Blog Interview: Sundari Venkatraman
Sundari Venkatraman on romance and rejection made her who she is today
I call her the Queen of Romance! I mean, how does one introduce Sundari Venkatraman, a self-confessed lover of M&B who devoured Mandrake comics and Phantom Comics as a child, swearing by romance and fairy tale love stories. Her first book, The Malhotra Bride hit the stands followed by Double Jeopardy and Meghna that won the hearts of die-hard romanctics. She cooks tales of love by weaving simplicity in literature and Sundari Venkatraman always challenges herself by experimented with short stories such as Matches Made in Heaven and mythology which she dabbles on her blog. You are in for a surprise since the author of romance has a new offering, Sangeeta’s Dilemna re-christened The Madras Affair which is coming in traditional publishing and many more to make you go crazy. You are pampered.
Sundari dabbled in different jobs, school admin, copy editor for Mumbai Mirror, Web 18 and, of course writing. The forever young writer describes her journey which started with 2000 when she just quit her school job, ‘I didn’t know what to do with my life. I was saturated with simply reading books. That’s when I returned home one evening after my walk, took some sheets of paper and began writing. It was like watching a movie that was running in my head – all those years of visualizing Indian heroes and heroines needed an outlet and had to be put into words.’
Let’s jump straight to the interview and I know you are hungry to know more about Sundari Venkatraman who agreed to grace my blog. A truly professional lady. Get set and fasten your seat belt for an adventure with Sundari Venkatraman. First book your copies of the author’s romance bouquet here.
1. Crazy, wacky and running wild with imagination. Where those mad ideas writing ‘Double Jeopardy’ come from? Come on! I am sure you worship a special God that flings the ideas from the sky like snow balls?
Hahaha! I agree about “wild with imagination”. I began reading around age of 3. In those days, that was the predominant source of entertainment along with a few films thrown in. I had more exposure to western authors beginning with fairy tales, folk tales and comics; Charles Dickens and Perry Mason; a little bit of Ian Fleming; abridged works of William Shakespeare and the like. Later, it was hordes of Mills & Boon, Barbara Cartland, Harold Robbins, Georgette Heyer, Ayn Rand, Marie Corelli and many other authors.
As I read, my imagination took flight and I used to visualize scenes set locally. There were no distractions – no TV, no internet, no social media – just a few indoor games and a little bit of outdoor games. I used to have a lot of time to myself – to dream; to think. But writing came much later. I was over 40 when I started writing out of the blue. The Malhotra Bride was the first novel that I wrote. Incidentally, Double Jeopardy is my 5th book.
As for worshiping a special God (lol), I believe there’s only one God. I don’t believe in religion. But I am highly spiritual. Yes, I pray a lot – for inspiration and creativity too. Whenever I am stuck midway in a story, I seek inspiration from God. It works, every time.
2. Double Jeopardy came like a bouquet of flowers. How did you hit the mojo moment of life that multiplied with Meghna, The Malhotra Bride and Matches Made in Heaven. What have been the hiccups faced?
As I mentioned before, Double Jeopardy is my 5th book. I wrote The Malhotra Bride first. The first draft was completed in 15 days. It was about 35,000 words long. When I realised that Mills & Boon book length is longer, I rewrote TMB to fit in. M&B actually liked my synopsis and sent me a letter saying so. This was in the year 2000 when they had no presence in India. But later, they rejected the manuscript. To put it mildly, I was heartbroken.
In the meanwhile, I never stopped writing. The 2nd one was Meghna. By the middle of 2001 – in a span of 6 months – I had finished Sangita’s Dilemma too. I have at least 24 rejection letters between these three novels – yeah, all hard copies, as communicating via email with publishers in those days was disqualified. These rejections were from around the world.
After a few years and three jobs, I went back to writing fiction again. On someone’s suggestion, I started penning short stories. This was a mix of romances and other genre. When I saw how successful my novels were selling as eBooks, I decided to write a few more romantic short stories and came up with Matches Made In Heaven. It’s a collection of 13 short stories. Before you ask, I love the number 13 and don’t think it’s unlucky at all.
3. Romance! Will stay forever and forever, so as not to break the heart of die-hard lovers. Are we reclaiming the Mills & Boon generation tasting the nectar of love riding romance high at the altitude level?
