Makeovers, Making out and Matchmaking

tick tockMilan Vohra is famously known as India’s first home-grown Mills & Boon author. Her The Love Asana brought the Mills & Boon variety of romance to Indian shores, complete with an Indian TDH hero, a curvy and cute heroine and a story line that twists and turns to its happily-ever-after ending. Milan is also an advertising professional who enjoys writing campaigns for everything from pizza to lingerie.

With her latest book, she has ventured into a completely new genre of writing, one that blends the style-driven, frothy chick lit  with substance-oriented ‘relationships’ novel and ends up giving it a unique flavour all its own. Almost as if she decided to take a large dollop of her advertising background, laced it liberally with whacky humour, and added a dash of romance. Voila, you have Tick-tock We’re 30.

Delhi-based model coordinator Lara is in a bit of a tizzy. It seems like her gang of friends have not forgotten the pact that they had made: to meet up on her 30th birthday. The problem is the last thing she wants to do is to follow through on the other pact that she had made with Nishad one tipsy evening – to marry each other if neither of them were hitched by 30. Now that would be tantamount to admitting to Nishad that he’d been right all along about her then-love-of-her-life Ranndeep being all wrong for her. But ‘coordination’ is Lara’s middle name. And when you have a folder full of hunky models to choose from, how difficult would it be to find the right guy to pose as her love interest?

So, when Lara picks on a Turkish dude to pose as her investment-banker arm-candy, the fun and games begin. What follows is a masti-fuelled, humour-laced romp replete with makeovers, making out and match-making (and breaking!). And of course, when you’re in friendship territory, old slights, petty jealousies and good old-fashioned fun are bound to resurface.

Milan keeps a tight rein on the considerably large ensemble of characters, giving each a unique voice and character traits and not letting any one of them run away with the plot. Of course it does help that it is told from Lara’s first-person perspective. Overall, it’s a pacy read, and though the main romantic angle has an unavoidable predictability to it, there are more than enough comedic situations that keep you guessing about who will end up with whom. Just as the blurb of the book promises! A thoroughly enjoyable read that will bring a smile to your face and make your reminisce about your own growing-up years.

And to whet your appetite for the book, here’s an interview with the author. Over to Milan!

Milan (465x640)On The Genre: Chick-lit, Romance, Humour or…?

Romance is definitely a part of it but it’s not a romance in the strictest sense because a pure ‘romance, romance’ would have to mean the story is almost entirely hero and heroine centric. This book has twelve almost all equally important characters as well as a few more important secondary ones. In Tick-tock we’re 30,  romance is not the central plot. Neither is this book chick-lit. Chick-lit would typically have a cast of say 4 girl friends – the heroine, her 2 BFFs (necessarily girlfriends) and at least one designer label that the heroine is obsessed with to the point of it being almost a character in the narrative. 🙂 And then, as an afterthought, on the sidelines of the larger sisterhood/ self discovery story there is a man or two.

Lara, the main female protagonist has two best friends. A lumbering giant of a very un-girly girl called Nanhi and a seemingly very macho but completely mushy guy called Sita.  If I had to describe the book in a sentence, I’d say it’s actually a rom-com with a realistic take on friends, frenemies and forever afters.

On dealing with a large ensemble cast of characters.

Completely crazy, the characters were crystal clear in my mind, it was the actual juggling of who is in what scene, who needs to go out to be able to walk in some hours later to get a second hand report of what just transpired, who overhears something they shouldn’t… that kind of thing drove me nuts. I actually drew out a house, figured out its layout, the rooms, how far what balcony ran, even the height of the trees around each balcony, which person is sleeping where and how the arrangements keep shifting. I’m not kidding you; some characters wanted to take over and run away with scenes and hog a larger part of the story than I’d planned for them. They had to be rapped on the knuckles and made to behave. Writing a play (a musical comedy) in the past helped.

On the ‘relatability factor’ or connecting with characters.

Every story needs a setting and to that extent my growing up in Delhi helped me set scenes easier in Delhi…in terms of the places you’d hang out at, the kind of stuff the gang might have grown up doing there…but when you’ve got interesting characters, I think people can relate to them as ‘ oh I knew someone just like that’…you don’t need to connect them to any city for that. In fact, you’ve read the book. You know that many of the gang are descending from all over the world for this ‘oh teri we’re 30!’ reunion. The story is really more about them than about any setting. I’m sure everybody will have had quirky friends like these sometime in your life, whether you grew up in Bucharest or Bhatinda. Even minor characters like say the snooty Scarf Lady and her suck-up – the Sari Lady with the obligatory big powder bindi – you could run into them at any pretentious artsy do anywhere in the world. ‘Tick-Tock we’re 30’ is a book you’d relate to and enjoy for the story of this whacko group of friends and their week together.

On writing the book without going stir crazy!

The slightly tedious part was the research. Here I was, dying to just get started but every single character had a past life and profession that I’d pulled out of the top of my head. I needed to know about all sorts of new things before I could start writing. From flame bartending, model coordination, feng shui, emotional freedom techniques, NLP, conspiracy theories…I had to get familiar and comfortable with whatever made up each character’s interests and quirks and then obviously write it in, in a natural way. Without any heavy-duty information download.

I loved writing Perzaan. He is so flamboyant and child-like and once I’d got his voice in my head he was really fun to have in a scene. Also Kalyani, the kind of woman all women hate. That chhan chhan, over-the- top feminine stuff; the kind who want to instantly tell you their zodiac sign like it’s the most enthralling thing on earth. God! Everybody who’s read the book has things to say about the Kalyani’s in their lives.

On the launch of Tick-tock…and after.

The book was just launched this month by Shobhaa De at the Taj Lit fest. I’ve always thought her an amazing woman for speaking her mind fearlessly about so many things that are absolutely essential to be said; she’s lived her life on her own terms and I admire her hugely. So for her to agree to launch the book and say some very nice things about it meant a lot. I couldn’t have asked for a warmer launch than the one the Taj Lit fest and Agra gave my book. Bangalore is next on the cards, then Mumbai and Delhi, possibly also Chennai. The book is in stores and available on all online portals like Flipkart, Kindle and Amazon.

My next book? I wish I knew what it’s about. I guess I still need to wean myself off the characters in Tick-Tock we’re 30.

All the best Milan and wishing you much success with your book and your writing!

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