Meet the Writers of Crossed & Knotted

The brainchild of Dipanker Mukherjee, Readomania is a new publishing House with big ambitions. This year, Readomania launched a composite novel, India’s first, and it became a huge success. It’s understandable why. The novel is unusual in its form, structure and inception. I spoke with the team to understand how it all came about.

C&K Cover


1. Welcome to my blog everyone. My first question is, who came up with the idea of a composite novel? And how easy or difficult was it to adapt to this way of writing?

Arvind Passey: I read about the Readomania contest on the web… and frankly, all that my mind registered at that point of time was that if my short-story got the required number of votes from readers and had a certain number of comments, it would qualify to be read by the editor/s. So what mattered to me more than the structure of the final publication was getting through to the editorial board. To one who loves playing with words and ideas, a somewhat different ‘way of writing’ is not something to be feared. If you care to browse through the 850+ posts on my blog you’ll know that I do not step away from a topic that is ‘different’ or alien to my comfort zone. 

Ayan Pal: I am the 2nd author whose story/chapter is titled “The Diary of Joseph Varughese”. Dipankar and I had discussed the idea of a composite novel in 2014. In fact, I had already written one in 2008 over 13 days and had spoken about it with him. I am sure if would have discussed this with others as well! I wanted to actually be either the first or the last author and ended up being the 2nd. I did not find it difficult, probably because of the characters that I was free to choose from the previous story by Sutapa.

Sanchita: To me the idea was novel. I first read about it when Readomania announced their contest named ‘Short Story Cycle Project’, and found the concept interesting. Rather than easy or difficult, I would say it was exciting to participate in this relay novel concept. From the time the first story by Sutapa was shared with us, I found myself thinking about possible threads that could be carried forward to form a framework for another interesting story. To sum up the whole experience in one word, I would say it was intriguing.

Sutapa: I hold a postgraduate degree in English Literature so the concept of a composite novel was not novel to me. But it was Readomania’s objective to spearhead creative innovations in Indian fiction writing that led us to think of this literary genre. Readomania’s editorial team along with Dipankar at its head is always searching for fresh concepts and ideas in writing. It was during such a quest that this concept of trying to develop a composite novel cropped up and we thought, ‘Why not?’

Bhaswar: The idea emanated as an invitation from Readomania to participate in a short story cycle project…do not know whose brainchild it was. I was one of the link authors with my story- A Leap of Faith, tasked with linking the story before and after mine. It was a novel experience as it needed to span countries and the journey of how an Afghan girl becomes an Indian bride!

Deepti: The first story by Sutapa made all the difference, and helped break the ice. All we knew was that we would have to take an idea from the story that went before, a peg on which to hang our own stories. Once that idea crystallized, the writing flowed, as it always does.

Bhuvana: I heard about Readomania from a friend and when a contest was announced on the site, I sent in my entry. I was very happy to be short listed. Yes, I am of course aware of this genre –but I was super excited that I was going to be part of a very delightful experiment.

Avanti: Doing this was easy because there were guidelines w.r.t. time, word count and the seeding story was shared. In fact all following stories were shared and discussed. It was difficult may be for the first two reason mentioned and for the limited scope w.r.t.  plots, characters. But hands down it was a challenging task.

Mithun: As someone who has written short story in the past, I thought taking to the concept would be like a fish taking to water. I could not have been more wrong. When a story is hinged on several others, as in this case, the ballgame changes completely. I have however, completely enjoyed the rollercoaster ride.


2. To me they read as short stories, connected by characters and themes. Each story was separate and could be read on its own. What was the process of writing this novel for you all? How often did you meet, and discuss the stories?

Arvind:Yes, each story is a story in itself. Complete. Fulfilled. Like any of us. The link, though there, can be imperceptible at times, but the reader knows intuitively that a bridge is there and that he is crossing over to a new world after each story ends. The process of story-writing wasn’t difficult for me as I was initially slated to be after Ayan Pal’s story… and had to carefully read the first two to know how things were moving. Not that any other position would have made it any tougher or easier. After all, we were doing our own writing according to our own researches and writing methodologies. I had picked up the ‘diary’ as the object to pursue and did some intelligent jugging of the name of the protagonist in my story.

