You are such a prolific writer. Can you pass on any hints you use to keep yourself productive and writing consistently?
Actually I am not as prolific as I would like to be, mainly because I have a demanding full-time job that does not allow me the luxury of time to devote to my writing projects. But my best source of inspiration to boost my productivity and creativity is reading books by other authors. I love reading and try to fit in at least a half hour of reading just before I go to bed each night. It is a great way to wind down and relax, also a way to energize the muses and overcome writer's block.
As for writing consistently, I have to discipline myself constantly because I tend to go in spurts, and to succeed and meet a writer's deadlines, one has to establish a schedule. My writing is almost always done very early in the mornings.
Your books all have deep emotion throughout. Do you find yourself emotionally drained after a particularly fruitful writing session or have you found a way to somehow convey the emotion and still distance yourself from its effects?
When I write an emotional scene I am completely immersed in it, heart and soul. It can be a lot of fun, but quite draining at times. Nevertheless that also tells me it is a good scene if it can move me, the writer, to that extent. A sex scene is not worth much if I don't feel at least a little aroused or a heartbreaking scene has not been effectively captured if I don't shed a few tears. Women's fiction by its very nature is very emotional and the writer needs to be completely engaged in the drama of it.
The subjects you have covered are ones that could be controversial in certain places. Have you ever found yourself debating whether or not you should write about these subjects? How do you decide if a subject is best left alone or is worth the flack you may receive?
Some of my topics have been subjected to controversy and negative scrutiny, especially dowry abuse and female-fetus abortion in India, the subjects of my first two books. Not everybody feels it is wrong to demand a dowry from the bride's family. A lot of otherwise morally upright people have secretly turned to abortion to avoid having a female child. Such folks feel that I am turning a simple social practice into a huge moral debate by bringing awareness to it. There are others who feel a writer should not expose the darker side of one's culture. Consequently I have to do a lot of deliberation and soul-searching before I embark on writing a story with a controversial or incendiary theme.
What prompted you to write Full Moon Bride?
After having lived in the U.S. for over 37 years and raised a daughter who was born here and is now married and has a family of her own, I have witnessed a lot of cultural and social conflict that the second-generation Indian-Americans and other Asian-Americans grapple with. Trying to fit into two vastly diverse cultures can be a tough challenge for young people. The Full Moon Bride is a result of my observations and what could happen when a young woman can't quite decide if it is passion or pragmatism that makes a marriage, and which path she should choose to realize her own dreams and those of her family.
Of the books you have written, can you pick one as your favorite (the one you would suggest reader’s who are unfamiliar with you start with)? Why this particular choice?
I don't really have a favorite book, because I put my heart into every one of them. But my last book, The Unexpected Son, has elements that I can personally relate to the most. The college campus life that my heroine experiences in the 1970s in small-town India and the way her youthful indiscretions come to haunt her 30 years later, when she is forced to make a life-altering decision, make for a very emotional and intriguing story. I could picture a lot of what she was going through more vividly because my experiences, to some degree, as far as family life and the conservatism of it are concerned, are similar to my heroine's.
Are you currently working on anything you’d be willing to share information on?
My publisher prefers that I not discuss future projects, but I will say the next book is also about a young Indian-American professional, who in her quest for love and passion and family, ends up falling in love with the most unlikely man. Needless to say the journey to happiness has a few interesting bumps.
Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
I would like to encourage readers who have never read any ethnic fiction to open their minds and read my books. Many previous skeptics have come to love my books and have become long-time supporters, some of them being men. I try to make my books both entertaining and educational. If nothing else, readers will learn something about Indian culture and be the richer for it.
Readers can find my books, events, contests, photos, recipes, and contact information on my website: www.shobhanbantwal.com/ or visit my facebook page: www.facebook.com/ShobhanBantwal.author
Thank you for the wonderful interview, Shobhan! Everyone, please come back tomorrow to see what I think of Full Moon Bride.