Preeti Shenoy is a well-known author and an artist based in Bangalore, India. Her bestsellers include Life is What you make it, Tea for two and a piece of cake, 34 Bubblegums and Candies, and her latest book The Secret Wishlist. She also specialises in pencil portraits and holds an internationally recognised qualification from the UK in portraiture. She has held a number of jobs in the past. Preeti has also written for several publications including Reader’s Digest and the Times of India. She is an artist, a writer, a blogger, a traveller and a mother of two lovely children. She loves playing basketball and spending time with her family.
AD: Tell us a little about your latest work The Secret Wishlist.
PS: It is a heart-warming tale about friendship, following your heart and doing what you truly long to. It is also an unusual love story. Very often, we are the victims of our own circumstances and we play along and do what is expected of us. Many of us in India still do not stand up to our parents or family, and we sacrifice our personal needs for the sake of family. Over a period of time, this results in extreme frustration and unhappiness. I have noticed this in many marriages and have always wanted to write a story on it.
Then a few people close to me passed away suddenly – died very young. It made me want to convey a powerful message about how short and unpredictable life really is, and therefore why it is all the more important to follow your heart. This book was a result of that.
Many readers have already written to me saying reading this book compelled them to do the things on their wishlist. I felt happy about that.
AD: What kind of literary works do you admire?
PS: I read a lot. I admire great writing! It does not matter to me whether it is considered ‘literary’ or not. For me, the writing and the story have to hold my attention. I am not genre specific. My reading is wide and varied. I like Audrey Niffennegger, I like Roald Dahl. I like children’s books too.
AD: What are your thoughts on the publishing world/industry as of today with special reference to India?
PS: The scene is now different from what it used to be, say six years ago. There are thousands of new authors coming out every year. We read about everyday life and those are the popular books. Now is a great time to be a published author in India.
AD: Did you face any challenges in getting your first book published?
PS: I had already been writing for a quite a while before approaching publishers with my first book. I had several published articles to my name, having worked with some well-known names like Times of India and Reader’s Digest. Also, some of my pieces had already been published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. I had a very popular blog going. The first book was an adaptation of my very popular posts. It was creative nonfiction. Because of all this, it wasn’t very hard for me to get published.
AD: How did your interest in blogging begin?
PS: To be honest, I got into it without knowing what I was getting into. I was very close to my father who passed away in September 2006. He meant the world to me and for me blogging was a way of coping up with grief because it is really hard to talk about death. So I would write primarily to please myself. I started writing little things which gave me something to look forward to. One of my blog post got picked up by a radio show host in the US and it won the ’Perfect Post’ award, and that brought me into the spotlight. I had readers from Germany, US, and I was surprised at how my writing had crossed boundaries. My readers started multiplying like an inverted pyramid. I used to blog every single day. So if you are a blogger, consistency in very important. Today I have more than 2500 page views a day.
AD: Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
PS: I write from my very comfortable bed, with my Doberman for company. I do not have a fixed time. But I write best in solitude. I cannot write when my family is around. I cannot write in cafes (like some writers do). Even if it’s only fifteen minutes that I get to be by myself, I write.
AD: Which new author has grasped your interest?
PS: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Mayank Austen Soofi.
AD: If you were to meet any of your own characters, who would it be?
PS: I have met every single one of them! They have lived in my head for the entire duration of the time that I have spent in writing the book. Once I am done with book, we have parted ways and like with ex-lovers, I definitely do not want to meet them again.
I read a lot. I admire great writing! It does not matter to me whether it is considered ‘literary’ or not. For me, the writing and the story have to hold my attention. I am not genre specific. My reading is wide and varied. I like Audrey Niffennegger, I like Roald Dahl. I like children’s books too.
AD: Being a mother of two, how difficult is it to manage the children, the household and still have a busy career?
PS: Why is it that men never get asked this question? If a man has a successful career with two children, will he ever be asked how hard it is to manage? I wonder!
AD: Who or what is your biggest strength?
PS: Who – my family. I cannot imagine life without them. What – my determination. Once I have decided on something, I follow it through!
AD: Where does your determination to write come from?
PS: If I didn’t write, I would go insane! I honestly do not know where the determination comes from. You just have to make up your mind to do something and then stick to it, come what may. That is what I do.
AD: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
PS: When I am writing I don’t think about what is challenging and what is hard. I am true to myself and tell the story in the best possible way I know.
AD: Have you ever faced a writer’s block?
PS: Never. I write only when I want to write. Since I am also an artist, I do my art when I need a break from writing and then I come back.
AD: Describe your writing in 5 words.
PS: It is honest, from the heart, fun, simple and connectable.
AD: When do you find the time to draw and paint?
PS: When words fail me, I turn to art. When I do not find the words to express myself, I turn to art. I also like paper quilling and it acts as a real stress-buster.
AD: How should an author deal with manuscript rejection?
PS: Rejections are going to be a part of a writer’s life. If the publisher has suggested modifications or reasons for rejection, try and accommodate that in your work. There is no other option but to keep trying. Right now is a great time to get published in India. Find out what is it that is not working and keep trying. One way is going by the words of what a particular publisher says. The other way is to approach another publisher. So there is no other way except to keep trying.
AD:Sports or music?
PS: Sports any day!
AD: Food: Chinese or Continental?
PS: Chinese. (Indian Chinese preferably!)
AD: Black or Blue?
AD: The best dressed man you know
PS: Can men really be ‘best dressed’?
AD: One favourite memory
PS: Birth of my children
AD: ‘You’ in one word