Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal

Tell us the book title and your author name.

The title is THE DOWRY BRIDE. My name is Shobhan Bantwal.

What inspired the book?

THE DOWRY BRIDE started out as a short story—a class project for the one and only creative writing course I took at the local community college. But when my instructor informed me it had the potential for a good full-length novel, I gave it serious thought. Later, as I did more research into the subject, the shocking truth struck home that thousands of young Indian women are either killed or maimed each year because they don’t bring a dowry or a large enough dowry—even in this day and age.

What makes this book special to you?

It’s very special because I turned 56 just as the book was being released! Unlike many writers, I took up writing rather late in life, at the age of 50. I never dreamt I’d be published, let alone sell a book at 54 to a fairly large publisher like Kensington. Also, I went against tradition with this book, because most Asian writers, especially Indians, tend to write literary books that reach a limited readership due to their more subdued content. I wanted to write a mainstream book which included mystery, emotion, and strong romantic elements so I could reach women who read commercial women’s fiction, including romance.

What makes this a book that other people MUST read and WHY?

THE DOWRY BRIDE is a different kind of book that both entertains and educates at the same time. Readers can not only enjoy a pleasant read but delve into the exotic Indian culture that is so unlike what most Americans know and live in. Today’s India is a modern country with superior technology and a vigorous economy. Indian women have come a long way in pursuing higher education and careers, and yet there are certain facets to the culture that cast a dark shadow over all those accomplishments. The archaic custom of dowry is an example. My book uses the dowry system as a platform to build an intriguing story of betrayal, hope and the resilience of the human spirit.

What people NEED to read this book and WHY?

People need to keep an open mind, mainly because there are some shocking truths exposed in my book. Even the concept of dowry is alien to a lot of Americans and Europeans. And yet, the story is positive and upbeat. It is the tale of a young woman who manages to overcome the roadblocks placed before her by her culture and emerges triumphant.

What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?

I’ve come to realize that my own life is an amazing story to most Americans. I use that and other factors in my background as a storehouse of creative story ideas. I had an arranged marriage 34 years ago. I met my husband two days before we were engaged. Less than two weeks later we were married. For us, falling in love came long after we were married, and 34 years later, we’re still happily married. Imagine the stories one can spin around that factor alone!

As far as tips go, I’d say writers should look around themselves. There are so many interesting things going on with everyone’s neighbors, friends, coworkers, and the world in general, there’s no dearth of potential plots.

What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?

The greatest stumbling block has been the negativity from fellow Indians. Some of them are disdainful of romantic literature and consider it trashy. A few others feel it is wrong to expose the less desirable facts about one’s culture to the rest of the world. Every time I hear comments like that, it puts a damper on my creative spirit. I try to rise above it, but it’s not easy. Nonetheless I’m learning to ignore negative remarks and carry on with what I like to write. A thick skin is a requirement in this business.

What do you think motivates people to become authors? What motivated you to get into this unusual industry?

I can’t really say what motivates other people. I suppose it could be anything from unleashing their creative genius to attaining fame and fortune. For myself, it was the challenge of going against the stereotype of writing literary novels and spinning mainstream tales with romance woven into the texture of the tapestry. Then there was also the enticing challenge of breaking into the harder-than-nails traditional fiction market.

Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote any books?

I’m giving away a “Dowry Bag” at my signings and through my website as a promotional idea. It contains one signed copy of THE DOWRY BRIDE and some Indian gift items like spices, tea samplers, incense, etc. Although I’ve denigrated the dowry system in my book, my wry sense of humor couldn’t resist using the concept to my advantage when M.J. Rose, writing teacher/mentor and bestselling author of some wonderful books, suggested it to me.

FICTION - If there is a setting, tell us how you decided on that setting and what you did to create a complete and vivid setting for your readers?

I created a fictitious setting: a small town in southwestern India called Palgaum. I believed it would make an interesting and exotic backdrop for my book. However, it is loosely based on the town I grew up in. Whenever I was writing about the streets and the scenery, I had an image of my own town of Belgaum, except for the river. I felt a picturesque river scene would give the story more texture and romance, so I threw in a river, which my town doesn’t have.

FICTION - What inspires you about the hero or heroine in your book? What makes them memorable for the reader? What motivates the hero and/or heroine? You can include information about both if you want.

Both my heroine and my hero inspire me. Megha, my heroine is very young and na├»ve, but when faced with death, she seeks out the only source of help and eventually overcomes her difficulties to emerge stronger and more practical. My hero is a young man of principles, willing to put his reputation and even his life on the line to protect Megha. Until the end, he doesn’t give up on ensuring Megha’s safety and happiness. Survival is Megha’s motivation while preservation of what’s precious is Kiran’s.

FICTION - Is there a villain or something that causes friction in your story? Tell us about what or who it is and how that contributes to the story. Any details about conflict and friction is good information to know.

The villain is Megha’s mother-in-law, Amma. She is an authoritative Amazon who is out to kill Megha because Megha’s parents haven’t paid the promised dowry. Amma is the quintessential villain, the menacing shadow that hovers over Megha constantly, even when she’s not in close proximity. Amma is very essential to the book in that the story opens with her plot to kill Megha and she remains relentless till the end.

If there's anything else you would like to share, this is the time and place.
I’d like my readers to know that the book’s cover is of special significance to me. The picture of the bride on the cover is my daughter’s, in all her bridal finery when she got married. Kensington couldn’t have made me happier when they informed me that they wanted to use the picture for my book.

Thank you for visiting with me and in closing, give us your website address and a link to order your book.

Website address:

To order the book:

Nikki Leigh


Kammie said...

ooh, I want to read The Dowry Bride. It sounds fascinating! Great interview!

Shobhan Bantwal said...

Thanks for the kind words, Kim. I sure hope you get a chance to read THE DOWRY BRIDE, and then tell me what you think.