Indian American author Shobhan Bantwal writes romance novels and short stories set in India and the US. Growing up in India and coming to the US as part of an arranged marriage give her a unique outlook on life. Along with working full-time, she both writes and appears onstage directing and acting in humorous plays that she writes. Bantwal recently took time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions:
Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer.
One young woman’s escape from India’s dowry system and extraordinary journey to freedom and hope.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
What inspired me to write The Dowry Bride was the fact that in modern India the decadent and archaic system of dowry still continues despite laws to ban it. As a sociology major in college, certain social practices were of deep interest to me. Extreme dowry abuse which even led to murder was something that was difficult to imagine and had a certain morbid fascination. Much later in life, when I took up creative writing, I thought it would be a good subject for a story and a way to tell the world of what happens in certain parts of the world. Maybe in my own small way I could bring a degree of awareness.
What do you want your readers to take away from this book?
I want my readers to gain understanding of what certain cultures are willing to tolerate or overlook. In an educated society, where women can aspire to any occupation or the highest possible elected office, domestic abuse of the most horrific kind not only exists but is even condoned in some communities. When told in the form of interesting fiction, a social issue can be brought to light – a way to educate as well as entertain.
Were do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?
I do all my writing in our home office – an extra bedroom converted into a working area for my husband and myself.
Your favorite book, and why?
My all-time favorite is Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. It is told in the most simple and forthright manner and yet the complexities underlying everyday life are beautifully portrayed. Racial tensions as see through a child’s innocent eyes make this book a literary work of genius, a coming of age classic and an inspiring social commentary.
What book are you currently reading?
At the moment I’m reading Jayne Ann Krentz’s Summer In Eclipse Bay. It’s not one of her more recent books, but I love her books and her style of writing. I just happened to pick it up at a library rummage sale.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my second book for Kensington (part of the two-book contract), but it is too early in the process to talk much about it. It’s still a developing idea and I don’t have the plot quite worked out in my head.
What one tip would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?
I’d tell anyone who seriously wants to pursue writing to consider joining a critique group. It has been invaluable to me and many of my writer friends and acquaintances swear by it. I sincerely believe I wouldn’t have caught a reputable agent’s or editor’s eye without the help of my critique partners.