BENGALURU: Preeti Shenoy is one among the country’s highest-selling authors and has also won the ‘Indian of the Year’ award by Brands Academy, in 2017, for her contribution to literature. Her books include A Hundred Little Flames, It’s All In The Planets, Why We Love The Way We Do, The Secret Wish List, The One You Cannot Have and the recently published The Rule Breakers. Excerpts from her interaction with CE:
What was your trigger for writing The Rule Breakers?
Statistics show that the average age for marriage in India is 26 for men and 22 for women. In the nineties, this was even lower. This prompted me to write a story where the protagonist, Veda, is a young girl of 19, and is brought up to be compliant and obedient. Her dreams are crushed as her marriage gets fixed. She later discovers her calling in working with the urban under-privileged.
What has been your inspiration as a writer?
I can find inspiration in pretty much anything. Give me five random words and I can weave a story around it. When my children were small, I would also ask them things like, ‘Do you want the character to be a boy or a girl?’ Then I would ask them a few more details to weave a new story on the spot. At airports, I observe people and make up stories about them.
Does your writing draw influence from vernacular books?
Sadly the only books I read are English books. I do read translated versions. For example, I loved Benyamin’s Goat Days and then the Tamil Story edited by Dilip Kumar.
With the digitisation of books, have you moved to reading books on screen or do you prefer the old-fashioned books?
Earlier, I used to be averse to reading e-books. But now I read all the time on my Kindle. I also read physical books. For example, I loved the illustrations in the hardcover book Like a Girl. I also loved INFJoe’s Text Don’t Call. I loved Majane Satrapi’s Persepolis. For all these books, the joy wouldn’t have been the same on an e-book.
Also, I have a large collection of physical books - more than 3000 books! Kindle books don’t add to the clutter. So I like reading both.
What is the process you undergo while writing?
I write till I finish my book. I research a lot, and I am hard working and disciplined when it comes to my writing.
The process that I follow :
Step 1: Getting the idea/inspiration.
Step 2: Detailed research.
Step 3: Planning the plot in detail.
Step 4: Character conceptualisation.
Step 5: Writing the book.
Do you go back to your old writings? How does it feel to re-read what you had written years back?
My first book was re-launched with a new title Love A Little Stronger. All were true stories from my life. Since then, I have grown so much as a writer. Hence my publishers and I felt a need to re-launch it, with many new stories, along with the re-edited old ones.
When I read my second book Life Is What You Make It, I was happy with it and could see why even after ten years, it still tops the charts. When I read some other books of mine, I might feel certain things could have been presented slightly differently. But then that was what I could do, at that time! So I have no regrets about any of my past books.
How difficult or easy is it to get published? Have you had to modify or change the content of your book for it to get published?
It is relatively easier to get published today than it was ten years ago. It all depends on what the commissioning editor of the publishing house you submit to thinks! For my second book, I had to cut down my manuscript heavily. But after that I never had to change the content.
Who’s your first reader? And who are your biggest critics?
I have a set of close friends who are my first readers. They offer me valuable feedback. My husband and my daughter also are among my first readers. My biggest critic and biggest fan is my close friend Satish. Incidentally, I happen to be married to him too.
Do you think marketing plays an integral role in the success of a book?
I think it is important to do marketing in order to get noticed. But you cannot sell a bad book by marketing! For Life Is What You Make It, I did no marketing at all. The book still continues to top the charts. What works more than any marketing is word of mouth. If your book has struck an emotional chord, then the person who has read it would naturally want to share the experience with others. That is the best thing really.