A lil background info before we go on:
Shobhan Bantwal was born and raised in India and came to the United States as a young bride in an arranged marriage. She has published short fiction in literary magazines and articles in a number of publications. Writing plays in her mother tongue (Indian language—Konkani) and performing on stage at Indian-American conventions are some of her hobbies. She lives in New Jersey with her husband. Shobhan loves to hear from her readers.
You can find out more about her and her books here: http://www.shobhanbantwal.com/
Me: I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed The Sari Shop Widow. Can you describe it for those who haven’t heard of it?
Shobhan: Thank you so much for the kind words about THE SARI SHOP WIDOW. Set on the streets of Edison, New Jersey, 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. This is a book about the Indian-American immigrant experience and the joys and challenges that come with it. I call my writing “Bollywood in a Book.”
Me: What do you think the hardest part of writing The Sari Shop Widow was for you?
Shobhan: The hardest part was creating the right amount of conflict in my protagonist, Anjali Kapadia’s mind. She is a second-generation Indian-American and like all children born to conservative immigrant parents, she straddles two diverse cultures. Meeting the expectations of both and trying to fit into both is a serious challenge for young women like Anjali. She wants to be her own woman and yet she is mindful of her parents’ delicate sensibilities. Since I was a first-generation immigrant, I didn’t have those same issues, but I watched my daughter struggle with them. I had to put myself in her shoes to be able to create the battling emotions experienced by Anjali.
Me: I must say I really enjoyed your characters. Are they based on people in your life? What about Anjali – your main character? Can you see any of yourself in her?
Shobhan: None of my characters are based on people in real life. However, some of their personality traits are similar to mine and my daughter’s. Usha Kapadia, Anjali’s mother often thinks and behaves like me and Anjali’s demeanor sometimes reminds me of my daughter’s. My heroes at times say and do things that my husband does. I believe unconsciously every author puts a little bit of herself and/or someone she knows into her characters.
Me: I had such a great time reading about Silk & Sapphires – Anjali’s boutique. I literally wanted to jump in the book to see the store! Is it based on a place you’ve visited before?
Shobhan: The enclave called Little India, which is the backdrop for THE SARI SHOP WIDOW, is an actual Indian-American community in Edison, New Jersey. I have described it in my book in as much detail as possible. Nonetheless, none of the stores are anything like Silk & Sapphires. It is my dream store, something I would love to build and own (if I were filthy rich) so I decided to make it my protagonist’s dream store. As an author, it was my chance to indulge in my creative imagination and live vicariously through Anjali.
Me: Which of your books was your most favorite to write and why?
Shobhan: I don’t have a favorite book as such. Each book is something I immerse myself in while I’m writing it. One thing I can say is I fall in love with every one of my heroes and I’m loath to let go of them when the story ends. But I must admit my favorite protagonist is Megha, the heroine of my debut book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, perhaps because she is such a contrast to me. She is sweet and trusting and guileless, everything that I’m not but would have liked to be. Also, the photo on the cover of THE DOWRY BRIDE is of my daughter dressed as an Indian bride.
Me: What was your dream job as a child?
Shobhan: For some insane reason I thought it would be fun to be a lawyer when I was a teenager, perhaps because I loved to argue a point to death. But as I grew up I decided it was a dull profession with no redeeming qualities. I ended up majoring in sociology in college. Today I’m a full-time bureaucrat in a government agency. Writing, especially fiction, was never on my occupational radar at any time, until I hit 50. That is precisely why I call my writing career a “menopausal epiphany.”
Me: If you could write a book about absolutely anything with any author who would you choose? What would the book be about?
Shobhan: If I could write a cookbook in partnership with someone like Lydia Bastianich of Lydia’s Table or a romance with Nora Roberts, I’d absolutely jump at the chance. Both those ladies are awesome and tops in their respective fields. I love Lydia’s cookery show and I adore Nora’s books. I’d be honored and delighted to do either one.
Me: Are you currently working on a new project?
Shobhan: A fourth novel is slated for publication in 2010 by my publisher, Kensington Publishing. I’m brainstorming with my editor over some ideas, so by the end of this year I should have something solid to start work on. After that project, I don’t have anything cooking. My karma will take me to whatever destination it chooses.
Me: Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer some of my questions, Shobhan. It really was a pleasure reading The Sari Shop Widow and I’m definitely going to check out your other books.
Shobhan: The pleasure is all mine. I love talking about my books and my culture, and you have tapped into both with this interview. So I should be the one to thank you for hosting me on your popular blog. I sincerely hope you will read my other books and enjoy them just as much as THE SARI SHOP WIDOW.
The book trailer for this book and others, plus more information is available on all my writing, my photo gallery, and recipes at my website: http://www.shobhanbantwal.com/
Make sure to check back tomorrow for my review. Shobhan will be stopping by again on Thursday for a guest post and keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway =)