Saturday, September 15, 2018

On Writing: Interview with author Shilpa Suraj #MyFriendAlexa Post 5

Today on 'On Writing', we have Shilpa Suraj, a published author with Harlequin India, Mills & Boon Indian author collection, who has successfully completed a two-book contract. 

Her first book ‘The Girl He Left Behind’ was released on August 1, 2014, and spent more than a year and a half on the Bestseller and Hot New Releases charts. It has also made it to #3 and stayed at that rank on the Hot New Releases list for close to ten days. Her second book ‘Rescued by Love’ released on October 24, 2014, and has made its appearance on both the Hot New Releases list and Bestsellers list on

‘Driven by Desire,’ her third book, was released by Juggernaut in May 2018. Her fourth book, Wrong, has been contracted by Rupa Publications and will release in 2019.

Let's get to know Shilpa's views about books, writing and more...
Welcome to 'On Writing', Shilpa.

Follow her on Twitter handle: @shilpaauthor Instagram: Shilpa.suraj

Was becoming an author always your dream or was it a particular event or incident that gave birth to the author in you?

My life and by extension my lifestyle isn’t very conventional. Married to a sailor, no not Popeye, I rarely got to spend huge chunks of time with him. So, when he was scheduled for a six-month course in Chennai, I promptly applied for a sabbatical from work and toddled off with him. I had these dreamy visions of ‘quality time,’ ‘soulful eye contact’ and ‘meaningful conversations’ floating around in my head.
In reality, he was incredibly busy and I was incredibly bored. The only meaningful conversation I was having was with my new maid in my rusty Tamil.
So, I finally sat down with my laptop and started typing out what would end up being the first draft of ‘The Girl He Left Behind.’ I love writing, I love telling stories and most importantly, I love that there are people out there who want to read them.

How important are the names of the characters in your books to you? Do you spend agonizing hours deciding on their names?

Not hours but yes, I do spend a little time trying to figure out a name that goes with the personality and character in my head. For some reason, I struggle more with surnames than first names. Finding the perfect Anglo Indian surname for Max in Driven by Desire was important and took a little time. I finally settled on Maxine Sheridan, exotic and glamorous, it’s the complete opposite of who she is in her life. And that’s why I loved it.

What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a favourite place to write?

I don’t have a process. I wish I did but I really just write when I can find the time. Most days, that time is after my toddler goes to sleep and the house is finally quiet. Some days the words flow and some days I stare at the screen for a while typing and deleting the same sentence over and over again before giving up and going to bed. Most of my writing is done huddled in bed so I can keep an eye on my sleeping child and be productive.

What is different about ‘Driven by Desire’?

Driven by Desire is about learning to love a person for who they are and not for who you or society think they should be. With an unconventional heroine (a vintage car restorer) and an older, stick in the mud hero (a staid businessman), it shows us that all the parameters that society considers acceptable in individuals and relationships are meaningless.

Also, Driven by Desire, like real life, is all about snatching moments of passionate sex, making full use of crackling chemistry and adding meaningful conversations as well as soulful eye contact and managing quality time between two very occupied and individual people. Much like most of us in real life.

Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

While I relate to Krish and his need to be everything to everybody, my favourite character is Max. Her exuberance and love for life is something I wish I could emulate. I would love to be a Max but I’m definitely Krish’s spitting image in real life.

Which do you prefer as a reader? EBook or Paperback?

I will read anything. A paperback, ebook, newspaper, blog post…I just need to read. Jokes apart though, I prefer my Kindle for the sheer convenience of having multiple books at my fingertips no matter where I am.

How long did it take to finish writing ‘Driven by Desire’?

I wrote Driven by Desire in four months. The characters and the story were so clear in my mind that it was easy to bring it to life. The age difference, unconventional professions and lifestyles and the flipping of the gender stereotypes all came together very seamlessly.

How important do you think is marketing in today’s world for any book?

Where would we be without our readers? We want people to read our work and if they don’t know we or our books exist, it’s hard for them to do that. Marketing is very important to bring your work to someone’s attention. To get them to give it a chance. After that, it’s your talent and your story that’s firmly in the driving seat.

Please share a passage or quote from ‘Driven by Desire’ for our readers.

