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[Interview] Bestselling author Preeti Shenoy, on how she sketches her characters to life

Rekha Balakrishnan
21st Nov 2017
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Preeti Shenoy’s latest book, A Hundred Little Flames, sheds light on familial relationships.

The author Preeti Shenoy

Moving away from the genre of ‘adult romance’, bestselling author Preeti Shenoy weaves a humble yet thought-provoking narrative in her new book, A Hundred Little Flames, which is set in a quaint village in Kerala. It sheds light on familial relationships where the protagonist is a grandfather who grapples with a modern-day lifestyle and evolving technology.

Illustrating a rustic love, the book cover depicts a grandfather and grandson sitting on a garden bench, and perfectly captured the unconditional love that people share with their grandparents.

Preeti is a successful writer who features among the top five bestselling authors in India and is also on the Forbes longlist of the most influential celebrities in the country.

In an interview with HerStory, she talks about her latest book and comes up with tongue-in-cheek replies for everything, from inspirations to influences.

HerStory: Can you tell us more about your latest book, A Hundred Little Flames? What is it all about?

Preeti Shenoy: It is an epic love tale of a granddad relived by his grandson. It is also a story of a modern day, no-rules complicated relationship, an unrequited love that always felt complete. It is also about finding the courage to do that which you have always wanted to do.

HS: Is this book quite different from the others you have written or does it fall in the same genre?

PS: It is very different in many ways from all the others I have written.

HS: Can you tell us about the characters in the book? Are they influenced by people in real life?

PS: Gopal Shanker, an octogenarian, grumpy on the outside, soft and sentimental on the inside, a man of his words.

Rohini, a determined woman, who knows what she wants. Fiercely romantic, young at heart.

Ayan, 26, a techie who has always danced to his father’s tunes. His love is unconditional, but his trust and respect aren’t.

Shyamala, a cigarette puffing, frank, feisty woman who minces no words.

Velu, the loyal Man Friday

Shivani, a journalist, a trusted friend, and an unsure girlfriend whose relationship status is ‘It’s complicated.’

Jairaj, He loves his son but doesn’t believe in his son’s dreams. He cares for this father, but not what his father wants.

Yes, like all writers I draw from people I come across. I sketched them spending hours and hours on my laptop.

HS: You started off with blogging, how did the transition to becoming an author happen?

PS: I started blogging 11 years back. My first book was published nine years back. I still blog. I still write novels. So I am a writer first, and an author/blogger next. I have always written. Even when I was a child, I used to write. I have won several prizes for writing in my college days at university level. I have also had pieces published in school and college magazines, in newspapers, magazines etc.

HS: As a bestselling author, perhaps only one of the few Indian women to be so, how does it feel?

PS: I still wake up in the morning, exercise, cook, and then get down to writing. Does that answer your question?

HS: What do you think sets your books apart from the rest?

PS: I think the best answer to that question would be: please read the reviews of my books! One person has in a review said that (and this is not the first time it has been said) that my writing stopped them from committing suicide.

HS: Where do you get your ideas from? Any particular inspirations?

PS: I have a secret idea tree, visible only to me. It is magic. I just go to that tree and help myself. I am grateful for that tree. My inspiration is life itself.

HS: Do you think marketing plays a huge role in the 'acceptance' of a book. What do you think of it?

PS: It is important if you are an author who wants to be read. But good marketing or spending large sums of money will not help if the content is mediocre or bad.

HS: How does it feel to be one of the most influential women in India?

PS: I wish I could influence my dog! She wakes me up at 6 am every single day when all I want to do is cuddle up and sleep.

HS: Do you think Indian writing (by women) has come of age?

PS: It has always been ‘of age’!

HS: A lot of women bloggers are making or thinking of making a transition to publishing. What would your advice be to them?

PS: Please do not pay money to anyone to publish you. If they ask for money, run. No traditional publisher worth their salt will ever ask you for money. If you get rejected, keep trying. Wear your rejections like armour and they cannot hurt you. (Thanks to Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones)

HS: You have a wide range of interests. How do you balance them all?

PS: Balancing them implies I am juggling stuff or walking a tightrope. I am not! I do the stuff that I absolutely love to do, and so it’s a pleasure.

HS: Who are your favourite women authors and books?

PS: I don’t  think of authors as men or women. Have never thought of the gender of a writer. How does it matter truly? But since you specifically ask for women writers, Audrey Niffenegger, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Anita Nair, and Madeleine Wickham [also known under the pen name Sophie Kinsella, of the Shopaholic series fame].

Preeti's previous books include It’s All in The Planets, Why We Love the Way We Do, The Secret Wish List, The One You Cannot Have, and others. She continues writing her very popular blog and pursues a wide range of interests that include travel, photography, and yoga.

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