Shilpa Suraj was a year and a half when she was first introduced to the world of books. Her mother would park her with a picture book on the floor of the kitchen while she finished her cooking for the day. While it’s no longer the kitchen floor, you can still find her tucked away in a cosy nook somewhere with her nose buried in a book. While books in all genres interest her, it was romance that captured her heart. While racing through every romantic fiction book she could beg, borrow or buy, her over active imagination started to work overtime and weave its own stories. Years in the corporate world followed by a stint of entrepreneurship crystallised her belief that all she really wanted to do was give life to the stories bubbling inside of her. She briefly managed to tear herself away from the world of fiction to find her own personal happily ever after and now spends her time happily focusing on the two loves of her life – family and writing romances.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
I’ve always had a story to tell…the only difference is earlier I got punished for it and now I get paid. Jokes aside, I remember being the one narrating rather than listening to the bedtime story even as a child. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller but it’s only later in life that I got around to doing this on a larger platform and with a wider audience.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
My motivation and my inspiration come from the same place…life and my vivid imagination. I’ll write as long as I have a story to tell and at the moment, I don’t see that ever ending. This is my happily ever after.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
Max was a character who strolled right into my head. A vintage car restorer with a joie de vivre that’s enviable, Max is someone I’d love to be. Unfortunately, I’m more a Krish in real life. Harried, overburdened and stressed out. Bringing the two of them together was fun, interesting and irresistible.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
I wish I had a process. I truly wish I did but my process consists of writing whenever I find the time. With an active toddler, a full time job and a home to run, my writing time is usually in the middle of the night; the only time peace and quiet reign in my home. I don’t have an unusual habit per se but I do have a funny story. I set up a fully functional study in my home so I could sit at a tidy, professional looking table and write. It’s tidy and professional alright but I haven’t written a word at it. I usually end up tapping away in bed next to my sleeping daughter so I can multitask…babysit and write to my heart’s content.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I do. I often find myself struggling, especially in the middle of a book. What usually works for me is to take a break from the story. Refresh, recharge and remove yourself from the rut you’re stuck in…the writer’s block usually will sort itself out. If you’re still stuck, then maybe you need to revisit your story. The protagonists are probably trying to tell you something! 😊
What are your current/future projects?
My next book releases with Rupa Publications next year. It is the story of three people caught in a tangled web of love, family, marriage and each other and their dark, desperate journey of redemption. Adultery, bankruptcy and perfidy bring the three of them to a crossroads in life where there is no right choice. Only the wrong one.But mostly, it’s a story of their quest to gain acceptance through love. The only choice left to us all.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I never chose my genre or field. I only ever wrote the stories I wanted to tell. My focus has always been on telling the most compelling story I could. The rest, as far as I’m concerned, are just labels.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I’m traditionally published. When I wrote my debut novel ‘The Girl He Left Behind,’ I didn’t have any idea how the publishing industry worked. I went online and looked up submission guidelines of a few publishers and sent off my sample chapters and synopsis assuming I would be flooded with offers. I was lucky in that I did get several requests for the full manuscript followed by polite and encouragingly worded rejections until Harlequin reached out expressing interest. They offered me a two book contract and I haven’t looked back since.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Yes, of course, there is value in a review. Good, bad or ugly, there is always something to learn and take away from it.
What is the intended audience for you book?
My books are intended for any adult reader who would like to read them. Taste or preferences are subjective, whether it’s books or fashion or anything else in life and I wouldn’t dream of judging who should or shouldn’t read my books. I’m happiest if everyone does.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
Motherhood...A new mother myself, I realise just how much pressure there is on moms to be supermoms. I’d love to write a story about the real, heartwarming, confusing and oftentimes exhausting journey that it truly is.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
Writing is my passion and a pocket of my life that’s only for me. It’s the part where I’m not someone’s mother, wife, daughter, employee…I’m just Shilpa Suraj. The successes, failures, bouquets and brickbats are all mine and for that alone, the value it brings to my life is immeasurable.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself/your book.
I’m a terrible cook. The first time I cooked for my husband post marriage he ended up with a mild bout of food poisoning.
I’m as much of a klutz as Max from Driven by Desire. I can literally trip over nothing.
I have to finish every book I start. No matter how tedious or hard to get into I find it, I can’t seem to stop reading until I reach the end. If I don’t complete it, it will plague me until I do.
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...
Thank you, Shilpa for this amazing interview! I wish you success for all your future works. Keep writing!