The Book Club: Dear Sundari Venkatraman. Congratulations on Meghna doing so well. We have been getting questions regarding on how you create the characters? Do you plan them out?
Sundari Venkatraman: Hmmm... Yeah, I plan my main characters to some extent. The hero and heroine, especially. But somehow, once I give them names and imagine their features, they begin to do a drama in my mind. It runs like a movie. I just watch it and write. The side characters pop up at every point. Like a parent, housekeeper, a hotel waiter, etc
The Book Club: So do movies influence you?
Sundari Venkatraman: Oh yes, to a very large extent - almost as much as books
Dola Basu Singh: Sundari, you have published traditionally as well as gone indie. Which do you prefer? Why?
Sundari Venkatraman: That's right Dola Basu Singh. Thank you for the question. I prefer Indie of course. It's as independent as you can get. No strict Editorial Guidelines to follow. Creative work needs a free expression. Otherwise, what's the point? Yes, we need an editor to tell us what works and what doesn't. But not turn the story topsy turvy. Besides that, amazingly better returns and faster too.
Dola Basu Singh: Better returns sounds great! But do you think that when we self-publish we have to put in more efforts in marketing, editing etc in comparison to trad-publishing? Also, do you think the quality of the work may suffer?
Sundari Venkatraman: Better returns happen only with sincere work. I was always putting in a lot of effort with marketing even for traditional publishing. The publisher can help only up to a point. The crowd wants the author there - approachable, reachable. Editing is a must if one doesn't plan to be a one-book wonder. Those for the long haul will realise that if the first book is trashy, the reader will not touch the author. I wouldn't as a reader, so why would I expect others to do it? The quality of work need not suffer. That much self-respect is required. Yes, one needs to be determined and disciplined to achieve all this of course. I think I am.
Dola Basu Singh: Definitely. We've seen you churn out 2 bestselling books within a year. Meghna is also doing well. Good luck for success of Meghna.
Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you so much Dola Basu Singh
Ahana Mukherjee: Meghna seems to have struck a chord amongst your readers. Were you targeting a particular section of the audience when writing? Do you bear in mind who your readers might be and write for them?
Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you Ahana Mukherjee. I am glad to see that it has. I think part of the credit will go to that friendly warning that I posted. I enjoy reading fun romances and thought there must be people out there who are like me. There used to be a different type of M&B a few decades ago. I used to love reading them. They basically spoke about places, people, culture, relationships. They influenced me a lot. I always wanted to write those kind of romances set in India. So, basically, I write my books for those readers who are like me, I suppose. Does that answer your question?
Ahana Mukherjee: It was good to read a through and through rom com for a change... :)
Devika Fernando Author: Sundari Venkatraman what would you say are your favourite parts of a book to write? and what do you consider your writing strengths?
Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you Devika Fernando Author. I would say that all parts of my book are favourites, actually. But specifically, I love writing dialogue and descriptions - of nature as well as homes. Regarding writing strengths... hmmm... that really set me thinking. Building human relationships, I think that's what I like best in my writing and so would call that my writing strength.
Devika Fernando Author: having read "meghna", I agree that this is one of your strengths.
Sundari Venkatraman: :D
Adite Banerjie: Hi Sundari. Just saw on Amazon.in today Meghna is among the top 50 romance bestsellers. Congrats! As an indie-published author, do you rely on someone to critique your story or tell you what's working or what's not? Or do you just go by your own gut feel?
Sundari Venkatraman: Hi Adite Banerjie! Wow! Thank you for the info and best wishes. Yeah, both The Malhotra Bride and Meghna have been in the Amazon Bestsellers contemporary romances lists over the past few days. To answer your question, I definitely call in for critical appreciation. I rely on at least 2-3 critiques / Beta readings before going public with a novel. My viewpoint alone will never do. The project is my own creation and too close to my heart for me to understand if it works. In the meanwhile, gut feel helps too. I write from the heart and I hope that it will resonate with a lot of people around the globe.
Adite Banerjie: You're so right....if a story doesn't have heart it won't resonate with readers. Best wishes to you and hope you write many many heartwarming tales!
Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you so much Adite Banerjie :D
Devika Fernando Author: congratulations! and I agree, beta readers are important.
Aparajita Dutta: Hi Sundari Venkatraman ..Why did you choose to write on this particular genre? Are you planning to stick to this particular genre in future?
Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you Aparajita Dutta. I am not sure that I chose this genre. I think it chose me. I loved fairy tales as a kid and grew up to like mushy romances with 'lived happily ever after' endings (read M&B and Georgette Heyer). I still like them. I think I would prefer to stick to this genre with a bit of thriller, historical and paranormal thrown in - separately, of course.
Aparajita Dutta: thank you so much :)
Janaki Nagaraj: Hi Sundari. I have not read Meghna. This is a general question. Most of the romance novels revolve around rich couple; the boy is rich, well educated, either a businessman or earning very well, classy and Mr. Perfect. The girl too is beautiful, sexy with perfect figure and the works. Have you ever thought of breaking this barrier of stereotyping the characters? Will you be able to write a romantic story revolving around very ordinary, middle or lower class people who have lots of odds placed against them?
Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you Janaki Nagaraj for asking me this question. The world has both the positive and the negative. That is how the third dimensional world has been created. Obviously, it is populated by both the rich and the poor. I prefer to focus on the rich. There is a misapprehension in parts of our society that thinking ‘Money’ is wrong. Well, I don’t belong to that strata of people.
1. My typical hero is 30 years old. If he is not a success by then, I don’t want to write about him. Even people from the slums break out of poverty to make something of themselves. Financial success is very important to be my hero – as important as being honest.
2. ‘Beauty,’ as they say, ‘is in the eye of the beholder’. My heroine appears beautiful to my hero; and sexy too. She may not necessarily appear beautiful to everyone. She has a perfect figure – in Meghna’s case – because she dances 7 days a week.
I hope I have answered your question :)
Janaki Nagaraj: You have, thanks :)
Inderpreet Kaur Uppal: Hi Sundari, you have 3 very successful romance books under your name, did you always have this feeling of love in your writing? Do you think anyone can be a romance writer or do they have a special something that helps them express the power of love?
Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you Inderpreet! Sorry that I took so long to reply to your question. I am also a dedicated homemaker besides being a writer. :D To answer your question, I always have this feeling of love even while reading. I read more romances than any other books. Even the other books I read need to have a happy ending. I don’t much care for tragedies. Anyone who is passionate about love and romances and has a flair for writing can definitely become a romance writer is what I think.
Inderpreet Kaur Uppal: Thanks for answering my question :D
Nilima Mohite: Sundari Venkatraman you always give details about traditions, locations, events, .... How do you research for them?
Sundari Venkatraman: I love your question Nilima Mohite! Most of it is from personal experience. The rest from google search. Like I have written about Mumbai; ISKCON Temple @ Juhu; Arya Samaj Wedding; Dandiya Raas; Fort Hill Garden and JW Marriott - all these I have personally visited. I love soaking into different atmospheres. So I instinctively absorb them and they automatically flow into the scenes in my novels.
Nilima Mohite: Gr8. I too absorb details & pour them into blog posts ;)
The Book Club: Thank you Ladies and err... ladies... for taking the time to drop in. Thanks Sundari. It must have been tiring for you answering all the questions. But you did a brilliant job
Sundari Venkatraman: Thank you The Book Club for this wonderful opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed the Q&A :D