A Chat In The Cafe With Preeti Shenoy On Writing Books That Everyone Can Relate To
By: Gayathri Naga on Jun 4th, 2015
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Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

The author of 6 best-sellers, Preeti Shenoy is also a yoga buff, an artist, blogger, mother of 2 kids and a proud dog owner! Yes, you heard me right. If you haven't already come across her (which is only possible if you have been living under a rock) or read her books, then what are you waiting for? Go ahead, give her books a read and we assure you, by the end of it, you'll be able to relate to one character or the other! Yes, Preeti's books have that effect on the readers. It's like magic!

 

We had the opportunity to talk to her on myriad topics like her book characters, family matters and her tremendous success as a writer. Budding writers, watch out for some valuable writing advice! 

Image credit: preeti shenoy

1. You were listed among the Forbes list of 100 most influential celebrities of India. What was that like? Share the experience with us!

That feels like ages ago—I think it is more than 3 years back, and I have been on the Forbes India longlist each year since then! The first time it happened, I was excited (naturally). To be honest, more than the Forbes list, I am proud of being on the Nielsen list in the top 5.

But the thing is once you achieve something, you quickly get used to the ‘high’ and you look at ‘what next’. For me, my journey is about telling stories in the best possible way. I get mails from thousands of readers telling me how much my writing helped them get through a difficult phase of their life or how they could connect with my writing and how they feel validated and understood by my stories. That, to me, is a greater achievement than being on any list in the world!

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

2. All your six books have varied themes and characters - where do you get the inspiration to tell such stories? Is most of it culled from your real- life experiences?

Haha—if that was true, then I should be a single mom (Vee from "It Happens For a Reason"), a mother whose husband left her (Nisha from "Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake"), a lady trapped in an unhappy marriage (Diksha from "The Secret Wishlist"), a young journalist who falls in love with a guy who is not able to get over his ex (Anjali from "The One You Cannot Have") and also a girl with a mental health issue (Ankita from "Life is What You Make It")! How can I be all these people rolled into one? At any point of time, there are hundreds of stories running inside my head. I can make up a story about anything — a pizza box, a discarded trash can, a soaring eagle, a single guy who wants to get married, a girl who does not, an old person, an abandoned dog, a paper clip – anything really!

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

3. You are a blogger, author, yoga buff, artist and a mother of two children. How do you balance your work and family?

I wish I could tell you that I have this tricycle where one wheel is my career, the other wheel my family and the third wheel my other interests! No such luck! I am not a super-woman (I hate that word!) and I certainly can’t do it all. To 'balance’ implies it is some kind of juggling. It isn’t. I am passionate about each of my interests. I love being a mom, I absolutely love my writing and other things. I think if you genuinely love somebody or something, you will always make time for it. Else, you will make excuses.

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

4. Do you have any advice for young writers who are waiting to make their transition from a blogger to a fully-fledged writer?

Read, read, read a lot! Write, write, write – as much as you can!

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

5. You have changed schools every three years and moved to a new city, and with that comes new experiences. Has this ever influenced your writing style?

No, I don’t think so. It might have given me newer perspectives. It might have given me new experiences and taught me to mingle easily with new people. It might have exposed me to new cultures and widened my horizons. But these alone wouldn’t have made me a better writer. That comes from years and years of practice, just like any other skill!

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

6. Do you believe that anybody can be a writer as long as they have the desire to tell a story? Also, nowadays we have so many bloggers, but very few successful authors in India. Is this because people fail to grab the opportunity or simply don’t get the right kind of support and encouragement?

I don’t think that anyone who has a desire to tell a story can be a writer. To be a writer, you have to be more comfortable communicating with others over the written medium than speaking to them. I have friends (all writers themselves) to whom I write more than I speak! They (like me) love to write and hate the telephone. Another quality I see in them is they love to read. Why there are very few successful authors in India: I think it is a dynamic combination of many things — marketing, distribution, availability, visibility online and in stores – and most of all, a story that touches you deep inside and makes you feel.

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

7. Some say that your book, The Secret Wishlist, glorifies extra-marital affairs, while others say they can relate to the protagonist, Diksha. What do you have to say about these contrasting reviews?

I have mails from hundreds of women all over India who told me that they felt like I had crawled inside their heads and written their stories! A man declared openly on social media that it was an eye-opener for him to read the book, as he was exactly like Sandeep. He said he would turn [over] a new leaf. A young man said that after he read the book, he asked his mom what her wishlist was and he vowed to make them all come true. How does it glorify extra-marital affairs? The book is much larger than that. And extra-marital affairs do happen! People in marriages do fall in love with others. It is not true that a woman becomes a Goddess after she gets married and will have no emotions other than for her husband! Respect her. She deserves your respect and do not take her for granted — else she may find someone who appreciates her more than you do. This is the message of the book—and I think it makes many people (both men and women) uncomfortable. If it does, they need to examine why.

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

8. What was the turning point in your life and how much has it impacted you? Is it easy to move from a blogger to a writer? Is there a lot to get used to - change of pace, discipline, media, self publishing vs. publisher?

I wrote my first book at the age of 8! I have won many prizes in college at University level for my writing. I have written (and painted) ever since I can remember. So it is a misconception if people think that I started this blog and boom - there was a book deal and I made it big! Yes, writing a book is definitely very different from writing a blog—the discipline it demands, the commitment and mostly the lonely hours where you sit at your keyboard, away from everyone else (no matter what they are doing) and you write day after day after day. I wouldn’t recommend self-publishing at all. It is better to go with a traditional publisher, even if it takes time to get published!

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

9. You have worked with underprivileged children and taught them English. How was that experience?

I taught English and Math. It was a fabulous experience. It helped me grow as a person. I formed a great bond with all of them and I still have the gifts that they handmade for me on my birthday.

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

10. How has your family supported you through this exciting journey? Are your children proud of having a celebrity mom?

Everyone in my family is extremely proud of me. My daughter tells me about how happy and proud she feels when she tells people I am a writer and they recognize my name. They have always been supportive. When I have to travel for my book launches and promos, my husband manages everything. My kids give me my space and time when I need to write.

Image credit: Preeti Shenoy

11. We are sure an author’s job is a lot more than just writing. Do you like the other side of the role – marketing, interacting with publishers, book readings – or would you rather just write?

Yes, I do like the other side too. I love to travel and meet my readers. I love to talk about my work. My publishers are very sweet and take me out for lunches and dinners. So yes, I enjoy it! But that is only a teeny weeny part of it. The major part of my job is still writing!

 

Check out her awesome blog here and follow her here.

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Gayathri Naga
Gayatri loves food, Harry Potter, the chicken dance, Chris Evans and House of Cards! Her dream destinations are Paris and Alaska. She wants her magic power to be apparition. She enjoys writing hand-written letters to people. If you want somebody to laugh at your lame jokes, she is the person to find.   Read more
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