After Life is What You Make It, which became a bestseller, author Preeti Shenoy is ready with a sequel. One of the highest selling woman authors in India, Shenoy has appeared on the Forbes List of 100 most influential celebrities. She has written 11 books, several short stories and over 200 newspaper columns, and her work has been published in many languages. Awarded the Indian of the Year for her contribution to literature by Brands Academy in 2017, she maintains a very popular blog. In this interview, Preeti Shenoy talks about her latest book, Wake Up Life is Calling, the challenges she faced while writing it, and her journey so far as a writer.
Your upcoming novel ‘Wake Up Life is Calling’ is a sequel to ‘Life is What you make it’, which was a national bestseller. What twist can the readers expect in it?
My latest book Wake Up Life is Calling is a sequel to Life is What you Make it, which is one of the biggest books of Indian publishing and which continues to top the charts even eight years after its release. That book ends with Ankita dropping out of the MBA course, and completing her treatment successfully at the mental hospital, and joining a new course — something she wanted to do but never had the courage for. Though that book tells you in the epilogue what happened 15 years later, it doesn’t tell you the story leading up to that. The sequel takes us through the first year of that journey. She joins a new course —Creative Writing, and everything is fine on the surface. However there is trouble brewing, deep within.
What was the theme that inspired you to write your latest book?
I had never thought that I would come back and write a sequel. Life is What You Make It was an extremely difficult book to write, and it took a lot out of me. I had done two years of academic research, and have so much material. I had to then simplify it in order for it to be relatable. I began seeing everything through Ankita’s eyes. It would leave me feeling drained and depressed. So I had decided that I would never again write about mental health, as it took a toll on me. But it looks like Ankita wasn’t done with me yet! It took eight years (and nine more books in those eight years) for her to emerge—and emerge she did! This book was also equally hard to write. But once the story came to me, it took over me, and I just had to write it. I was like a woman possessed. Now that it is finally out, I feel at peace. This book was also equally hard to write. But once the story came to me, it took over me, and I just had to write it. I was like a woman possessed. Now that it is finally out, I feel at peace.
You describe love in a very different way. What is the definition of love, according to you?
In order to understand my definition of love, you will have to read my books! I am a firm believer of the quote by Antonie de Saint-Exupery: “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but looking outward in the same direction.”
What inspired you to become a writer?
A writer is something I have always been. I have always had journals as a child and I still do. I won several prizes at college and University level for my short stories and creative writing. I also did a creative writing course. It is my innate love for words that inspired me to become a writer. For me, writing is as essential as breathing!
‘Life is What you Make it’ talks about bipolar disorder and how the society reacts to mental health problems. Does the sequel take that theme forward or it will deal with a new problem?
This one was probably harder to write than the first. In the first one, Ankita has no clue what is going to hit her. Here she has emerged out of the mental hospital. She has been through hell and back. She is wary. She is terrified. Yet she is desperate to fit in. She has been out of the ‘normal world’ for so long, that every tiny thing is a celebration. I am sharing a paragraph from the book:
Giddy with exhilaration, I entered the college building, an imposing structure – a white multi-storied building that stood like a fortress. A black-board at the entrance welcomed us – the new batch of students of the creative writing course – and directed us to the fifth floor, where our classrooms were located. My classroom, surprisingly, had long red curtains that billowed ceiling to floor. The windows overlooked treetops, and there was nature all around. The parrots perched on branches were surely a good omen. The afternoon sun cast rainbows in the room, the light filtering in through the redness of the curtains. I loved my classroom instantly. This was even better than St. Agnes! I had been locked away from the world for so many months. For everyone else in the classroom, all of this was not anything unusual or extraordinary. But I stared at the benches, the blackboard – everything. It had been such a long time since I had seen any institution other than a mental hospital. I revelled in this atmosphere, soaking in every tiny detail. I loved it all! It was my own personal slice of heaven. ‘At last I am here,’ I high-fived myself as I made my way to the back of the classroom.
You have an amazing fan base. How do you prefer to interact with your fans on a regular basis?
Preferred mode to interact with my fans: 1. Face to face. 2. Social media (follow me on InstagramPreeti.io/insta to see what I am up to on a daily basis). 3. Blog (Blog.preetishenoy.com).
What would be your advice to young writers who want to be authors?
Read at least a 100 books before you attempt to write one! Read, read, read a lot! And write every single day.
(Kusum Sharma is an independent contributor)