Romantic, delightful, action-packed with rich hints of Indian culture, Indo-American Shobhan Bantwal’s stories are as prolific as the writer. It took her a while to realise her love for words. She wrote a new novel every year, in addition to essays, short stories and articles. Then, she took up women’s fiction writing. “My novels are vibrant. They have all the hot spice, the travails of arranged marriage, taboo love, dowry and female foeticide.
Bantwal, a Robbinsville resident, moved to the US in 1974 and has worked for the New Jersey Department of Labour for 16 years. “The dowry system, female foetus abortions, and challenges that affect Indian women had to be brought to light,” says the author of The Forbidden Daughter. “In 35 years, I have had the opportunity to look at India and Indians from an outsider’s viewpoint. Everything that seemed ordinary and not worthy of discussion while I was growing up in India became a story worth telling.” She adds, “When non-fiction writers and scholars produce academic books on such socially significant subjects, the mainstream population hardly ever reads them. However, when such serious topics are woven into interesting Bollywood-style novels, they can reach a wider reading audience. I took a gamble on that very notion and started writing novels with female characters whose lives are touched by controversial social-cultural practices,” she adds. The author feels that since most South Asian authors are known for literary fiction, she has faced criticism for her “unusual and light-hearted romantic books”. She says, “For some reason many intellectuals are disdainful of commercial fiction. There is a large, untapped mainstream audience that enjoys light fiction that is entertaining rather than stimulating.”
Bantwal is a romance fiction addict. “At 50, I decided to take the plunge and write what I liked. I had my own doubts about whether a reputable agent or publisher would bother to read my stories that did not really fit into any genre. In spite of numerous rejections from the agents, I continued to write. Eventually, in 2006, I signed a highly reputable New York agent who represents a number of bestselling authors and landed a two-book contract with Kensington Publishing.” While authors and publishers viewed eBooks with wariness until a few years ago, eBooks are embraced as the new, exciting wave in publishing. She concludes, “The six novels I have written are available in the electronic format in North America. Electronic books are the future. But I still prefer to read paper novels.”