DOUBLE JEOPARDY – In Conversation with author, Sundari Venkatraman
Even though, once upon a time, a day was not complete if I had not read 2-3 Mills&Boon, the craving had petered off once higher studies and other mundane activities of living took over. So, it was with mixed emotions that I came to Double Jeopardy and then, could not put down the book till I reached the end. Let’s just say, for the inveterate romantic that I am, this book was a treat. If you are one, too, then read this book. Even if you are not, still read Double Jeopardy. You might discover you actually are one.
Let us know more, then, about the person behind Double Jeopardy, the author, Sundari Venkatraman.
Sonia Rao (SR): Sundari, you’ve mentioned “you got home one evening after your walk and took some sheets of paper and began writing. And that was how your first novel was born.” Tell us what happened on that walk.
Sundari Venkatraman (SV): I was actually in a very disturbed state of mind, Sonia, when I left home for the walk as I had no sense of direction in my life. I had quit my job a few months earlier and was quite fed up of only reading books. I had to do something, I thought. I am huge a fan of Mills & Boon and I used to keep visualizing Indian heroes and heroines in many of the scenes. As I was brooding about my life, it suddenly struck me that I should put my imagination into words on paper. I had never written before – unless my arm was twisted, of course. And that too was for essays in school and college. My walk home was pretty fast for me as I felt compelled to write the book. Writing fiction was like a dam burst. I loved it. I still do.
SR: Ernest Hemingway always wrote standing up. How do you write? What do you use for writing?
SV: Thank you for that interesting tidbit of information I didn’t know. I believe Erle Stanley Gardner – author of the Perry Mason series – used to write more than one novel at a time and he used to dictate them to his secretaries. They used to have a tough time keeping up with his speed. I began my writing journey with a note book and pen. I used to diligently type it out on my PC. Over the past few years, I type directly into a word document.
SR: Perry Masons used to be quite a favourite of mine. Gardner must have had a busy writing day, then. So, what does your writing day look like, Sundari? Do you follow any particular rituals to invoke your Muse?
SV: I do proof-reading, editing and many other odd jobs while cooking 2-3 meals every day for my family. Writing happens amidst all these tasks. I don’t have a fixed time. I do it when I feel like. It’s like watching a movie in my head and I just put the scenes into words, if you know what I mean.
There was this time when I was writing a book titled ‘Meghna’ while planning another called ‘Sangita’s Dilemma’. Whenever I tried to visualize Meghna and her hero, I found Sangita and her guy coming forth, demanding my attention. The scenes would not stop. They interrupted me so much that I remember getting up in the middle of one night at 3 am and putting it on paper before going back to sleep at 5.30 am. Only after that could I go on to complete Meghna.
SR: You came to writing after you quit your job. If not a writer, what else would you have become?
SV: I was working in school administration before I quit and began writing. When publishing did not work, I went looking for a job again and landed one with Mumbai Mirror. I worked over the next 7+ years with MM & a couple of Network 18 websites. Publishing with Indireads happened a couple of years after I quit Network 18. I am glad now that I am back to doing what I like best.
I am not sure what I would have become if I was not a writer. Maybe a cook as I enjoy that second best to weaving tales.
SR: Which is your most favourite book? They say writers are readers. Comment, please.
SV: Yeah, I am a voracious reader. There are a number of favourites like Jeffrey Archer’s books – all of them. I find his short stories inspiring. They are so well written. In romances, my favourite authors are Penny Jordan, Janet Dailey, Margaret Way, Julie Garwood, Nora Roberts and some others. I adore Georgette Heyer’s works. They are so humorous that I hope that some time in the future I could write like her.
I recently read Adite Banerjie’s M&B and loved it. There are a number of Indireads authors’ works that I thoroughly enjoyed. Andy Paula, Zeenat Mahal, MM George, Jazz Singh, Neelima Vinod, Parul Tyagi & Yamini Vijendran are all first-time authors and they write extremely well.
