Dear Sumeetha, it is our privilege to have you with us for interview.
BNI: Tell us something about yourself and your background, please. SM: I have worked in dotcom companies all my life, where I managed content and content related services for many years. I took a hiatus after my daughter was born and started working from home as a writer.
BNI: So, What all you have written / published till date?
SM: The Perfect Groom was the first book that I have published so far. I have dabbled in historical fiction and have attempted translations. Some of them have got published in different websites.
BNI: What inspired you to write your first book and or this book?
SM: The Perfect Groom is based on an anecdote that I heard many years ago from a friend. It is a true story in parts. The only difference was that I set Nithya in a background that I am familiar with. What inspired me to write this book was a phone call that I received from a distant relative. When her daughter’s marriage got fixed, she called us with the news and went on and on about the groom; his job in US, his big house in India and so on. It left me wondering whether all this would actually add up to make anyone a ‘Perfect Groom’.
BNI: A 30 word tagline for your book
SM: Nithya seems to have settled in with Ashok, ostensibly happy, if as yet childless, in her new life. When an old flame comes back into her life, however, the cracks in her perfect marriage begin to show…
BNI: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
SM: This is a story that would make sense to all women in the society.
BNI: Who is your favourite and least favourite character? What makes them so?
SM: My favourite character was Vasu in the book. Least favourite was the mother-in-law. Vasu is a very simple soul. Outwardly he is an entrepreneur and a business man residing in Mylapore but inside he still lives in Mylapore. Mother-in-law in the novella represents the sum of the brash women that I have met so far. Cloaked in respectability, they have no qualms in insulting anybody who do no meet up to their standards.
BNI: Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
SM: Nithya is a very strong character. She lives with her mother, dreams of being independent but her uncle’s charity and condescension forces her to, agree to the marriage. Put in an impossible situation, she does her best to become independent and forge her own way out of it. She is not your typical heroine, waiting to be rescued.
BNI: What was the hardest and easiest thing about your latest release?
SM:I think it is easy to write the book. The hardest thing about releasing a book is the marketing aspect of it.
BNI: Share some interesting story about the book writing/cover development.
SM: The ending was tough. I had three other alternate endings planned for it. But the eternal optimist in me pushed for a happy ending.
BNI: Is there a message in your book/novel that you want readers to grasp?
SM: My message is for the parents. Good job, affluence and property does not always make one a ‘Perfect groom’.
BNI: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
SM: Since Nithya’s story is inspired from real life, many have come back with instances of the same happening with their own friends and relatives. One girl in particular said, ‘Nithya’s story is my own story. The only exception is that I don’t have a Vasu type character in my life.’
BNI: When and how did you decide to become a writer? Do you write full-time or part-time?
SM: I started writing seriously after I left my job in 2007. I am a full-time freelance writer taking up writing related projects from home. I write for pleasure during the weekends.
BNI: Which writers inspire you?
SM: Many. It is a huge list. To name a few, Jane Austen, Mary Balough, J.K. Rowling, Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Ken Follet and off late George R.R. Martin.
BNI: According to you, What is the hardest thing about writing? SM:Developing a character and getting caught in stereotypes. I have seen some of the best novelists falling prey to their own stereotypes.
BNI: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
SM: I would love to become a full-time novella writer and live on my earnings by just telling stories J
BNI: What has been the toughest criticism and best compliment to you, as an author?
SM: Toughest criticism was from my sister who loves to point my mistakes. Best compliment came from many readers who read the book, despite the fact that they shun romance in general.
BNI: What will be your one favourite tip to get through the writer’s block?
SM: Take a break. Shut your laptop and take long winding walks.
BNI: What are your thoughts on book series? Would you like to have one for your latest book?
SM: I love book series in general and would like to write them in future. But Perfect Groom won’t be a series.
BNI: Any advice for writers budding or established?
SM: Keep writing J
BNI: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
SM: Publishing the novella was a breeze, thanks to you my publisher Naheed Hassan.
BNI: What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?
SM: I loved all the portions where the mother-in-law makes an appearance
BNI: Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it? SM: Most times when I write, I have the basic plot in hand. But once the characters come to life, they force us to change situations and the story. That’s what happened to Perfect Groom.
BNI: What do you think about – What does your protagonist think about you?
SM: Nithya has many characteristics that are true to my own nature. I hope Nithya is happy with the happy ending that I gave her.
BNI: How about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us?
Just as I was turning off the light to settle back to sleep, the phone rang again. It was my father-in-law. I was on my guard again, twisting the phone cord nervously.
“Amma Nithya. How are you? How is Ashok? I just left your mother-in-law at the airport. She has boarded the plane,” he said.
That’s just great.
“Is Ashok there?” he asked hesitatingly.
“No.” I didn’t want to talk to him any more than necessary. In fact, in three years, I had avoided speaking to him wherever possible. Once I was naïve enough to think that he was unaware of our situation. But recently I realized he knew everything; and despite that he had arranged our marriage.
He was silent for a while then asked, “Nithya, is everything set for your mother-in-law’s visit in the US? Where is Ashok? Will he be picking her up at the airport?”
“He has gone out with Sunil,” I said.
“Oh. Will he pick her up or not?” he asked hurriedly.
“He told me that he would…” I said and hesitated.
“I hope he goes alone to the airport. I just want her to be comfortable there. I hope you understand,” he said in a worried voice.
“Really? I thought you wanted to know something else. You know everything right?” I asked him.
He immediately got defensive, “I don’t know what you are talking about. Don’t try to act smart with me. You were almost a servant in Narasimhachari’s house. Your mother didn’t even have one gram of gold to give you. You were living on your uncle and aunt’s mercy. Your father didn’t even leave money to educate you or your sister. You have lived on other people’s charity all your life. I got you married to my son, gave you jewelry, paid for your ticket to the USA. Would any father-in-law do this? And you know what, I bore the entire marriage expenses too and you have the audacity to ask me questions? Just who do you think you are?”
I tried to interrupt, but something was wrong with my voice, as usual.
He continued. “Just keep one thing in mind. While Saroja is in the States I want you to make sure that everything is normal. She is a heart patient so please don’t argue with her or tell her anything. We will speak more about this when you come down here. Until then I don’t want any more discussion about this. Do you understand?”
BNI: What are your expectations for the book?
SM: Good reviews and good sales
BNI: Do you think book cover an important role in sales?
SM: Yes. The book cover represents all that one has to say in the book. A great book cover is the best marketing tool that the author can have
BNI: According to you, what is the top most advantage / disadvantage of self publishing?
SM: I haven’t self published a book so far. So wouldn’t really know.
BNI: Thanks for your time Sumeetha.