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May 09, 2016

Author Preeti Shenoy on Writing About Love

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena. Photograph by Narasimha Murthy

Best-selling author Preeti Shenoy talks about her various muses, her creative process and the intricacies of human nature

What prompted your interest in the various facets of love?
“All my books are really not about love. Each one explores a certain issue. For example, while Life is What You Make it is about bipolar disorder, The One You Cannot Have is about moving on from broken relationships. So while I am interested in love and relationships, my writings definitely are a lot more than just that. Love is incidental for my characters. Having said that, I must state that, deep down, I am also a romantic. I believe that when you find your true soulmate, your life magically transforms. This is reflected in my books as well.

My latest non-fiction book, Why We Love The Way We Do, deals with the various facets of relationships. There is really no single reason why I decided to write on this topic. I get mails from complete strangers who share the most intimate details of their lives and ask for my advice. Their stories led me to a quest for answers. And all of what I discovered found its way into my columns in a national daily. Why We Love The Way We Do is a collection of pieces adapted from these columns.”

Why We Love the Way We Do — what kind of research went into this work?
“Most of what I have said in the book comes from a combination of many hours of research and many years of experience. While writing the essays, I had to be certain that what I was saying was backed by scientific research and study.  I was intrigued by some of the things I discovered. Also, I thought about whether these studies were relevant to the Indian scenario. The thing is, no matter what your culture or geographic location, your core emotions are the same. We fall in love, we lust, we desire, we long for someone, and when we break up, it’s the same pain that everyone faces.”

The Obsession (your short story written for Verve) explores the darker side of love. What was the reason for this?
“Love, according to me, is like anger. You have to control it or it will control you. Also, the ‘ideal-happy-rosy’ kind of love isn’t what we always encounter. Newspapers are full of instances where people let love ruin their lives. People have killed for love; there are so many ‘crimes of passion’ where the murder is not premeditated. It is done on an impulse. In this story too, my protagonist is obsessed with his ex. He loses his mother as well as the love of his life — the two women who were his world. That tips him over the edge.”

How much of yourself has gone into your several fictional titles?
“The character of Vee from It Happens for a Reason is completely based on me, and Aryan from the same book is based on my son. I am a huge lover of animals, dogs in particular, and Vee runs a dog-boarding facility. She is also into fitness which is one of my other interests. There is also a bit of me in Anjali from The One You Cannot Have. The other characters are all from my imagination — but it is inevitable that a little bit of the writer would be left as a residue. After all, the story emerges from the innermost recesses of your mind.”

You write blogs, have penned poems, fiction and non-fiction as well. Which of these genres interests you the most?
“Each one is different. I love to write. Period. Writing a blog is spontaneous. It’s like suddenly deciding to go to a nice restaurant on a Wednesday night. Writing a short story would be like going on a date on a weekend. A little more planning and thought goes into it. And writing a novel is, of course, getting into a committed relationship. It needs time, effort and patience. It means sticking with it, even when things don’t go right.”

Is there a particular routine that you follow while writing?
“The main routine is that of discipline. When I begin a novel I am relentlessly at it till I finish it. There is simply no waiting for the muse to show up. I write and write and write, whether or not I am in a mood to. I do need solitude to write. I need to be completely alone. If there’s someone in the house, then they are in my head as well. Hence I wait for my family to leave, so I get some alone time, in order to be able to write. And when I am writing, even the smallest noise or interruption that makes a demand on my time — even like the doorbell ringing — annoys me and disrupts my chain of thoughts.”

Is there an author who has inspired or influenced you?
“I would say everything that we read, experience or encounter changes us in some way, and we are never the same. As regards my favourite authors, there are simple too many to name. Audrey Niffenegger, Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo, Daniel Glattauer, Mary Ann Shaffer and Liane Moriarty are some of the names that come to my mind instantly. To be honest, I love a good book that is well written and that which ‘speaks’ to me.”

What is the most interesting book you have read recently?
“The Teenage Brain by neuroscientist E. Frances Jensen. I find the human brain fascinating. And the behaviour of teenagers even more so! This book offers superb insights into why teens behave the way they do. Earlier, it was attributed to just hormonal changes but this book blows the lid off all those beliefs. It is a real eye-opener.”

What next?
“I am currently working on a fiction title, with an unusual theme.”

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