We did not meet in the real world but were there for each other in the virtual space… not that discussions mattered to me much. The reason is that I detach myself form everyone and everything when I write. I allow my isolation to guide me.

Ayan: – I discussed about my previous story with Sutapa, the author to get a hint of when exactly this was set and accordingly set my story in a particular year. I also discussed about the year my primary character, who was introduced in the previous story, was born. I needed this to get the timing right in my story and keep things in perspective. I also had discussions with the next author (it was then Arvind Passey) and we discussed about loose threads in my story that could be taken forward. We as authors also read other stories and gave feedback to each other to see if the connection was working out.

Sanchita: After reading the second story by Ayan, the intrigue quotient was raised further and I immediately wanted to sit down and write my story. Meanwhile, the Readomania editorial team had sent out a small brief to me mainly reiterating what to stay away from while weaving my story. And it was not difficult to follow, as it was a small list. After sharing my story I had a telephonic discussion with Sutapa to fine tune it further and that was it. My story was ready.

Sutapa: To bring all the 14 authors to an understanding of how the concept will be developed did emerge from a lot of discussions. As the authors were spread across geographical locations in India and abroad, that itself was a challenge. But what actually kept the ball rolling was the enthusiasm and the excitement of the authors to be part of this innovation. Throughout the development, all the authors were aware of each move. Obviously the stories had to be written one by one. Each time a story was submitted, it was shared within this author circle. The result was a spate of encouragements and suggestions that only enhanced each story.

Bhaswar: As a link author it was challenging because I had to ensure that my story fitted in the one before AND the one after, a challenge which other authors may not have had. However it was a great experience and I do not think that this cramped my style.

Many authors here have collaborated on other platforms as well so many of us were virtual Friends. We did not meet for the stories- I was given the story before and after mine and had to link the two.

 Deepti: All our discussions were by email, and every story that appeared would throw up a whole barrage of comments from the others, each of them throwing light on the threads that held the stories together. What was interesting that the whole story came together in our minds only when we actually read the book.

Bhuvana:  As I live abroad, meeting the other contributors or the editor wasn’t an option. But team Readomania and all the authors were so thorough and regular in communicating over mails that at no point in time did I even feel the need to meet everyone. Now of course, I do want to meet the C&K team as we all  have bonded well.

Arpita: The composite novel as interpreted by the Readomania team meant that each author would pick up a hook or link from the preceding story and  weave a tale, preferably as different as it could get from the previous  one. The hook could be person/place/event…anything which was minor in  the preceding tale and had the potential to become major in the next  one.

Anupama: We are spread across the whole wide world. We met frequently over the cyber space, sharing our stories, bisecting them, cheering and egging on, each other.

Avanti: I think we mad the best use of cyberspace. Each story was shared, discussed, edited, re-edited, fleshed out and taken to a logical conclusion over e-mails, chats and telephone.

Mithun:The entire process, in spite of having been carried over mails, was strangely organic. As words bounced across mails, we realized what went where and tried to polish our writing accordingly, and bring out the best story that we could, individually. At the end of it, we might as well have been sitting across a room, sipping tea and discussing with each other and it wouldn’t have been any different. It was a strong and well connected exercise.

3. How was the experience of writing as a community?

Arvind: Praise makes me nervous because what I have learned from my presence on the social media is that people praise because they think this is what is expected of them. No one today is happy with critical remarks that talk about flaws. They may be right because humans have their fair share of flawed personalities… and we are awesome as a collective force. Moreover, the world has all sorts of readers… so what my mind doesn’t accept can very well be worth a pat to someone else. I accept this. Let me add here that even grammatical blunders don’t affect a lot of readers because they don’t appears as blunders to their sensibilities… we all do remember the Harish Bhanot comment during the CWG in Delhi a few years back, don’t we?

Ayan: The experience was fantastic! Though there were times when I was a bit possessive and disappointed about the reinterpretation of my story and characters, I was pleased with the final result. That’s what matters the most!

Sanchita: It was a rewarding experience for me. I felt like a student who had just submitted her dissertation and was waiting with bated breath for the jury of 13 to pass their verdict. And needless to say, from their feedback I got a feel of graduating with flying colours. Guess they were being generous here.

