A self-proclaimed writer of “Bollywood in a Book,” Shobhan Bantwal has just released her fourth novel, titled The Unexpected Son. Her writing contains such delightful elements as romance, colorfully, action-packed tales, which are rich with hints of Indian culture. Born and raised in India, Ms. Bantwal has since become an American citizen. Shobhan Bantwal has endured much in her life, including an arranged marriage which she uses as experience in her writing, as well as other controversial social topics unique to India.
In addition to novel writing, Ms. Bantwal has also penned many short stories and articles, which have appeared in such influential periodicals as The Writer magazine, Romantic Times, India Abroad, Little India, U.S. 1, India Currents, and New Woman. Several of her short stories have won honors and awards in fiction contests sponsored by Writer’s Digest, New York Stories and New Woman magazines.
To read more about Shobhan Bantwal’s many accomplishments, short stories, works, recipes and so much more, please be sure to visit her website at: www.shobhanbantwal.com
Thank you for this interview, Shobhan. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Born and raised in a small town in India, in a conservative Hindu-Brahmin family, I came to the United States more than 36 years ago. I had an arranged marriage, and I write about that topic as well as other social topics unique to India and of interest to western cultures like the United States and Europe. I took up writing at the late age of 50, so I have been writing for just a few short years.
Do you write full-time?
I have a full-time day job, and that is the one that pays the bills, so writing is only a hobby at this time. But what started as a pastime has exploded into a second full-time career. I devote many hours a week to my writing.
You’ve met an old friend from high school and you want to pitch your book to him/her in five minutes or less. What would you say?
I have this great new book that was just released. It’s set partly in India and partly in the United States. What do you think could happen to a woman who made an innocent mistake while she was growing up in India, and 30 years later, that dark, buried secret comes back to turn her cozy American life upside down? Are you interested in finding out?
Who is your intended audience? Have you been able to crossover into other audiences as well?
My audience is primarily women, all age groups, nationalities, religious affiliations, and political leanings. There are some men as well, those who like an emotionally satisfying read and something different from the mysteries, thrillers, and non-fiction that typically appeal to male audiences.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
I call my particular genre “Bollywood in a Book” — multicultural commercial fiction with romantic elements. I chose it because I love to read books of a similar flavor. I am a romantic at heart and have always loved romances, so combining that central theme of romance with cultural elements is the perfect genre for me.
Do you ever experience self-doubts with your work?
I experience self-doubts all the time, every step of the way. Considering I’m a tiny fish swimming in a literary ocean of whales, sharks, and every other size of fish in between, self-doubt is inevitable.
Where do you write? Do you have a favorite place?
I write in a small, cramped home office that I share with my husband. More than being a favorite place, it is the most practical, since my computer and bookshelves are located there.
What kind of research did you have to do during the writing process?
For my latest book, The Unexpected Son, I had to do considerable medical research online since my protagonist’s son is gravely ill with leukemia and fighting for his life. A few doctor friends were also my additional sources of information and research. For my previous three books, online and library books provided me with enough material to bring credibility to the stories.
Who is your publisher and how did you get accepted by them? Did you pitch your book yourself or go through an agent?
My publisher is Kensington Publishing. I took the traditional approach by first signing on with a reputable agent, who subsequently sold my book rights to Kensington.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
I have been actively promoting through virtual tours, Fresh Fiction, Author Buzz, which does mass mailings to book clubs, readers, booksellers, and librarians. I also guest blog on fellow authors’ blogs and give away signed copies of my books through contests and drawings. I speak regularly at libraries, book clubs and women’s organizations.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
I would tell them that promotion is key to selling ones’ books. Promotion never ends; it is an ongoing part of an author’s life and requires time, effort, and not so surprisingly, growing a thick skin.
What’s next for you?
For the immediate future, I have two more books on contract with Kensington, respectively scheduled for 2011 and 2012.
Thank you for this interview, Shobhan. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
Thank you for a most interesting interview. My website, www.shobhanbantwal.com lists all my books, short stories and articles, contests, video trailers, reviews, excerpts, recipes, photos, charities of my choice, and other tidbits. My books are available at all major bookstores and online booksellers.