Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Author Interview--Shobhan Bantwal & Giveaway
The is the second of two posts for the blog tour for The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal. Yesterday I posted my review.  This is my interview with Ms Bantwal and a giveaway for a signed copy of the novel.

The giveaway is below the interview next to the book cover image.

This is my first Author interview and I am quite jazzed about it.  

Now.  But when Teddy Rose first asked me if I were interested I almost declined out of silly nerves.

The first question and answer exchange between Ms Bantwal and myself was not part of the official interview though.  I had replied to her email sending me my PDF copy of the novel to thank her and assure her that I'd received it and I took the opportunity to ask her for clarification on how to pronounce her name.

I had come up with at least six plausible ways to pronounce it and settled on one that I thought most likely based on my memories of living in Silicon Valley when my husband worked for an India based tech company.  I'd been around a lot of India nationals those two years--in the neighborhood we lived, the buses I rode, the company picnics and dinners etc--so I thought my pronunciation must be close.

But I was haunted by memories of that Star Trek Next Generation episode in which the android Data (pronounced Day tuh) was addressed by the new ship Doctor as Data (Dadt uh) and to her immense surprise corrected by him this 'mere machine' who she'd assumed had no feelings to hurt.  Which he didn't but as he pointed out to her, "One is my name.  The other is not."

And then there was growing up constantly correcting people who wanted to pronounce my name Joyce or Joey or Joyful, sometimes in misinformed sincerity but other times out of misguided or malicious teasing.  I was often told I was being too sensitive by objecting and felt myself to be in the wrong until that STGN episode clarified it for me.

One is my name.  The other is not.  Our names are intricately linked to our sense of ourselves so one could say with equivalence: One is my Self.  The other is not.

It was a good thing I asked because I was not even close.  I will not embarrass myself nor confuse readers by sharing my mispronunciation.  Here is Ms Bantwal's answer to my question:

Shobhan is pronounced just like the movie Shogun - just replace the "g" with "b" and it'll be perfect. 
Last name is pronounced Bant (as in pant) wall. I hope this helps in saying it correctly. I apologize for the difficult Indian name

Shobhan Bantwal is an award-winning Indian-American author of five multicultural women’s fiction books with romantic elements, branded as “Bollywood in a Book.” Her articles and short stories have appeared in The Writer magazine, Romantic Times, India Abroad, India Currents, and New Woman. The Reluctant Matchmaker is her sixth book, scheduled for release on July 1, 2012. Visit her online at www.shobhanbant to learn about her books, trailers, contests, photos, recipes, and more. Visit her on Facebook at

Now, lets listen to the Q and A.  (I say 'listen' because I can almost hear our voices as I read it but this was an email exchange.)

Shobhan Bantwal: Joy,
First of all, thank you for such insightful questions. They really made me think hard - LOL. I will answer them to the best of my ability. I appreciate your interest in my book and for hosting me on your popular blog.

Joy Renee:  When did you know fiction writing was something you wanted to do? Once you had decided that you were going to write stories, what obstacles did you have to overcome to make it happen?  (circumstance, personality/emotion, relationships, craft/industry knowledge etc.)  Did you seek any formal education for fiction writing?

Shobhan Bantwal: Fiction writing didn't appear on my radar until I turned 50. I more or less stumbled upon it. When my husband took up a long-term assignment out of town, which kept him away from home Monday through Friday each week, I decided I needed a productive hobby, especially since we were empty nesters by then. On a whim I began writing articles of social interest, and some Indian-American newspapers and magazines picked them up. The response from readers was excellent.

That small measure of success spurred me on to write short fiction, some of which won awards in short story competitions. All those small victories led me to trying my hand at writing a full-length novel. As a result, what started as a simple hobby exploded into a full-time second career, and left me astonished about how quickly it all happened.

The obstacles I encountered in becoming a published author were typical: finding a reputable agent and publisher to believe in my work, lack of knowledge about how the publishing industry worked and how much personal time and money needed to be invested in promoting one's books, and last but not least, the diligence to keep writing book after book at a steady pace.