Sutapa: The technique was to keep the editors involved right from the start. Once the seed story was developed it was shared along with the queue with the author circle. While the authors wrote their individual stories picking up ‘ hooks’ from the previous stories, the concluding story giving the resolution of the novel was also developed and shared. So now, the authors were familiar somewhat with the progression of the novel, so they could take their stories in the general direction. But I would still say it was a challenge for all the authors to write within this restricted environment and yet retain their own style and voice.

Deepti: The experience of writing together as an author community was a whole lot of fun. Our mails to one another, and the Facebook messages, were not only linked to making the work in progress truly special, but also filled with good natured banter and revelry. This proved to be quite an eye opener as we got to know one another well enough to gently poke fun, crack jokes and exchange bits of personal information. Dipankar would suddenly appear out of nowhere, and subtly suggest that it was time to get ‘Crossed and Knotted’ once more. But this sense of camaraderie was what made our writing sparkle, I believe implicitly.

Bhuvana: It was very different and wonderful. When I am writing a poem or a short story on my own, I would long for a critical assessment once in a way – I was incredibly surprised by the amount of support that came in from the editor and my fellow authors. Also in a composite novel, the responsibility is greatly shared. One could leave ends loose; one could leave unresolved cues, as others down the line would attempt the resolution.

Arpita: Initially, this was perhaps not very clear to the authors, who mostly  picked up on persons as the hook…not places/events…and we had  instances where characters were getting repeated whilst details  regarding their description/background were getting muddled….for  example if someone created a character as a student of Arts…about four  stories later…someone else picked up that character and unwittingly  turned the academic stream to Computers! There was also a table created to pin down ages/years/matching mobile  phone models/other period references to sort out the time issue. As we  were almost touching the end of the current century at one point in  time…we then took a deliberate decision to remove all traces of  explicit year/time references from all stories.
4. I couldn’t help but notice how the pattern shifted from thriller to supernatural, to realism and back all over again. As a reader, I was very happy with so many genres packed so skilfully in one book. Though, Ii have to say, I read them as short stories connecting a community rather than as a novel. How many of you felt constrained by the previous stories, when writing your own? Did that influence the themes of your story?

Arvind: Why should the tone or choices of the previous stories affect any writer? For instance, if supernatural and realism were explored, the writer always had a choice to be different and opt for a different approach.

Allow me to add here that if a composite concept were to be taken up by just one writer, it would be terribly difficult for him to break away from his conventionally chosen pattern of expression… which is easily done when there are multiple writers taking up this exercise. So yes, it is exciting not just for the writer but also for the reader who gets to read more than one pattern in one novel.

Sanchita: I am so glad that you noticed this particular aspect which I think is the USP of this book. The fact that it has so many genres packed in one while skillfully taking a story and its characters ahead. I did not feel constrained, maybe because I was the third author and as I mentioned earlier my list of what not to write was a small one and it did not touch upon anything that I had in mind, while I was weaving my story in my mind.

Sutapa: Maybe it was quite maddening when a specific author left some loose ends in his/her story for the next author to pick up as a hook but found that they were all ignored and an obscure cue had been picked up. It made the author do a rethink as to what had really emerged from the story vis-a-vis what had been originally intended. Also for the editors, it was a challenge to ensure that the characters who walked across the novel and were build by different pens still remained consistent to their original features.  To juggle so many voices and styles in stories that were progressive across the main novel,without colouring any of them by you own nuances was a challenge for the editors.

Deepti: I believe that the true strength of this book is the shifting of genres, with each author picking a genre he or she was comfortable with. Personally, I didn’t feel constrained by the previous story, as I had a definite plot in mind, with a strong protagonist who, (many folks have asked me about this!) was purely fictitious!

Arpita: The most amazing feat in the making of C&K was precisely this  cohesiveness which was brought about naturally, by the flow of stories,  to the extent of 80%… the rest , of course, had to be tweaked by team  Readomania. This tweaking mostly included mentoring the authors about  the depth of character-portrayals, certain plots, certain narrative  styles and so on. 5. Final question, it’s said there are more writers in the world than there are readers. Yet, here we all are, still pursuing the dream. You’ve all been published. What does it feel like? How similar is your reality as an author to your dream? Any surprises, regrets, disappointments?

