Writer’s Life Unexpected

Hi everyone! Life is busy, so I try to make it a game to keep up! (Somehow, the game is always ahead of me, lol.) I remember first seeing Shobhan when she held up the stunning artwork for one of her books at NJ Romance Writers several years ago. Since then, her backlist has grown and the cross-cultural topics of her books continue to intrigue me.  Today she talks about the career that came at a time when she very least expected it!

Shobhan Bantwal calls her writing Bollywood in a Book, commercial fiction about India, women’s issues & socio-political topics, with romantic & cultural elements. Her articles & stories have appeared in The WriterRomantic TimesIndia Abroad, Little India, Desi Journal, New Woman & India Currents. Her short fiction has won honors/awards in contests by Writer’s Digest, New York Stories &New Woman magazines. Her debut book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, won the 2008 Golden Leaf Award. Visit her website:www.shobhanbantwal.com or her Facebook page.

Welcome, Shobhan. That’s quite an impressive platform given your relatively recent entry to the world of wordsmithing. What got you started? My writing career is a “menopausal epiphany.” At the age of 50, menopause struck me like a loaded truck, with the worst hot flashes and insomnia I could imagine. Insomnia had my mind on overdrive night after night, so I decided to channel those swirling thoughts into creative writing. What started as purely a hobby to keep myself constructively occupied suddenly exploded into a second full-time career.

What keeps you writing? The desire to tell a story keeps me writing. The need to share my thoughts with a larger audience beyond my circle of family and friends is compelling. I can’t imagine my immediate network of people wanting to listen to me ramble about this and that, but when I squeeze all that material into an interesting story, they are willing to take me more seriously. A published author has more credibility than just a woman who talks incessantly about her ideas. (Never thought this way—how very interesting and true, too!)

How has your writing impacted –or significantly changed—other aspects of your life? My life has completely changed since I became a published writer. With tight deadlines, promotion campaigns, ideas for the next book and the ones after, and oodles of money, time and effort going into all of the above, my lifestyle is a whirlwind. My full-time day job also became four times more demanding and complicated just as my writing career took off (something I had not anticipated at the time). Trying to balance both is a constant challenge. I am up at four o’clock each morning and I don’t sleep until eleven o’clock. And the dreaded insomnia is still very much a menace. Bottom line: I survive on very little sleep and my social life has been cut back significantly. (Again, very interesting points, Shohban. I find social life almost changes forms. Being on the computer and online almost shifts that circle of friends—and I do miss getting out for coffee with people. We talk about it constantly, then everyone—especially the writer friends, myself included—is too busy to make/keep a date.)

Where do you get story and character ideas? My own life and upbringing, along with daily news events and stories I hear from friends, coworkers, and neighbors provide plenty of fodder for story and character ideas. At times reality is more bizarre than fiction, but there is always a good scene or two to be mined from that as well.

For those who write across cultural lines, how do you market or generate a mainstream, typical reader’s interest in your books? I believe most readers are curious and want to know and learn. I try to tap into that inquisitive part of the reader’s brain to generate interest. Topics like arranged marriage, dowry, female-fetus abortion in a male obsessed society, caste system, and the cultural elements of daily living in a foreign and exotic culture are of interest to a certain segment of readers. Of course, it is painstaking work to chip away at the mainstream public and get them to look at something different, but once they are hooked, they make a loyal audience. However, my readership is very small yet, mainly because South Asian writers are stereotyped as serious literary writers while mine is mainstream fiction with romantic elements, something unexpected and unfamiliar to readers.

Please share the three ways you find most effective to promote your work! This is a tough question for me, but I will try to answer it anyway. My main promotional efforts are: Book Clubs and Libraries: With their unusual cultural slant, social themes, and at times hot-button women’s issues, my books are well suited for book clubs and reading groups, therefore I often get invited to book discussions, library groups, and readers’ forums. I would say they are my best promotional tool. I enjoy face-to-face contact immensely and my audiences connect well with me most of the time. Online Promotion: I spend a large amount of money and time on online campaigns like virtual tours, book trailers, Fresh Fiction, ads in the Romance Writers Report (RWR) and some ethnic Indian publications. I use them consistently because I have faith in online promoting and some limited print advertising. Social Networking: I have pages on Facebook and MySpace, but I do that out of necessity.  I find social networking rather stressful and time-consuming. I have never owned a blog and I don’t use Twitter or any other type of networking tools, mainly because I don’t enjoy them much. However, as modern promotional avenues, I cannot afford to ignore them entirely either.

I’ve felt—and often feel—that way, too, especially when online and networking time seem to get in the way of my actual writing. (When I’m stuck though, writing a post is a great way to shift those creative juices in another direction—before I know it I’ve ‘written’ something else, lol.) And the wonderful feedback I receive from my own small—yet growing—number of blog readers keeps me inspired, grateful and fueled to keep at it, to deliver more of what my readers seem to like. I also enjoy watching how this particular avenue seems to have taken on a life of its own, evolving and changing a little at a time—almost like a manuscript in first-draft stage.

Thank you for a very interesting interview. I enjoyed doing it!

And I thoroughly enjoyed reading and presenting it—thanks so much, Shobhan. Hope to see you here again soon!

For more information on Shobhan’s books, as well as excerpts, contests, trailer videos, photos, buylinks, etc, visit Shobhan’s website: www.shobhanbantwal.com

As always, thanks to all of you for stopping in! A blog is nothing without its readers and supporters!

Until next time,