"It continues to be on the bestseller charts even years after its release"
Acclaimed Indian author Preeti Shenoy has the rare ability to capture the unwavering attention of her readers. Her fictional novels touch on strong-minded women in search of self-fulfilment, love, and happiness.
Gaining huge popularity in India, Preeti Shenoy’s first book, 34 Bubblegums and Candies was published in 2008.
Since then, Preeti Shenoy has welcomed eight best-selling titles in her name, with a ninth book to be revealed at the Birmingham Literature Festival on Saturday 7th October 2017.
In honour of Preeti Shenoy coming to Birmingham for a special talk hosted by DESIblitz, we highlight five of the author’s top-selling books, with additional insights from Preeti herself.
The Secret Wish List
One of Preeti’s most popular reads among fans, The Secret Wish List follows the young and carefree teenager Diksha. As a young girl, she dreams of love and happiness. But as she grows older, she marries according to her parent’s wishes and ends up living a mundane lifestyle.
After being reminded of an old love from her youth, Diksha develops a secret wish list in which she reveals her deepest desires. Could she embark on an extramarital affair?
Preeti Shenoy tells DESIblitz: “I wanted to explore the concept of whether wishes can come true, just by making a list, writing them down, and then doing nothing about it.
“There are so many Indian housewives who have subsumed their personalities to such an extent, that they do not even know what they want anymore.
“Like my protagonist, they put their husband and children before themselves. They feel a void in their lives but are unable to explain why as they have everything that they could desire. I wanted to write a book which captured all of this, and The Secret Wish List was the result.”
The novel cleverly uncovers the restlessness that some women can feel after they get married. Preeti admits herself that she had no idea that the novel would resonate with so many people after it was published:
“Thousands of women wrote to me, after reading the book saying that they felt as though I had crawled into their heads and written out their stories.”
“Many men wrote to me, saying that they had no idea how unhappy their wives might have been, as it was an eye-opener for them. They presumed they were good husbands (which they were). But many had not once asked their wives, what she really wants.
“A young man wrote to me saying that after he read the book, he went and asked his mother what her wishes are, and he told me he is going to make each and every wish on that list come true.
“I think the book has helped many to connect to a deeper part of themselves, and it continues to be on the bestseller charts even years after its release.”
The One You Cannot Have
A story of heartbreak and unforgettable love, The One You Cannot Have follows the once inseparable couple, Aman and Shruti.
Despite their epic love, Shruti leaves Aman and eventually marries another man. Devastated, Aman moves abroad in an attempt to forget her. Interestingly, in this novel, Preeti adopts different character perspectives, one male and one female.
In particular, she explains that she found Aman’s narrative a challenge to write:
“I had to sound like a man for Aman. I spoke to many of my male friends, asking them if that was what went on in their heads. Almost everyone says that I have got it completely right.”
“Writing it from Shruti’s perspective was slightly easier, as all I had to do was dig deep within myself.”
Preeti Shenoy adds that her favourite about writing the novel was being able to relive the memories of her time in the UK:
“The book has a description of Norwich (where I used to live) and all the places there. The book also has a character named Mark, who is from the UK, and who travels to India.
“Through Mark, I captured the experiences of my British friends when they visited India for the very first time, and discovered Indian customs which were completely alien to them.”
Life is What You Make It
One of Preeti’s earlier novels, Life is What You Make It uncovers the stigmas that surround mental health and depression in India.
While Preeti Shenoy believes that “things have changed” in recent years, the novel is actually set in the 1980s:
“At that time, it was very much a stigma to say that you have undergone treatment for mental health. I would say things have improved a great deal since then. It is now being talked about openly. Earlier, it was hushed and not talked about.”
The book follows Ankita, an intelligent and confident girl with lots of friends and great career prospects. However, a cruel twist of fate results in Ankita being admitted into a mental hospital:
“Ankita is probably a combination of many people I know. When I was in the UK, I came across a bipolar artists association, and they had an art exhibition. I loved their work. I started investigating the condition and researching on it. When I travelled to India, I visited NIMHANS and spoke to many doctors.
“When I started writing the book, I wanted a young girl as a protagonist, and so I used the places most familiar to me, and I used Mumbai and Kerala as settings, as that was where I had gone to college.”
It Happens for a Reason
Vee is a single mother and a struggling business owner. Despite bringing up her son by herself, she represents the strong-minded woman that many of us will know in real life.
Preeti tells us:
“Surprisingly, I met a real life Vee, but it was only after I wrote the book! While writing the book, I did not have any role model, as such.”
She adds: “I would say, in India, there is still a huge stigma to be an unwed mother. 68 percent of the Indian population is rural. The big cities are western in their outlook and approach when compared to rural India where there is a very strict adherence to ancient customs.
“I created a character who is not afraid to give up a life of luxury, to pursue what she wants. Vee doesn’t care about the society. She does what she likes.”
It’s All in the Planets
Preeti’s latest book, It’s All in the Planets touches on the idea of not settling when it comes to love and marriage. Using astrology and the “alignment of the stars” Preeti Shenoy introduces the idea of soulmates.
Aniket is a techie who lives and works in Bangalore. He is utterly obsessed with his model girlfriend, Trish, who he believes is out of his league.
While Trish seemingly loves Aniket, she is quick to point out his faults. From his protruding beer belly to his over-possessive nature. But then Aniket meets Nidhi on a train and convinces her to become his fitness and relationship coach.
Interestingly, much of the novel centres on the horoscopes of the characters: Aniket as a Leo and Nidhi as a Sagittarius. Preeti Shenoy explains her choice, saying:
“I wanted two fire signs. The third choice was Aries; But I picked Leo and Sagittarius, as I am a Sagittarius, and many of my friends are Leo. So I could borrow their personality traits easily.
“I do not use astrology or horoscopes to bring them together. A prediction is given at the beginning of each chapter. But does it hold water? That is something for the reader to decide. I do believe what while certain events are inevitable, we all do have free-will which can influence the outcome,” she adds.
Like much of her other novels, Preeti compares traditional expectations of marriage with modern live-in couples:.
“The urban-rural divide is a massive one in India,” Preeti explains.
“If you go to Mumbai or Bangalore, it has a very cosmopolitan feel. Delhi has its own personality. Chennai is unlike any other city. I wouldn’t say it is dichotomous, instead, it is so rich, so varied.
“Live-in relationships are very much a part of the Indian Society today, but I do not think it is accepted by most middle-class parents. The adult children live in cities far away from the parents, and do not tell them.”
It is not difficult to see why Preeti Shenoy is such a popular author in India. Her books are a captivating read and almost impossible to put down.
An Afternoon with Preeti Shenoy at the Birmingham Literature Festival
Fans of the Indian author will be able to meet and see her in person when she comes to Birmingham for the first time on 7th October 2017.
“An Afternoon with Preeti Shenoy” will see the author in an insightful Q&A with Kavita A. Jindal. The event will also see the first glimpse of Preeti’s new book, which is currently untitled:
“The cover release of my 9th book will be an exclusive event at Birmingham Literature Festival, where the cover and the name of the book will be released for the very first time. Thousands of people in India are waiting for this! (and that includes me).
“I feel thrilled about DESIblitz and Birmingham Literature festival being a part of this very special moment.”
Book your tickets for “An Afternoon with Preeti Shenoy” on Saturday 7th October 2017 here.