My all-time favourite is JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I can’t remember how many times I have read them all. I loved each one of them every time.
SR: Tell us the story of Double Jeopardy, your recentest novel, in tweet-form.
SV: I like this question 🙂 I actually tweeted it to check if it would work 😉 Twitter handle: @sundarivenkat
Sanya arrives in Mumbai to meet childhood sweetheart Arth, but is swept off her feet by Ansh. Check the preview on http://www.amazon.com/Double-Jeopardy-Sundari-Venkatraman-ebook/dp/B00H7QUELU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388903924&sr=8-1&keywords=double+jeopardy+by+sundari+venkatraman …
SR: The characters in Double Jeopardy have beautiful names: Sanya, Ansh and Arth. What parameters or perhaps a modus operandi do you follow for deciding on names for your characters? What sort of research do you do for your novels?
SV: Thank you! I am glad you like the names of my characters. With five completed novels, two in the pipeline and 17 short stories, names are not easy to come by. I check out names on Google search. Again, the character has to come alive in my head when I give a name. Otherwise, it’s a no go. Like there is this 6-year-old in one of my novels. I tried a number of names for him. I could see him lying down there refusing to get up when I tried each one on him. Suddenly, when I called him Sandeep, he woke up and started playing around. I realized then that the name has to bring alive the character. That’s how it works for me.
I just chose Sanya out of the blue and her character unfolded pretty well. I was wondering about the twins’ names when my daughter came up with Arth and Ansh. The names brought their characters alive and so worked for me.
Once the novel comes alive in my head, I begin writing it. It is mostly based on info stored in my memory of places, people, clothes, jewellery, etc. Whenever I get stuck, I read information on Google. That’s my favourite research method. Like when I wanted to describe an Arya Samaj wedding in my book called The Malhotra Bride, I checked out the wedding ritual on Google. It worked out perfectly.
SR: How would you describe the main characters of Double Jeopardy in one sentence each?
SV: Sanya is lost without a purpose when she comes down to Mumbai, hoping to rekindle her love for Arth. She grows along with the novel. Arth is quiet and nice, but not the man Sanya imagined him to be. Ansh used to torment Sanya as a kid but the equation changes when he flirts with her.
SR: Double Jeopardy is a contemporary romance and has romantic situations that could be considered bold, to a certain extent. So, how much of the situations described in it are realistic?
SV: I go by the adage ‘fact is stranger than fiction’. So, I would say that all the situations can be termed real.
SR: E-books or physical books? Which format, according to you, works better for Romance novels? And why?
SV: That’s a tough question. I have grown up on physical books. I got introduced to e-books when DOUBLE JEOPARDY was published. There are times when I feel the urge to hold a physical book in my hand. It feels like it’s more fun reading that way.
But I feel e-books are here to stay – for romance or otherwise. To begin with, the pricing is great – you can buy 2-3 books in the place of one physical book. I can store hundreds of book in my Android and read whenever I please. Lugging around a few physical books are not the same. I also find that my book cupboard is overflowing – half in and half out, actually – so ebooks will have to work from now on.
SR: What’s next on the anvil? Romance, again? Or perhaps a change of genres?
SV: As I mentioned before, I have 4 more complete novels that have not been published. They are all romances. I am exploring self-publishing. I am writing a novel – a romance with some crime thrown in. I have completed one-third of it. I have to wait and see how it turns out.
I enjoy writing romances intertwined with issues that affect society. My subjects include arranged marriage, widow remarriage, marital rape, gay relationships and the like. I find a strong attraction to this genre.
Thank you so much for the interview Sonia Rao. I totally enjoyed answering your questions. They were quite interesting and a joy to answer.
SR: It was a pleasure, Sundari. Wishing you great success ahead and looking forward to reading more from you in the future.
(This post is part of The Book Club’s Blog Tour of Sundari Venkatraman’s Double Jeopardy)
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