Walking across the backyard, Krish approached the garage, “Max.”
The only indication that she’d heard him was a slight stiffening in the legs that were in view. When she showed no signs of emerging, he crouched and gave her legs a yank. In reply, she kicked him. Hard!
“What the fuck!” fatigue, stress and honest to God bewilderment had his temper coming to a boil.
Wrapping a hand around the ankle closest to him, he said, “Get out of there now or I’ll drag you out.” Tightly laced fury had him practically spitting out the words.
Shoving back with her heels, Max propelled herself out from under the car. Jerking her leg out of his grasp, she got to her feet and moved away from him. Hair unravelling from her braid, dirty overalls and outraged fury sparking in her eyes, she made him want to haul her over his shoulders and carry her up to his bed. To lose himself in her soft sweetness. Except right now it would be like trying to make love to a cactus.
“What?” aggravated beyond reason by the desire that had a stranglehold on him, he growled, “What the hell have I done wrong now?” Tossing her braid over her shoulder, she sniffed. “If you don’t already know, there’s no point in telling you anything.”
“Ah hell, Max.” Tugging at his hair until it stood up in tufts, he said, “Don’t go all female on me now.”
He knew this was the wrong thing to say, even before the words were out of his mouth. He could almost feel the Universe pitying him.
“Max, I’m exhausted.”
“When are you not exhausted?”
That gave him pause. Maybe she had a point about those vitamin supplements.
“Alright.” Lifting his hands in surrender, he tried a placating tone, “Whatever it is, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t patronize me, you jackass,” seething, Max packed her tools with a controlled violence that had Krish taking a wary step back.
“First you hide me like an ugly little secret and now you want to talk to me like I’m a hysterical floozy.”
He was by her side in two strides. Wounded pride had him grabbing her arm and hauling her around to face him, “What the hell are you talking about? When did I ever treat you like that?”
“Yesterday morning,” she flung at him. “You didn’t come near me or even acknowledge me until the entire family was gone. Of course, the minute they were out of sight, I seemed a lot more appealing. Even the key to the house was only for work as far as they were concerned. God forbid, they find out you’re sleeping with the help!”
The final thread of sanity snapped at the last word. Hurt and temper had him tightening his grip on her arm and dragging her into the kitchen. Adi and Chirag looked up in surprise from the kitchen table. Taking in the fact that Pooja was still nowhere in sight with one sweeping glance, Krish came to a halt in front of them.
Spinning Max to face him, he anchored her with a firm hand at her nape and kissed her. Raw, passionate and possessive in a way that branded her inside and out, Krish seemed oblivious to the hoots and cheers that echoed around them.
Pulling back enough to see her face, Krish cupped her cheek and tipped her face back to meet his eyes. His gaze burning into hers, he announced, “In case you numbskulls haven’t yet comprehended it, Max and I are seeing each other.”

What are the three tips you have for readers of this interview who are aspiring writers?
1.   Be true to the storyteller inside you. Write the story you want to tell. Don’t try to write what you think will sell.
2.  Try and write every day but if it doesn’t happen don’t beat yourself up about it. Your writing should bring you joy, not stress.
3.  Remember why you started writing in the first place. Hold that feeling close. It’s what makes this journey special.

Thank you, Shilpa! Wishing you the very best for your future endeavours. 

Aren't you tempted to check out 'Driven by Desire' ?

What are you waiting for?

'Driven by Desire': 

An ace vintage car restorer and a pharmaceutical tycoon, Maxine and Krish have nothing in common. A chance encounter puts their lives on a collision course and a stubborn and steady attraction begins to bloom. Wanting each other is easy, it's happy ever after that's the problem...

To purchase from Juggernaut: CLICK HERE
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  1. Loved 'DbD', Shilpa. Max is adorable. hahaha - can't help laughing out loud at the mis-adventures that started you writing! Your wickedness comes through in your writing and that's why your books are such fun!

  2. Interviews with authors and bloggers are always fun to read.

  3. Good to see her talking about marketing. As writers we write our heart out and just expect people to come and read but of course it doesn't work that way. I self published my first book this year and had to really go out of my comfort zone while marketing and talking about my book to anyone who would listen

  4. Interesting and inspiring interview. Thanks for sharing this one!

  5. Such an interesting interview, Preethi and Shilpa! The questions were perfect and answered with elan. In fact, my next read is Driven By Desire and I am looking forward to it. Kudos, girls! :)
    #DeepTiesReads #MyFriendAlexa

  6. I am about to read Shilpa Suraj's book. Good to know about Shilpa through your post.

  7. Good interview. I am glad she had a nice situation to sit down and write! :) I don't find many Indian authors interesting! I hope to read her soon!

  8. Such interview and really nice and fun to read.. thank you for sharing