Arvind: Yes, it does seem that everyone is writing… even I’ve felt many times that everyone I know on the social media is forever talking about what he or she has written. But this isn’t true. Our world of experiences is so narrow and small… the world has a lot more readers than we tend to believe and this includes even those who keep telling us that they are primarily writers.

What I do not like is, of course, believing that there is a terrible rat race out there and then keep pushing my post or article or story or novel or book in every unwholesome way. I believe that marketing is a fine art that only a few can master. The rest are crass and vulgar and simply ugly. It does feel good to be published. I have a few poems published in journals in UK and India and a few stories in anthologies…but the dream to write a full-length novel is ON.

Sutapa: Being published has brought me more surprises and hardly any regrets. It’s a high that one would like to experience again and again. But I am sure there is nothing new in that feeling. All authors must feel like that. And yes. I do wish there were more  readers than authors but aren’t authors also readers?

Deepti: There are writers and there are readers, and often, the two go together in perfect tandem. The thrill of seeing my name in print still continues, even though my first story was published in 1984.

If I do have any disappointment, it stems from the fact that my first book, titled ‘Arms and the Woman’, published in 2002, which takes a light-hearted look at the life of an Army wife, didn’t get enough publicity. This time, I guess I am older and wiser! (Hopefully!) 😀

Bhuvana: I guess this statement is even truer in the internet age where anyone who ever wanted to write can put up his/her work and hope to be read. But it was heartwarming to finally hold a book that I have authored in my hands and to hear my friends tell me that they bought the book for me.

Of course one dreams of becoming a widely read author but that can’t happen overnight. Readomania has given us all a toehold in the industry and it is now up to us as individuals to keep working on our skills as writers. Honestly at this point in time I have no regrets and disappointments!

Arpita: I would rather deluge the world with writers so that the society is  compelled to pick up at least one book to read! Too much audio-video  options have robbed the current generation of children/young adults of  their power of imagination and describing abilities… is rare to  come across one individual, young/middle aged, who can carry out a  normal soul-baring conversation without veering towards sales-pitch of  some kind! So let there be so many authors that the world is unable to  ignore them anymore!

Thank you all for your time and for sharing your wonderful book with me.

You can buy the book here:


Falguni Kothari: Wordfreak? Oh, yeah!

I first noticed Falguni Kothari because of the fantastic titles of her books. Bootie and the Beast, much to my delight was also a spin on a fairytale I had just finished working on ( no points for guessing which one!) and It’s Your Move, Wordfreak! What’s not to love?

I requested Falguni to read my latest book and give me a quote if she liked it. She generously agreed and gave me a wonderful quote. I am thrilled to have her on my blog today. Turns out she is just as interesting a person as I thought she’d be! Thank you so much for giving me your valuable time Falguni. image

1. What has the journey of being a writer been like so far?
Mostly fun. I love the process of creating fiction: the ideas, the research, the coming together of so many snippets of thought in one cohesive (hopefully coherent) novel. What I can’t stand is the after: the querying, the waiting, the unreliability of the publishing industry.

2. What is the toughest part of writing for you?
The middle of the book. I am super fast with the beginning and the end, but the middle is when I feel like burning my laptop to the ground and becoming a yogi.

3. What other interests do you have apart from reading?
I am a semi-professional dancer. I did Kathak for around 12 years in my youth. And for the past two years I’ve taken up ballroom and Latin dancing. I take part in dance-sport competitions and…have managed a silver medal or two. It’s completely freeing: dancing.

4. Are you a full time writer? If not what else do you do?
Fulltime writer, homemaker, mother, dog companion, daughter, friend, blogger, reader, dancer, moviegoer etc…I have a fairly easy and busy life.image

5. Does that hinder or help you as a writer?
So far it hasn’t been a problem. I like working at my own pace in my pajamas, and at the same time from home as that is my first responsibility (at this stage) in my life.

6. Which authors have inspired you the most?
Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Diana Gabaldon, Chitra Divakaruni, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen…and many others.

