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Interview with Shobhan Bantwal

You describe yourself as a late bloomer when it comes to writing. What made you take it up seriously?
Writing was not on my radar until I turned 50, when my evenings got a bit lonely after my husband was assigned to a long-term, out-of-state project by his employer. He was home only on weekends, so on weekdays, after returning home from my own job, I needed something productive to fill my evenings. On a whim I decided to take up creative writing. What started out as a hobby for an empty-nester slowly turned into a full-time second career when I got a two-book contract from my publisher.

Tell us a bit about your latest book.
The Full Moon Bride is about second-generation immigrants in the U.S. and their struggle to fit into two diverse cultures. In this latest novel I explore the fascinating subject of arranged marriage, as a young Indian-American woman navigates the gulf between desire and tradition, independent American spirit and conservative Indian values.

You have 5 published novels with Kensington Publishing and another due out in 2012. What made you pick them as your publisher?
When my agent was pitching my first manuscript to publishers some years ago, she discovered that Kensington was actively seeking commercial ethnic fiction with romantic elements, and my book, with its Bollywood type theme, apparently was a good fit. Fortunately for me, Kensington has been very supportive of my writing career and I love working with their editors and other staff.

You've also written numerous short stories. Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from my own ethnic background and the way I was raised in a conservative family in small-town India. Until I came to the U.S. I had taken my mundane lifestyle for granted. But later, as an adult, I discovered that my Indian culture, with its arranged marriages, spicy cuisine, caste system, quaint customs like dowry, obsessive desire for male children, and a religion that has many gods and goddesses, offers great fodder for interesting and unusual stories. In fact, I believe most every culture has something unique in terms of storylines.

How do you organise your writing time and keep your word count consistent?
Between juggling a demanding full-time career and active social life, it is difficult to make time to write, but my day begins at 4 am each morning and ends around 10:30 pm, and I try to squeeze in a couple of hours each day to write. Once a contract is signed, there are serious deadlines to meet.
As for word count, I don't make a conscious effort to limit myself to a certain number. My stories just happen to have approximately 96 K to 101K words to make them credible and complete. I am amazed at how that happens almost every time, without actually planning it.

How do you market your writing/books?
Marketing one's books is the most challenging part of being an author. Promotion takes up an inordinate amount of time, money, and effort, so it is important for me to ration these resources accordingly. Social networking is especially difficult for me, because by nature I am not a blogger, tweeter, or chat-lover. But I like the idea of a virtual tour such as this one, where I can write guest blogs, give interviews, and have my book reviewed by a select few. I do virtual tours for each of my books and some online promotion through sites that specialize in romantic and women's fiction.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?
Readers can find my books, events, contests, photos, recipes, and contact information on my website: www.shobhanbantwal.com/ or visit my facebook page: www.facebook.com/ShobhanBantwal.author. All bookstores and online booksellers carry my books.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Yes, I would like to thank you for a great interview and for posting my guest blog on your popular site. I appreciate the kind and continued support.

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