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Author Highlight: Manini Discusses her New Book ‘Mandodari’ and Stories from her Life

We are back with another author interview. Today, with us, we have Manini – the author of ‘Mandodari’. In this interview, Manini talks about her writing aspirations, the route to getting her book published, and her inclination towards mythology. Stay on...while we chat with her.

What motivates you to write?

Writing to me is a gift of expression. At times when I write, I put down a strong notion which I didn’t know I had in me. The characters from my book start speaking in my mind and in my case they motivate me to write.

How do you handle the response of your new book, ‘Mandodari’?

The response to the book has been positive so far. It is going to be a month since it got published and I am waiting for more reviews to come in. ‘Mandodari’ being my debut, I am learning the dynamics involved in post- publishing.

Why did you choose to write a mythological novel?

I come from a family where we discuss literature, history and mythology with our morning tea. In my family, almost everyone has done a specialization and they have their unique stand on epics…hence my inclination towards mythology. Fascinated by books and stories, I also used to narrate a lot of mythology related stories to my friends and colleagues. My tales were getting popular and my friends gave me a nickname – Mythology Queen. Soon then, I realized that I have a bug of writing. So impulsively, I started gathering references to begin writing and it had to be a mythological novel.

What are some of your favourite novels and authors?

Well, I am an avid reader and I read almost everything from fantasy to fiction, mythological or speculative fiction, also books based on pseudoscience like past life regression. However, to name a few favorite novels and authors, I would say – the genius - JK Rowling (I am a Harry Potter fan!), Sidney Sheldon, Dan Brown (Digital Fortress, Deception Point, The Lost Symbol, Angels and Demons). From the genre that I write, I feel there are some masterpieces like: The Mahabharata: A Modern Rendering by Ramesh Menon, The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Pregnant King by Devdutt Pattanaik , Ajaya and Asura by Anand Neelakantan.

Do you think writing a book from the comfort of bedroom is possible?

Yes, writing a book from the comfort of bedroom is absolutely possible. I am a hands-on mother and a part time writer. I have a daughter who will turn three soon and I can only write when she is at school or when she is asleep. Mostly, I write in my bedroom on my laptop when everybody at home is asleep; I am at my best then.

Where do you write from? Do you go to some specific place, like beachside or into the hills?

Like I said before, I write in my bedroom or sometimes I go to a nearby coffee shop for a few hours. Sometimes at home I start writing at 10pm in the night and write till I am in flow. So in short, I write whenever and wherever I am not being disturbed.

What inspired you to write this book? Any tales to tell…

I wanted to write about a character that has not been explored yet, someone known but not heard about much. While researching, I realized that almost every main character from Indian mythology has been adapted and titled except Ravana’s wife. Also, I was keen to do a counter – telling. I did a reversal of archetype by making the antagonist look like a protagonist, driven by antagonistic force of events. I choose ‘Mandodari’ to narrate her story where of course her character develops around the complexities of her husband’s character.  It took me two years to narrate her story. Since the day I started writing, Mandodari has been speaking in my mind. At first, I wanted to limit the dialogues but I would say that she urged me to give her a voice. Infact, all the characters eventually became very vocal. Sometimes, the voices get chaotic and I believe it happens with every artist that the flow of their performance is taken over by the character’s voice.

What was your biggest learning experience throughout the publishing process?

Once you are done writing your book, it takes a long time to actually see it in print. The publisher too puts in a lot of hard work and you have to be patient.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in as a writer?

For a debut I guess I did the right thing by adhering to the submission guidelines while approaching the publisher. I had sent out sample chapters of my book to the publisher and I waited patiently. I was thrilled when I heard from them. Most importantly, I think I chose an intriguing character like Mandodari to begin with, which was lesser known.

Any best piece of writing advice from your side that we haven’t discussed?

I believe that writing needs not only talent but also discipline and dedication. If you begin something with your talent, you can only finish it with your discipline and dedication. Writing is exploring and your exploration has to be consistent.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Honestly, I don’t think that there is anything surprising about me. But, I can tell you that I also write poetry, which I secretly compose and most of it is very personal. I love maintaining a book collection with an unusual habit - once I buy a book, I write my name, date of purchase, date and time of finishing the book at the end. It’s like maintaining a record of whatever I read. Apart from reading, whenever I get time I love watching movies or some series.

Any future books that you would like to discuss now?

I am currently working on another retelling about a forgotten hero. I have just started it and shall announce it soon.


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