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Monday, September 9, 2013

Flirting with Fiction at Fifty



By Shobhan Bantwal

When I made the impulsive decision to start writing fiction at the ripe age of fifty, I knew it would be a serious challenge. I had never written anything more creative than school essays and the thesis for my master's degree. Nonetheless I had to start somewhere, so I began by writing articles and short stories about Indian-American immigrant experiences.

Much to my amazement, between 2002 and 2005, I successfully wrote over thirty articles for various Indian-American publications, and three of my short stories won awards/honors in fiction competitions.

But when it came to full-length novels, I had grave doubts. Would the mainstream American establishment be willing to accept stories that hinged on arranged marriage, dowry abuse, virgin brides and grooms, and male dominance? Would they even consider characters like compliant wives and mothers who, despite college degrees and flourishing careers of their own, catered happily to the men in their lives?

In spite of my trepidation I took a calculated risk by writing romantic fiction, a sub-genre that I branded "Bollywood-in-a-Book." I introduced serious social issues in contemporary India to American readers by weaving them into fun, romantic, entertaining tales.

After two frustrating years of agent-hunting I finally landed a great agent, Elaine Koster (now deceased), a publisher-turned-agent
who had published literary giants like Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Erica Jong, and Khaled Hosseini. Fortunately she loved my "outside the box" fiction, and sold my debut book, The Dowry Bride, to Kensington Publishing in 2006.  More contracts by Kensington followed in quick succession, making it a total of six novels in six years.

I would love to hear about your own unique publishing stories.

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ShobhanBantwal.author


4 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for sharing your road to publication with us, Shobhan. I'm so glad you persevered! Not only are your books wonderful reads, they also do a service to America by sharing the Indian-American experience. Our diversity is our great strength.

Diana Mcc. said...

I enjoyed your post, Shobhan. It is always interesting to read about other cultures. I've learned a lot through reading diverse novels. I've been a closet writer for many years and after I retired, I began seriously writing for publication.

Judith Ashley said...

I'd turned 60 when I had a vision that has led me to write three of seven novels based on a sacred women's circle. One of the things I love about writing - we can do it at any age!

I agree with Sarah - Diversity is our great strength in America and at RTG. So much to learn from each of the Genre-istas!!!

Shobhan Bantwal said...

Sarah, Diana & Judith,

Sorry for the delay in posting my response. Just got back from my three-week vacation.

Thank you, all, for your kind comments. Yes indeed, diversity in books is a wonderful way to learn about other cultures and enjoy a variety of fiction. This is one of the main reasons I admire all of you who started this lovely blog, which celebrates the spectrum of genres.