7. You’re stranded on an island with two other people. Which two characters from any books you’ve read, would you choose to be with you?
Not my own books? Well, then I suppose Eve and Roarke from the JD Robb In Death series (they are very competent and resourceful) and James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser from Outlander-Diana Gabaldon (he’s just out of this world in competence and resourcefulness…and tremendously delicious to look at!)image

8. Fill in the blanks:

I write because…I love it.
My favourite food is…rice and Indian-style okra. I want it to be my last meal in this world.
Best thing about romance writing is…relieving your own romantic liasons.
Which song would be suitable for:
Bootie and the Beast theme song would be Paint It Red from the movie, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
And for It’s Your Move, Word Freak! it is Atif Aslam’s Tera Hone Laga Hoon.
If I were an animal I would be…a dog/wolf on land and a dolphin in the sea. Both are pack animals, smart as hell and vicious when they need to be.
My favourite book is...Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
My dream holiday would be...a World Tour picking one major central city or zone per continent and staying there for 10 days each. (Planning it for my 25th anniversary…which is fairly soon! Yikes!)

9. You can live in a book. Which one would you choose?
Palace of Illusions. I love historical India.

10. Name one iconic woman you’d like to have lunch with?
I’m going to go with a cliché here: Oprah. Don’t ask me why.

Author Bio: I write love stories. This is what I’ve written so far:
SCRABBULOUS IMPRESSIONS, a short story for Femina Magazine: Read for free here:
STAR STRUCK, a short blog story: Read for free here:

If you like my work, I hope you’ll tell me. I’m usually lurking about the Internet…a lot. Here are some places we can communicate and feel free to like, follow and support:




Thanks for reading!

Romancing South Asia

In conversation with some of the movers  and shakers of South Asian publishing world, including Dipankar Mukerjee, an up and coming indie-publisher based in India. Sara Naveed is a writer from Pakistan, Suleikha Snyder is an American-Indian writer based in America and Farha Hasan, is a Bengali-American writer. Thank you all for sharing your valuable insights with me. It was truly rewarding to have this discussion with you all.

1. As a reader, I was taught to be acutely aware of the difference in the ‘value’ of ‘popular’ literature and ‘elite’ literature. The former had none. Now as a writer I find this belief problematic. I am aware that as a romance writer, what I’m sharing is not ‘serious’ but I do know that it can still be and is thought provokingat some levels. I love writing and reading romances but I loathe female stereotyping. How do you feel about all this?

Suleikha: The idea that romance — and genre fiction in general — is somehow lesser in value than literary fiction is one that’s been around for a long time and, yes, the roots of the elitism and the sneering do come from the fact that it is a genre written by and for women. The literary establishment can’t fathom that pulp for the ladies is both a money-maker and a cherished part of bookshelves. And that goes double for ethnic, diasporic writing. That we are not following in the footsteps of the Jhumpa Lahiris and Arundhati Roys  and writing about our post-colonial angst…gasp. Why would we choose to write commonplace, lowbrow, sexual novels? Well, because we have that choice, and because “happily-ever-after” is a valid ending for a story.


Farha:  I feel  that there is room for multiple types of  literature. Literary fiction will always have a place and always earn awards. However, fiction can not only educate but entertain. Story telling and now popular fiction has in itself been around for generations. I would argue that popular fiction is just a valid or even better form of escapism or entertainment than gaming, TV,  or browsing the web, as it opens the door to a love of reading. Once you have established this one can easily progress to appreciating other forms of writing.


Dipankar: Authors need to make a choice, a difficult one indeed. They need to decide the gallery they want to play for. Books can be written for the classes as well as the masses. Too literary a touch may alienate the casual readers and too simple a view may not please the discerning reader. Increasingly, authors are taking a middle path, where they write for the masses but give a touch for the classes. This helps them in being commercially popular as well as critically acclaimed.

Sara: In general, I hate stereotyping irrespective of what gender it is.


  1. Some feminists have a problem with romance writing and those who read and write it. To a certain degree, I agree. Especially since romance is based on the alpha hero. I love alpha heroes. Why alpha-ism is mutually exclusive with kindness is beyond me but I read and write romances to create kind, strong alphas. What do you think of this whole debate?

Suleikha: I think the alpha hero debate is rather silly, because the great thing about romance writing is that there are alternatives. For every rake and cad, there is a beta hero who is willing to let the heroine drive. It’s just that the alpha heroes get all the press. Are they inherently antifeminist? I don’t really think so. Because at the end of the day, writing characters like this serves the female reader. It’s about what women want. And you’ll notice that in most of these alpha-driven stories, the women either redeem or tame them. It’s not about being taken over so much as finding equal footing…and there’s a power in bringing an alpha hero to his knees, in making him a fool for love.


