Saturday, 13 February 2016

Relating Relations - Interview with Preeti Shenoy

Wissenaire'16, as a part of Knights Incite hosted a small talk by Preeti Shenoy, the only women in the league of India's highest selling authors. The transcript of her interview taken by our senior correspondent Keerthana is as follows.

Ma’am, how was your experience with Wissenaire?
Superb! When I walked into the campus, the kind of welcome that I got and the kind of energy that was there and the standing ovation that I got the moment I walked onto the stage was amazing. It was mind blowing. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be that good because I had my apprehensions before coming here. I thought people are not going to be all that interested and it wouldn’t be all that good. But it was fantastic. Yes, that’s the word. 

You choose relationship as the theme for most of your books. Is there any special reason for doing so?
Yeah. Because I, do believe that relationships are integral to everyone.  I believe that it’s the love that makes us who we are and it is very essential. I write a column in The Financial Chronicle called ‘Sex and the City’ which also revolves around relationships. Well, you can have money, success and wealth, but at some point of time, it’s going to be meaningless if you don’t have genuine people in your life. So, by relationships, I don’t mean just the intimate connection between a male and a female. It’s also about that friend who cares for you.  Friendship and relationship form the core theme in my book. At the same time, that’s not the main focus. My book ‘Tea for Two and a Piece of Cake’ is about a lady who fell in love with a dashing and handsome guy. She is a little overweight. But, he dumped her after 8 years of marriage and 2 kids. So, they are very realistic. While my characters have relationship and friendship, my books are not love stories. Therefore, I find it interesting as the characters are just like you and me. When you read it, you say, “Oh! I know somebody like this.” Basically, I’m very interested in life and that reflects in my writing.

You are a very talented person. How did you develop so many skills? How do you find time from your busy schedule?
I hate routine. I get very bored if I do the same thing every day. I’m passionate about many things like gardening, yoga, and writing. Yes, I’m fortunate that I have so many interests. And I think it is also because I work at it. You might have an interest but only if you work every day, you will develop it. For me, this developing has happened right from my childhood. So, it’s a way of life. It’s not like I’m making time. It just comes naturally to me.

Can you tell us about the book on which you are currently working on?
Presently, I’m working on a fiction book. Like all the other books, it also has an unusual theme.

When are you planning to launch it?
I can’t promise the exact date but I’ll submit it to my publisher as soon as I finish writing. Most probably, it would be in august’16.

Is there anything that you wanted to do very much but were not able to do?
Nothing. At every stage in your life you want something but it changes with time. Incidents happen to you that make you change. At 22, if somebody had told me that I will become a homemaker, I would laugh at them because at that time, I was very ambitious. Even now, I am very ambitious but in a different way. At that time, my greatest dream was I have to become the CEO of a company. I was a total career-minded woman and I had a corporate career. After I gave birth to my son, something in me changed. That baby to me was so precious that I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him in a creche and going back to the corporate career. It became meaningless to me and that’s why I quit the corporate career, stayed at home and looked after him. I’m so proud to say that I was always there at home when my kids returned from school. I was perfectly content doing that. So, my ambition of becoming a CEO changed. Now, my ambition is something else. Coming back to your question, I couldn’t become that. But do I regret it? Not at all.

Who is the inspiration in your life?
My father is my greatest inspiration. I believe that all my strength and confidence comes from my father. He used to be a very good writer but has never published his work. The first acknowledgement in every book of mine will be to my father. So, if you are asking me who my driving force is, it’s my dad.

How would you describe yourself in a few sentences?
Well, I would say I’m fun, bubbly, enthusiastic, energetic, passionate and maybe little mad.

Before you start writing a book, how do you gather the ideas and facts?
I will need many facts, so I do a lot of research. In a book of mine, one of the characters has Asperger syndrome. I have a friend whose child has the same. So, I read up everything about it like the way they talk, whether they can have a relationship, a job, how the syndrome affects their social skills. That’s the kind of research that goes into my novel, but at the same time, it is very easy for the reader. The person reading it won’t even be aware. But everything is so realistic. Anyone reading my book will say that they feel everything that the protagonist is feeling. It is because of this intense research that is happening behind the scene.

How do you respond if you come across a bad review?
I was very upset the first time I came across one. It does hurt a lot. Now that it is online, anyone with a computer can comment anything. So, whenever such a review comes, I first look if there is a substance in it. If there is, I try and incorporate it. Therefore, I got better with every book. You can see a huge difference between my second and sixth book because I have considered the feedback of the readers seriously. If somebody’s trying to troll, I clearly block and ignore.

What is the reason for choosing Bipolar disorder for ‘Life Is What You Make It’?
Because it fascinated me. I went to a painting exhibition in UK and the artist there had this bipolar disease. Then I started my research on bi-polar. Today, I can tell you so much about it. The hero in the Tamil movie “3” apparently had bipolar, but actually it is schizoaffective disorder. But they didn’t want to use that term as lot of people won’t understand. I could tell that the symptoms mentioned were wrong because I’ve researched a lot. Diseases like Bipolar disorder or Asperger syndrome are not very common. Anyone of us might have it. However, we won’t even come to know. We might ignore thinking that it is “our personality”. . It is a slight form of autism. Such issues where lot of people suffer fascinate me. Also, I get thousands of letters saying “Oh My God. I never knew it could be like this.”

Can that disease be present in everyone?
No. Bipolar disease is a very serious one. It is an issue which needs medical intervention. Many people think that it’s just mood and we can be better. Asperger syndrome is different. One who is suffering from it takes everything that he hears literally! There are so many people suffering in countries like India and China.  

Is there any fictional character that you would like to be?
Nothing. But, readers often ask me whether any of the characters are based on me.
Well, a character in ‘It happened for a reason’ is just like me. She also has a dog, and a superb relationship with her son. Many of the dialogues in that book are what I and my son generally talk. The characters are full of life. I don’t prefer to be s character of some other author who’ll do whatever. I better be in my own hands.

I don't feel I am talking to a stranger. How come you are so friendly?
Well, thank you. You are not the first person to say this. I have been complimented like this a lot of times. Perhaps its because I have a son of your age. So I can understand and think like you. Yeah, that should be the reason.

Is there any message that you would like to share with us?
Yes.  Believe in yourself, work and your wishes will come true. Have the courage to dream, that’s the most important. Many people get so bogged down by life that they forget to dream. But, do what you are truly passionate about.

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