10 QUESTIONS FOR…Shobhan Bantwal, author of “The Sari Shop Widow”


Author interview with Shobhan BantwalShobhanBantwalTheSariShopWidow

Shobhan Bantwal calls her writing Bollywood in a Book, commercial fiction about India, women’s issues, and socio-political topics, with romantic and cultural elements. Her articles and stories have appeared in The Writer, Romantic Times, India Abroad, Little India, Desi Journal, New Woman, and India Currents. Her short fiction has won honors/awards in contests by Writer’s Digest, New York Stories & New Woman magazines. Her debut book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, won the 2008 Golden Leaf Award. Visit her website: www.shobhanbantwal.com

1. Tell us about your latest book.

THE SARI SHOP WIDOW is my third novel published by Kensington Publishing. Set on the streets of Edison, New Jersey’s Little India, it tells the story of a young businesswoman who rediscovers the magic of love, family, and her roots as she fights to save her failing sari boutique. Caught between her growing affection for the man who helps her with her financial crisis and her loyalty to her parents and her business, she is forced to make a life-altering decision.

2. How did you get started as a writer?

My writing career began as a “menopausal epiphany.” Along with hot flashes, insomnia, hair loss, and mood swings came a sudden and unexpected urge to write stories in my middle age. What started as an absorbing hobby to keep myself busy when my husband was working on a long-term out of state business project turned into a second full-time occupation. I now have a day job which is quite demanding and a writing career that is equally challenging. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I am not dreaming all this. My family keeps me grounded and supports me through the bad and good phases of being a writer.

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m up at around 4:30 a.m. on weekday mornings and turn on my computer even before my eyes are fully open. I make myself a cup of tea and start working on my writing for about an hour or more. Then I walk on the treadmill for a mile before showering and getting dressed to go to my day job with the state government of New Jersey, the job that pays the bills and puts food on the table. Trying to juggle two full-time careers is overwhelming to say the least, but the love of writing is addictive.

4. Describe your workspace.

My husband (who is now retired and tends to my website and my business needs) and I share a home office, which is really an extra bedroom converted into a work space. We often sit before our individual computers at opposite ends of the room. We share two crowded bookshelves, a futon inherited from our daughter’s college days, and a coffee table piled with boxes, magazines, and a variety of junk. The one thing that keeps it cozy is the sense of togetherness, something that I cherish immensely. My husband and I do almost everything together.

5. Favorite books (especially for writers)

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass is something I refer to every now and then. But my favorites on the bookshelf are still fiction that I have loved and re-read many times. To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and prejudice, Rebecca, The Kite Runner, and The Notebook are a few I can name.

6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you

  • I used to do standup comedy routines at Indian-American conventions before I decided to try my hand at creative writing. Old-fashioned Indian audiences were shocked to see a middle-aged Indian woman work up enough nerve to get up on stage to tell silly jokes to audiences of over a thousand.
  • I was a tomboy in my childhood. That by itself is not all that significant unless one takes into consideration that I was born in a conservative little town in India in a Hindu Brahmin family with four sisters who were the epitome of proper behavior for girls raised in a strict atmosphere. I was the fourth of five girls, and every gray hair my parents had was probably from the grief and frustration I gave them.
  • Despite my rebelliousness in my youth I settled for an arranged marriage nearly 36 years ago. I am still happily married to the same man and we are still joined at the hip, as they say. 

7. Favorite quote

This is one of my favorites and is by Aldous Huxley. “A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul.”

8. Best and worst part of being a writer

The kind and encouraging words from loyal readers is definitely the most uplifting part of being a writer. The creative aspect of converting an idea swirling in the mind into a full-length novel is also something I find very fulfilling. The worst part is the book marketing and promotion side of it. Not being a very marketing-savvy individual and having no interest in social networking over the Internet (MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) I find it extremely stressful to promote my books.

9. Advice for other writers

If it is your dream to be a published writer, then never give up on that dream. The world of creative writing, especially fiction, is a hard nut to crack, so you need to grow a very thick skin when it comes to rejections and bad reviews, but achieving that dream is well worth weathering the negative aspects. I would say keep on plugging away till you succeed.

10. Tell us a story about your writing experience. Can be funny, embarrassing, inspirational, etc. 

I am the proverbial square peg in a round hole because my books do not fit into any genre. My fiction is “Bollywood in a Book,” commercial fiction — stories with romance, drama, high emotions, and a great degree of cultural detail. When I started querying literary agents some four years ago, I often got back responses like, “So, what exactly can your manuscript be labeled, chick-lit, women’s fiction, romance, mystery?” I had no precise answer for them, so I rarely wrote back to them for fear of sounding like an idiot. I am lucky that a highly reputable literary agent (the same agent who represents Khaled Hosseini of The Kite Runner fame) never asked me such a question. She liked my unusual stories and the fact that they were so refreshingly diverse from the usual somber literary fiction by other South Asian authors.

For a preview of the book, visit – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9uRlbkxxes


Order Your Copy at Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Sari-Shop-Widow-Shobhan-Bantwal/dp/0758232020 

For more information on Shobhan Bantwal’s new and other books and to enter a drawing to win a number of prizes, please go to her website’s “Contests” page and sign up between Sept 1 and Sept 30, 2009 at www.shobhanbantwal.com

Full September Virtual Tour Details – http://virtualblogtour.blogspot.com/2009/07/sari-shop-widow-by-shobhan-bantwal.html 


About The Sari Shop Widow

Pungent curry, sweet fried onions, incense, colorful beads, and lush fabrics – THE SARI SHOP WIDOW is a novel set on the streets of Edison, New Jersey’s Little India, where a young businesswoman rediscovers the magic of love and family. When Anjali Kapadia’s posh sari boutique in New Jersey is on the verge of financial ruin, her wealthy uncle from India comes to her rescue. 

But the wily, dictatorial uncle arrives with some unpleasant surprises—a young Indo-British partner named Rishi Shah for one—and a startling secret that disturbs Anjali.

Falling in love with the mysterious Shah only adds to Anjali’s burgeoning list of complications. Torn between her loyalty to her family and her business on the one hand and her growing attraction for a man who could never fit into her life on the other, Anjali turns to her family and cultural roots to make a life-altering decision.

About Shobhan Banwal

Shobhan Bantwal calls her writing “Bollywood in a Book,” romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of her own Indian culture — stories that entertain and educate. She is an award-winning women’s fiction author of three published novels and has contributed to an anthology of short stories. Shobhan writes for a variety of publications including The Writer magazine, India Abroad, Little India, U.S. 1, Desi Journal, India Currents, Overseas Indian, and New Woman India. Her short stories have won honors/awards in contests sponsored by Writer’s Digest, New York Stories and New Woman magazines.

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