Mills & Boon has been ruling the world since 1908 – a few more than 100 years; and still going strong. Romance books are a billion-dollar industry. In the kind of world we live in, we need to escape into a rosy world of positivity and happy endings that promise hope. I believe that romance is here to stay.
4. Young at heart where you are touching the heart and soul of this generation. Do you have a magical and invisible wand, a bit like ‘Mr India’ that gives you a feel of this generation which is at the tip of your fingers?
Lol! I don’t know. I just write what comes to my heart and mind. I think it resonates with people between the ages of 15 and 70. And I am just glad about it.
5. Give us a peek of your Ghar Grihasti Sukhi Parivar. Are your children crazy about ‘Momma’s book recipe and are they critical of your work and spell the brain storming session at home on your work?
I have a daughter who’s 29 and son who’s 25. My daughter wasn’t much of a fiction reader until she started reading my books. She loves them. My son hasn’t read my books. Most of the time, I finish my book and give it to my sisters and daughter to read. Very rarely, I ask for ideas – maybe sometimes for characters’ names. Like Ansh and Arth were names suggested by my daughter.
6. Are you a writer by accident? What were you doing back then to earn your bread-and-butter and when the thunder moment struck you first?
Yeah, I am a writer by accident. Bread-and-butter has always been taken care of by hubby. I am very lucky. But, I am one of those people who need to be occupied or I can drive everyone up the wall. I used to work as a school admin. I took a sabbatical that stretched to five years. Writing happened in those days. After that, I joined Mumbai Mirror as a Copy Editor, quite by fluke. Two years later, I worked with Web18, part of CNBC Group – in 2 different websites. I worked till 2011, before quitting freelance for one year. Soon, e-book publishing happened and I took up writing full time.
7. Sangita’s Dilemma is coming very soon in traditional publishing. Phantom and Mandrake Comics are the outlets the young lady grew on and will it be the cocoon of romance and what your heroine will be like this time since your characters are bit like films, confused ’bout love, author-backed and strong in their own ways?
Incidentally, Sangita’s Dilemma is being called THE MADRAS AFFAIR. Phantom and Mandrake comics were one small part of my reading list. Yes, TMA is also a romance. This one is set in Madras in the year 2000. Sangita is a widow with a small son. She’s from an orthodox family who frown upon widow remarriage. Will Gautam Sinclair be able to persuade her otherwise? Yeah, Sinclair is the protagonist’s American father. I am not going to say more than this. The book is tentatively set for a July 2015 release.
8. For sure, you are aware of the heightened expectations after winning our hearts with entertaining tales. How are you coping with such dizzying heights of expectations?
Yeah, I suppose. I am coping pretty well. I know that The Madras Affair is my best book so far. And this time, I have the backing of a very supportive publisher and an excellent editor. So, the book is bound to be way more than your expectations.
9. You stay in a city like Mumbai where there is no lack of inspiration for churning stories and what role does ‘Maximum City’ play in your stories?
Three of my novels – Double Jeopardy, The Malhotra Bride and Meghna – have been set in Mumbai. I draw inspiration from daily sights – whatever catches my eye and interest. The city serves as a backdrop and of course the characters are modern, considering that they live here.
10. In your blog, you have made a successful attempt at writing about mythology. What drew you to mythology and can we see more of it in your upcoming novels?
As a kid living in a traditional Tam-Bram family in Madras, I grew up on mythology. Stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata came up pretty often; from Grandpa and Grandma as well as other relatives. I have also read Rajaji’s version of both the epics. The thought of writing came about when I read a short story written by Rubina Ramesh. It was too fascinating and I chewed her brains to learn more. I liked the idea and had to implement it as soon as possible. What better opportunity than A-Z Challenge! It was fun. I am planning to write 15-20 more stories and publish them all together as an anthology on Amazon – maybe in June 2015.
As for mythology novels – no plans as yet! I have a novel coming up in July as you know. Other than that, I have three novels in the making; one more trilogy planned of which I am already writing Book 1. That’s six books to be completed. So, not till end of 2016. Let’s see. My dream is to write at least one historical romance set in the Rajput period. I haven’t even begun research. So, that will probably happen before I think of mythology.