agatha Christie, in celebration of her 125th birth anniversary.

Few of the proposed authors will include Sudha Murthy, Rajdeep Sardesai, Shashi Tharoor, Ashok Chopra, Kathryn Hummel (Australia), Piers Moore Ede (UK), Neil Hollander (France). It will also include workshops on Ad-filmmaking by Ashmith Kunder, making very short films (of 3 to 5 minutes) - Siddhartha Jain, iPop TV, Haiku by Kala Ramesh, Writing for children (for Teens) by Leela Gour Broome, Reading Your Mind by Nakul Shenoy and many more….

Varsha: Astro-detective is a new concept. How did you come up with this new concept?

Manjiri PrabhuManjiri: For me the journey with Astrology began at a very early age. In my Mom’s stomach to be precise, like Abhimanyu. My Mom was the first lady Astrologer of Pune, way back when I wasn’t even born. She is a pioneer, a teacher, a consultant and the perfect ‘guide’ for the many frustrated, helpless people who sought some hope through Astrology. To them, she is the anchor, their support, affording them guidance, without losing sight of the Science. I almost took Astrology for granted for all the growing years of my life. But a striking incident changed the gravity of the Science for me. I particularly remember an occasion, which actually formed the base of my novel The Cosmic Clues and triggered a serial. My mother used to regularly look at horoscopes at that point. A film director from Bollywood, approached my mother. He said it was very urgent and he needed to consult my mother privately. My mother, despite being busy, agreed. When he visited her, he asked a single question: “When will I have a child?”

My Mother stared at his horoscope for a long minute. Finally she glanced at him and said, “You want the truth?” The man was a little nonplussed. ‘Of course!” he said. “Well then, you have a son. It’s just that you can’t claim him as your son,” she explained calmly.

It was as if a bomb had been dropped. The man paled, his eyes darted from one end of the room to another. He was afraid, someone may have listened. But then, he nodded and confessed that she was right.

This incident made me realise that Astrology is a tool unlike any other. With a totally untapped potential, it had to be exploited in the right manner – especially in solving a crime.

And that is how I used it as a crime-solving tool in The Cosmic Clues and The Astral Alibi. Sonia Samarth (the main character in the book) is the world’s first Astro-Detective, thanks to my mother, who provided me with the best of authentic horoscopes for the novels.

Varsha: Also tell us about your other books?

Manjiri: I have written eight books including one non-fiction book on the image of Indian woman in Hindi films. That is a conversion of my Ph.D. thesis on the same subject. My first two novels published by Rupa Books, titled A Symphony of Hearts and Silver In The Mist were romantic novelettes in the Rupa romance Series. The book on Hindi film is titled Roles- Reel and Real.

My next books are – Gypsies at Noelle’s Retreat a book for YA (Young Adult) audience, based in France, published by Times Group Books.

It introduces India’s first teen girl detective Riva Parkar. It is the first one in the Riva Parkar mystery series. I am working on the second in the series titled Gypsies on the Eurail. The Cavansite Conspiracy – a romantic suspense novel published again by Rupa. The story taking place in 48 hours simultaneously in four continents, revolves around a precious mineral stone being stolen and a murder connected to that.

In the Shadow of Inheritance has been published by Penguin India. Actually this is the first novel I wrote at the age of 18. The story is very dear to my heart. It is receiving very good response all over India.

Varsha: What has been the response to your books so far?

Manjiri: Pretty good. I get emails from all over India and from all corners of the world. Especially as the two astro-detective novels were published in the US and distributed worldwide, I have readers in many unimaginable and unknown places. They send their candid remarks and appreciations to my stories wi thin the novels. They also like the Indian milieu, descriptions of Indian culture, food, festivals, lifestyle and all.

Along with mystery I think love for Astrology is the common bonding factor for all my readers across the globe. For my other books published in India, I get similar responses and frank opinions as well. I like it when readers get involved in my writing and spare time to respond personally. It boosts my morale to write more, to write better and to give them something they like.

But to admit frankly, most of the popularity today at least in the publishing industry is an outcome of hard-hitting, well-targeted and professionally managed marketing strategy. I fall very short in all this and don’t ever think I can be a part of it.

Varsha: Describe your journey as an author and what are your future plans?

Manjiri: I have always wanted to be a writer since my early childhood. I grew up reading Enid Blyton and later Agatha Christie and many others. At some point, I even imagined myself as Enid Blyton reborn, till I came to know that she was still there when I was born!! I wrote my first story at the age of seven, though I was first published as late as in 1994. I feel that I don’t create my books but every book that I write creates me anew. I learn a lot about myself, life and the world around us through the process of writing and creating imaginary characters.

I am very happy when readers connect with my thoughts, my characters and plots and sail smoothly through them. I enjoy this process of creating memories in others minds and think that’s what a writer and a creative person does. I plan to continue it with writing as many books as I can. Already I have completed two novels and both are very unique in their subject and approach. The first one is titled ‘Snowflakes in Summer’. It is a futuristic fantasy and takes place in a world, centuries from now.

The second one is titled The Trail of four. It is based in Salzburg, Austria and is again an international mystery story.

Varsha: As a writer, what do you aim to achieve when you start writing?

Manjiri: To write a good book…a reader would want to carry in their hearts and memories forever.

Varsha: In your opinion, what is the hardest part of writing a book? Why?

Manjiri: Firstly, to actually begin writing the novel, then to create believable characters and finally to end it in a unique manner for the readers to remember it forever. The second challenge is to devote time to it, without falling prey to other distractions, since writing is a solitary process. And thirdly, the most difficult part, according to me is getting it published. Honestly, writing a book is a lot easier than getting it published. Almost everyone wants to write these days and try their hand at it, but very few get published and fewer get recognition. I feel blessed that I am one of those chosen ones.

Varsha: What writing/ publishing advice do you give to aspiring writers of any age?

Manjiri: Write from your heart, write what you want to read but can’t find in the market, write because your heart tells you to, not your head...just write!