I took one minor creative writing course at a community college, but it didn't really teach me much about the craft. However, it did enlighten me on how to approach agents and a few of the impediments I was sure to come across in my quest to become published.

Joy Renee:  What does your work routine and environment look like?  Is it respected by friends and family? Or do you encounter attitudes like Meena's parents towards her PR career? If it is now has it always been?  How about by yourself? Is it a struggle to acquire and maintain self-discipline?  Do you listen to music while writing? If so what kind?

Shobhan Bantwal: For approximately ten years, I juggled a demanding full-time career alongside my writing. But last year I retired from my day job and moved to Arizona from New Jersey, so my husband and I could spend some time with our married daughter and two small grandchildren. Now I get a little more sleep than I did during the past ten years.

I am fortunate that my family and friends totally respect my writing career. My husband allows me all the freedom and encouragement I need to pursue it. In fact, he supports me by maintaining my website and handling the business side of my creative life, which frees me up to concentrate on writing and promoting my books. I consider him my most valuable resource.

Self-discipline is difficult for me. I write erratically, when the mood strikes. I also don't have outlines or firm frameworks for my stories. I start writing with merely an idea at the back of my mind and let the characters guide me through the plot and scenes. I work in our quiet home office when I write, with no music or any kind of distractions.

Joy Renee:  Are you able to support yourself with writing only yet?  If so, when did you reach that milestone?  What jobs have you had besides fiction or freelance writing and how have they impacted your writing life and/or your stories?

Shobhan Bantwal: Writing has never been my main source of income. In fact, fiction writing does not pay enough to sustain a livelihood for most authors. I had a demanding full-time career with the New Jersey State government. I retired from it in 2011. I have also taken a hiatus from writing at this time, so I can concentrate on helping our daughter raise her two young children. I may resume my writing career in a year or two.

In many ways, all the jobs I have had, both in the private and public sectors, have shaped my stories. The varied personalities I have interacted with have influenced my fictional characters to some degree. Observing people and their behaviours comes naturally to most authors.

Joy Renee:  How did the encountering of story from earliest childhood to the present inform your own storytelling?  From oral stories told by family and friends, including religious stories, to stories read to you before you could read on through your own reading experiences and video, TV, song lyrics and theater?  Which of those stories and which of those formats do you think had the most impact on your sense of story?  And concomitantly how does your years of experience at writing story influence the way you read/view story now?  When did you first begin telling/writing stories out of your own imagination?

Shobhan Bantwal: My mother was an avid reader and she introduced the love of books to me and my sisters at an early age. All the books I read from childhood to adulthood have had some influence on my writing. Bollywood (Bombay Hollywood) movies, that are so prolific in India, affected my stories to some extent as well. However, romances written by American and European authors have had the strongest impact on my own storylines. I wanted to introduce Indian characters and backgrounds to American readers through commercial fiction, so I decided to write in that vein, despite the fear of creating a new sub-genre, which I call "Bollywood in a Book."

Now that I am a published writer, I read other authors' books with a different mindset. I am more critical and objective in my role as reader. But I must admit that I really enjoy some authors even more now than I did before because now I can appreciate the finer points of good writing.

Joy Renee:  When stories begin to form in your mind, which of the senses is primary--visual, auditory, tactile etc...and how hard is it to include the ones that aren't in the final product?

Shobhan Bantwal: When a story starts to develop in my mind, it is the visual sense that kicks in first. I can picture the characters, the backdrop, the colors, the clothes they are wearing. It is when I start to write the dialogue that I begin to hear their voices.

When the final product emerges, it has all my senses mixed in. An author has to get into her characters' minds and souls to paint a vivid picture. If the author feels no sadness when writing about the death of a beloved person, or she is not aroused when she creates an emotional sex scene, then she has not engaged all her senses in writing the story. Every good story needs to employ most, if not all, of the author's senses.

