August 24, 2011
Interview with Shobhan Bantwal, Author of Bollywood Novel, The Full Moon Bride
Today I again welcome best-selling author Shobhan Bantwal who is giving readers another glimpse into the "Desi" life via her latest book, THE FULL MOON BRIDE.
Bantwal, who has calls her type of writing "Bollywood in a book," is not afraid to tackle sometimes controversial topics and show the sometimes dark side of Indian life. In her last book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, she addressed what can happen when wives are "sold" to the prospective husband via a dowry.
In her new book, THE FULL MOON BRIDE, Bantwal introduces readers to a practice that many Americans may not understnad, but which is still common in many Indian and European families--the arranged marriage. As the interview reveals, it also is something Bantwal is personally familiar with.
About The Full Moon Bride
What makes a marriage—love or compatibility? Passion or pragmatism? THE FULL MOON BRIDE is a compelling story that explores the fascinating subject of arranged marriage, as young Indian-American attorney Soorya Giri navigates the gulf between desire and tradition.
In choosing between two very different men, Soorya must reconcile her burgeoning independence and conservative background. And she must decide what matters most to her—not just in a husband, but in a family, a culture, and a life.
Interview with Shobhan Bantwal:
1. What keeps you writing?
The need to share a story with as many people as possible is what keeps me writing. Fiction writing is still very much a hobby and does not earn much in terms of money, but the satisfaction of publishing a book, entertaining so many happy readers, and then receiving loads of positive feedback is well worth it.
2. What has changed in your life since you wrote this book?
Some major changes have taken place in my personal life: I am about to retire from my career job (the one that paid the bills until now) and move to Arizona from New Jersey (where I have spent the last 37 years - my entire adult life).
3. What inspired this story? Was it harder or easier to write than the others? Why?
The inspiration for this story is the second-generation of Indian-Americans, young folks like my daughter, whose parents emigrated to the United States to follow their dreams and make a better life for themselves and their children.
These offspring of immigrants face many challenges: straddling two diverse cultures, striving to meet the expectations of conservative parents, fitting into their more emancipated American peers' lifestyles, and fulfilling their own private career and family goals. My protagonist in The Full Moon Bride is bright and successful, but miserable about her plain looks, especially when she compares herself to her American friends. Finding a man on her own is difficult when her low self-esteem gets in the way of progress. This book was fairly easy to write since the plot and scenes come from close daily observations.
4. Was your marriage or any family member's arranged? What are your views on it in this day and age? Does it still work?
Yes, I have been happily married for 37 years and my marriage was strictly arranged. My husband and I met two days before we were engaged, then married 10 days later. All my sisters, uncle, aunts and most cousins have been married by arrangement. I believe in the custom wholeheartedly, if it is done right, that is, with the potential bride and groom agreeing to the marriage and making a sincere effort to make it work. Approximately 75 percent of marriages in India are still arranged and most seem to work very well.
5. Since your marriage was arranged, why does it work? What were your initial views about it and how do you see it now?
Arranged marriages work because the families from both sides do a lot of discreet fact gathering and research before picking someone eligible for their children. The caste system is still alive and thriving in India, therefore seeking an alliance with a family of the same caste is still a significant factor, along with similarities in social and economic circumstances. With so many elements in common, adjustment is made easier for the newlyweds.
Additionally, complete family support from both sides makes for a stronger marriage. Initially, when I was young and enamored by the idea of falling in love, I was hesitant about walking into an arranged marriage, but now, after 37 years of living in a one, I am an enthusiastic advocate of the custom.
6. What is your goal in writing this story? What do you want your readers to know or learn?
My goal in writing this book was to bring awareness to some of the challenges faced by second-generation immigrants. Also, American society places so much emphasis on beauty and youth that many who are labeled as plain, or overweight or unattractive grow up with easily-shattered egos and lack of self-respect. Writing The Full Moon Bride was my way of highlighting this subject and the immigrant experience in America. I want my readers to know that despite the outward appearance of having realized the American dream, many immigrants privately face other challenges, some expected and others unexpected.
7. What's next? You have another book coming out?
Yes, there is another book, scheduled for release next summer. There is no title yet but it will also be about a young Indian-American woman navigating the gulf between desire and tradition, her family's expectations and her own dreams.
8. What advice would you give to authors starting out?
My advice to aspiring authors is to write the book of your heart, even if it does not fit into a "box." I did that myself when I started to write stories that are a mix of different genres. In essence I created a new sub-genre of women's fiction, which I call "Bollywood in a Book" — ethnic fiction with colorful characters, strong romantic elements, action and adventure.
Thanks, Shobhan for stopping by again. We've enjoyed your visit!
Thank you once again for hosting me on your popular blog. It has been a pleasure to talk about my books and share my experiences as an author.
About Shobhan Bantwal
Award-winning author Shobhan Bantwal calls her writing “Bollywood in a Book” —romantic, colorful, action-packed tales, rich with elements of Indian culture —stories that entertain and educate. Shobhan has five published novels by Kensington Publishing, with a sixth slated for 2012. Check out her
website or visit her on Facebook.
* Review: Let me say that I am hooked! This is the third book I've read by Shobhan and I can't wait to read more. I love the way she brings the culture and her characters to life. You can't help but root for the "underdog" beau-in-waiting, and almost want to give her main character a shove to open her eyes! The romance ends as you hope, with a little sizzle and a lot of emotion. While she wanted to focus on self-doubt, I almost felt like her main character was too down on herself. Finally, she does feel more confident and starts to look at herself as others see her, especially as this good-looking suitor (as he's described) clearly sees her differently than she's seeing herself at first. The details of the culture and family life make the novel even more interesting.
* Read my other interview with Shobhan about her novel, The Sari Shop Widow here.