An interview with best selling author Madhuri Banerjee

Madhuri Banerjee’s first book, How To Lose Your Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas was a runaway success. Her second book, Mistakes Like Love And Sex, is just out. I did a short Q& A with her about her book, her writing process and more…

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Congratulations on the release of your second book, Madhuri. Could you
tell us a bit more about the book and how it takes off from your first
book?

Although, Mistakes Like Love And Sex is supposed to be a sequel to Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas, it’s a stand-alone book as well. This means that it can be read even if people haven’t read LMV. The only common factor is Kaveri and her best friend Aditi. Kaveri is in her early 30s in Mistakes Like Love And Sex and thinks she understands men, relationships and jobs. But when she returns from Barcelona to Mumbai, she is thrown off balance. The city is noisier, the people more money minded and rents much higher! She is unable to pursue her dream job. She starts teaching Hindi to a Bollywood actress, falls in love with a much older man and has a fling with a happening Bollywood hero. So it’s a roller coaster ride of a woman trying to make sense of her life in a fast paced world. She finds love across Twitter and decides to do something completely different with her career towards the end. The book is about understanding that sometimes you don’t know what hand Destiny will play but you should accept the challenges to grow as an individual.

How did you develop your lead protagonist? Was she inspired by one
particular person or is she a composite of people you know?

Kaveri is fun, clumsy, arty, confused, lovable, and loyal to a fault. She opens her heart easily and gets hurt even faster. She is the unchallenged Undomestic Goddess. She can’t cook and she can barely keep a clean house. But she loves her friends, listens to her parents and believes that things will always get better. The character Kaveri is a bit like me. Initially a friend of mine inspired her character. The friend was a virgin at 30 years old and had been waiting for the prefect man to lose her virginity to. Hence the basis of the first book Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas. But Kaveri became an amalgamation of many people and somehow her characteristics took on an organic growth when I was writing. She isn’t just one person. Every woman is a bit like her.

As a writer myself, I am very keen to know how other writers develop
their novels. How is the process for you? Is it organic or do you plot
it out?

I try and plot out the book somewhere in my head. I start with the main character. I think about him/her and plot his characteristics out first. Then the story emerges and other secondary characters come in. The story then takes shape with a beginning, middle and end. While writing the chapters, it’s an organic growth. I write as I feel the characters might react. Sometimes the scenes and thoughts are enough to explain what the characters feel without dialogues and sometimes the entire chapter can be about exchange of thoughts between people. I don’t plan that out. It just happens. But it leads to a character growth or a movement in plot. It can’t be a Tarantino moment in the book. No one will get it.

Who are the authors you are influenced by, what about their work inspires you?

I love reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Joanne Harris, David Davidar, Elif Shafak, Haruki Murakami, Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, Agatha Christie, Rumi and Gulzar. I love reading. It calms me down and every evening I sit with a book instead of watching tv. The only way it inspires me is that I hope to be a better writer. I can’t compare myself to them at all. But reading helps me understand characters, scenes, plots, climaxes and the use of language, words and tones much better. They make me want to push myself to do better all the time.

As a writer who happens to be a woman, and writing about ‘woman’
related topics like romance and love, do you feel shackled by this
perception that chicklit isn’t a genre to be given serious attention?

I hate the term “chick-lit.” It’s a genre that slots people, books and sales. Men will not buy it because it’s termed that. No fest wants women writers who have written on women’s issues that are fun and romantic. It’s cruel and burdensome. The term should be removed immediately. Even the word “chick” is derogatory. A man can write a book on finding love, problems with his boss and growing as an individual and it’s not termed as “lad lit.” It’s just called another Chetan Bhagat book. But a woman who writes about love, relationships, jobs, bosses, or becoming a detective with great dollops of humour, wit, sarcasm, philosophy and a fantastic story is called a chick lit author. It’s demeaning. It should stop. Give women authors’ credit. Let men buy the book as well. Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, Meg Cabot are known just as authors. Not chick lit authors. Labeling women so, is ruining their chances of having their books picked up by a larger market.

Let me get your take on this entire promotion routine writers need to
do these days, do you think it is necessary or should us writers go
back to being closeted in our ivory towers, being mysterious
creatures?

The publishing houses release 2-5 books a month on average. They have the same marketing team working on the books. After a while they get saturated with ideas to promote it. The reading population of India is still lower than the TV watching population. So for a person to go to a store and pick up the book there needs to be awareness about the book and availability. An author needs to do a bit of promotion and marketing on their own for a person to go and pick up his/her book instead of someone else’s. But good books will also stand out and word of mouth will create sales. The purpose is to write a good book and pray.

Are you working on your next book, and if yes, what is it about?

I am working on the third part of the trilogy so after Mistakes Like Love And Sex, Kaveri’s journey finds her in a married situation and having to adjust to a whole new scenario. I’m also writing a simple Mills n Boons novel for the Indian market of a romance starting on a Delhi campus and leading to Roland Garros. And the third novel that I’m most excited about is a humorous story of a man in a complicated relationship. I’m enjoying the process of writing all. Each of them are so different and I hope that they all come out well.

Thank you for your time, Madhuri and wishing you all the very best with this book. May it sell a million copies.

Here’s where you can buy the book/connect with Madhuri.

Blog: http://madhuribanerjee.blogspot.in/

Flipkart for Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas: http://goo.gl/fkZo4

Flipkart for Mistakes Like Love And Sex: http://goo.gl/v1Nii

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/#/LMVODI

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Madhuribanerjee

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvqbVyLfxdA&lc=y9k4df0AAaKpXNoutdC4pz9pyO6vvNTiyrdz-w7G7qw&feature=inbox

And here’s a bit about Madhuri:
Madhuri is a comprehensive media professional, having worked in all forms of the visual medium -as a Senior Producer with Zoom TV, advertisements with White Light Motion Pictures, Director in her own production house Gray Matter Solution, documentaries as a freelancer with PSBT and commercial Bollywood films as an Assistant Director. She has worked with stalwarts like Subhash Ghai, Kaizad Gustad and Rohan Sippy, and music director Anu Malik.

Madhuri graduated from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi with a Bachelor’s degree in English Honours. She continued her education acquiring a Master’s in Mass Communication and Films from Jamia Millia Islamia. Her thesis film, “Between Dualities” won her the National Award for best documentary on women’s issues. She is an avid reader, world traveler, and film watcher. She gives relationship advice in a column called Love Guru in the Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle every alternate Monday.

She has currently finished working on a commercial film script. Her debut book Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas sold over 40,000 copies in the first year of its release and was on the best seller list for over 10 weeks.

She has her own website http://www.madhuribanerjee.com is active on Twitter as @Madhuribanerjee, has a Facebook page for Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas, writes for the CNN-IBN blog called Chastity Belt and has her own blog http://www.madhuribanerjee.blogspot.com

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
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