Joy Renee:  What do you believe is the source of creativity and the best way to tap into it?  I'm assuming that with several novels published you no longer, if ever, subscribe to the notion that writers are at the mercy of the muse--must wait for the fickle inspiration.  Do you have any creative hobbies besides writing and if so how do they impact your story telling?  Or in other words, how do you see creativity in one area spill over into others--or not, as may be?

Shobhan Bantwal: I am one of those rather undisciplined authors who writes whenever the muse starts to whisper in my ear. However, I use the not-so-creative moments to polish up and edit what I have already written. That way I don't waste any precious time.

As far as sources of creativity go, daily life is a tremendous inspiration for me. The news is full of real life heroes, women who excel in male-oriented occupations, tales of courage and bravery, the Davids and Goliaths, love and dedication, and of course, evil occurrences like murder, kidnapping, and abuse.

Besides writing, I enjoy growing flowers and cooking, both of which influence my writing. Indian food is featured quite a bit in all my novels because food plays such a large role in portraying culture.

Joy Renee:  I note from the blurbs of your other novels that they all feature characters who, like Meena, are caught in the  intersection between two cultures--the Hindu and the American--how did growing up smack in the middle of that intersection contribute to your understanding of character--psychology, motivation etc which is the root of all story?

Shobhan Bantwal:  Conflict is at the heart of every story. If two people meet, fall in love, and go on to live happily ever after, there would essentially be no plot. Nonetheless if they are prevented from coming together by someone or something, then the tale becomes intriguing. What motivates them to do what they do?  How will they overcome their obstacles? How much are they willing to sacrifice to fulfill their dreams? These are the elements that make the story go forward and become compelling. Readers love to root for their favourite characters and watch them overcome the worst pitfalls to achieve their goals.

Getting caught between two diverse cultures offers great potential for conflict. Having lived in a conservative Hindu home in India, then living and raising a family in America has given me some interesting insights into the dynamics of this cultural divide. This inherent contradiction that exists in the two dissimilar lifestyles provides great fodder for all my stories.

Joy Renee:  Do you have any beloved pets now or in the past?  If so would you share a picture and an anecdote or two?

Shobhan Bantwal:  I have not had any pets since I came to America. Nevertheless, growing up in India, we were surrounded by various cats and dogs at different times. They were family pets. My mother was an animal lover and liked to have pets around her. I am allergic to most pets, so unfortunately I can't have any.


The book giveaway is for a signed edition of the print version. It is open to Canada and the U.S. only.

Deadline is August 25 at NOON Pacific Coast Time

Enter by leaving a comment expressing interest on this post along with your @ so I can contact you.

Extra entries can be had by:

  • Following Joystory on Twitter  if you already do leave a separate comment saying so
  • Like  Joystory's page on Facebook   if you already do leave a separate comment saying so
  • Tweeting once per day (leave the tweet's url in a comment here)
  • Add Joystory feed to your reader.   if you already do leave a separate comment saying so
  • Following Joystory on Networked Blogs   if you already do leave a separate comment saying so

 Remember leave a separate comment for each task as the individual comments will be the entries that I assign numbers to in the order they are made and then use to select the winner. The @ need only be in the first entry as long as the rest are easily attributed to the same entrant.

Follow the blog tour to see more reviews, guest posts by the author and giveaways:

6 tell me a story:

Nancy 8/08/2012 6:42 AM  

I like a storyline that involves cultural clashes. Think I'd like this book. Thanks for the chance to win.

gail,  8/08/2012 12:39 PM  

thanks for this giveaway!

gail,  8/08/2012 12:40 PM  

liked on fb

rhonda,  8/08/2012 2:01 PM  

This book sounds really interestingWill tweet at

Unknown 8/08/2012 7:14 PM  

The story sounds very interesting. I just read another book by an Asian American author on Indian culture and fouled it very engrossing. TRM would probably be an equally good read.

Liz,  8/09/2012 4:46 AM  

Great interview. You asked great questions!

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