I was interviewed for the Times of India (www.indiatimes.com) by Anwesha Mittra.
For this Mills & Boon romance addict, turning an author of the same series was nothing short of a divine intervention.
When Adite Banerjie took part in the Harlequin Aspiring Authors contest, victory was the last thing on her mind. But it would seem her devotion for these giddy romances finally paid off in a way she could least imagine as she holds the copy of her recently launched debut book under the romance label, The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal, and gushes. Adite dabbled in business writing and screenwriting until she found her true calling in fiction writing. Finishing her second book for Harlequin Mills & Boon she makes no bones about being a compulsive mush reader, an honesty that is hard to come by in an age of pseudo intellectuality.
As more and more readers warm up to her book, the glow on her face is unmistakable, and it came right through when she decided to pour her heart out to us on this sweet journey into becoming one of the few published Indian M&B authors, and the roller-coaster of emotions it stoked.
You always say writing happened to you by accident. How happy was this one? Do you plan on becoming a full-fledged fiction writer post your breakthrough?
Getting published by one of the biggest brands in romantic fiction globally has indeed been a happy accident. And I’m looking forward to writing more fiction – books as well as screenplays.
Please tell us about how you landed the contract with Harlequin? And how The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal shaped up?
It all started when I entered the Passions Aspiring Authors Auditions (2012) and my short story entry was selected as one of three winners. I developed the story into a full-fledged novel under the guidance of the London-based Harlequin editor and once she had approved my manuscript I was offered a two-book contract. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of crafting the book, delving into the motivations of my hero and heroine, and writing back-and-forth banter. Writing the conflict scenes was a bit of a challenge and I had to keep writing and rewriting them till I got it right. By the time I finished the book, I realised I was going to miss Krish and Maya, my protagonists, who had become a part of my life.
How did you bring about a universal appeal to your lead characters Maya Shome and Krish Dev? Did you have to lean too heavily on Bollywood plots to do the same?
There can be nothing more universal than a boy and a girl falling in love. But in terms of plots you have a whole range of tropes to choose from. And I decided to go with the revenge plot. Of course, I took a few cues from Bollywood as well. You could say that The Indian Tycoon… is a Bollywood meets Mills & Boon romance.
What according to you are the essential traits of a modern day romantic fiction writer? Are intimate scenes integral to drawing readers into mush?
No matter what the genre, the challenge for a fiction writer is to write a story that is enjoyable and entertaining; to make the reader keep turning the pages till the last page is read. The romance writer needs to keep the reader engrossed in the love story while making sure that there are enough memorable moments. As for intimate scenes, they are as much a part of romantic fiction as heart-pounding action scenes are to a thriller.
What’s your take on the genre ‘erotica’? How different is it from pure romance?
Erotica is the new kid on the publishing block. It has seen a tremendous surge in popularity following the success of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. A few years ago, the success of Stephanie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ created a whole new sub-genre of paranormal romance. Who knows, a few years down the line some other sub-genre could become the hot new thing of the publishing industry. Erotica differs from pure romance in one basic sense – while the latter is about a couple’s romantic journey towards finding a happily-ever-after, erotica is about a couple’s sexual journey and how it affects them and need not have a happy-ever-after ending.
When writing an M&B romance, typically what kind of audience/readers do you have in mind?
Since my book is part of Harlequin’s ‘Indian Author Collection’ line and the target market is India, my aim has been to reach out to every woman—irrespective of age—who would enjoy a good love story complete with a healthy dose of feel-good escapism.
Do you feel romance is the most slighted genre of literature particularly when it has a Mills & Boon tag attached to it? In your case, did you consider that a drawback?
Popular fiction comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. So you have everything from romance, thrillers, historical fiction, science fiction, and sub-genres within each of these. Just as one’s culinary tastes could include a wide range from authentic Bengali cuisine to Thai and Continental fare, so also a reader could enjoy romance as much as an espionage thriller or non-fiction. While no one would claim that Thai cuisine is superior to Continental cuisine or vice-versa, romantic fiction is routinely classified as ‘mush’ or ‘chick lit’, giving it a lower status than other mainstream fiction. That’s not just unfair to the authors but, more importantly, is condescending towards readers who enjoy these genres.
While generally speaking Mills & Boon is looked down upon, it is also true that there are millions of readers worldwide who are die-hard fans of these books. For me, far from being a drawback, writing a M&B romance was an opportunity to hone my storytelling skills and connect with some of those readers who enjoy reading a good romance.
How has been the response to your book? What were the major learnings for you as a debut novelist?
I am quite delighted that many of my readers have contacted me to tell me how much they enjoyed the book. It’s been a great learning experience for me – especially in terms of the mechanics of writing a novel.
What after The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal?
I have finished writing the second book for Harlequin Mills & Boon which has elements of a romantic comedy.
What are you presently reading? What kind of fiction interests you the most?
I enjoy reading fiction across all genres. I’m currently reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ and just finished reading Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction, ‘The White Queen’. I love all of Amitav Ghosh’s works and William Dalrymple is one of my favourite authors.
Literary figure who has been the greatest influence in your life
If there’s one author whose work influenced me in a major way it would be Amitav Ghosh. I’m completely blown away by his writing skills, the way he blends fact with fiction, crafts compelling characters and sweeps you along into a world that you can practically visualise! While I don’t fancy myself as a writer of such calibre as Mr. Ghosh, his books do inspire me to become a better writer.
Please share one most important tip with budding writers who wish to get published
A writer needs to learn the craft especially in the genre that he/she wishes to be published and should write every single day!