Farha:  I feel if you go back to romance novels that were written ten or twenty years ago you will see an evolution in the role of women and the nature of the alpha male. In modern day romance novels, the hero is more likely to appreciate qualities such as independence, out outspokenness and intelligence. They may get on his nerves but this only adds to the sexual tension. The heroine is also less likely to need saving. In the end the hero wants an equal.


Dipankar: The Alphas are just one aspect of the debate. There is a lot more to it. What a lot of authors do is they create larger than life heroes for a woman to dream and desire, which builds their expectations from their partners. More often than not, reality stands miles away from such characterisations and hence the end result is mismatch of expectations, reality shocks and emotional turmoil. There should be a note saying, such characters are strictly for the fictional world J

Jokes apart, modern literature definitely appreciates a lot more of realistic characters, yet the world of heroes is not shunned. People need heroes to look up to and they should be created to ensure that we think of the ideal, at least in our dreams.

Sara:  I love alpha heroes too. They bring power and excitement to a story. They are highly overprotective, in control and like to stay in charge. Of course, there is no fun reading about alpha hero alone. The story gets exciting when alpha hero meets his perfect match.


  1. Feminism at one point meant denying femaleness. It isn’t the case anymore. To me being a woman is a privilege. It doesn’t make me stupid, weak or any less capable. In fact, there are things I can do only because I am a woman. Romance writing is not and should not be considered a woman’s genre. It’s a genre of writing not a genre of writing for women. Anyone can read and write it.

Suleikha: I…don’t really see a question here? Though I do think “anyone can read it and write it” is a sweeping generalization that deserves closer scrutiny. When we have the mainstream literary elite dismissing Nicholas Sparks as romance, while the author himself pooh-poohs romance and claims to be something better…I think we do have to set boundaries. Romance as a genre has certain tenets, certain rules that need to be followed in order for it to qualify. And I think there’s nothing wrong in claiming romance as women’s space, because we have so little of it. Sure, we can share, but why can’t it be ours?

Farha:  I agree that anyone can read or write romance but to me romance is a woman’s genre (just as porn is overwhelmingly a male interest). Women understand the value of romance better than men. They also understand women’s fantasies better than men. Just as men do not feel apologetic about enjoying sports, women should not feel trivial or frivolous about reading romance. They have just as much merit as any other genre (mystery, thriller, fantasy) or leisure activity.

 Dipankar: True that! Genres can’t be gender biased. It is all about creativity, emotions and ability to express which doesn’t depend on the author’s gender.

Sara: I absolutely agree! Writing romance is not only restricted to women and should not be considered a woman’s genre only. Any person who can feel romance can write about it.


  1. The ‘event’ of reading romance and writing romance as opposed to the consequence of that act which lies in the meaning of the text.Why do women largely read and write romance? Are we denying something? Are we denied something in real life? Are we trying to reclaim something?

Sleikha: I think, again, you can’t generalize. What each woman gets out of reading or writing romance is hers. Some find intimacy, some find escape, some genuinely love writing these types of stories. I have always read romance. I didn’t turn to it out of some desire to reclaim anything. I just liked it better than what I viewed as boring litfic. Give me passion! Give me adventure! Give me the knowledge that happiness exists! We don’t wonder why men write westerns or spy novels, do we?

 Farha: We don’t live in a culture of romance. Historically, arranged marriages have been the norm, which in modern times have evolved conceptually into “strategic marriages.” Today when you look at youth culture (especially on campus) we see the other extreme.  There is less dating and more casual sex, “friends with benefits” or “hooking-up.” In this regard, I do think that romance and sentimentality is missing from many people’s lives.

Dipankar: Motivation to read romance can vary, as a young adult romance helps you dream, desire and build a world of the surreal real. As a mature individual, romance helps you connect with yourself, provided you are a romantic person. Denial is subjective and can be at best one of the reasons a person reads, and this is not limited to romance.

Sara: Being a woman, I can proudly say what I feel about writing romance. Yes, I love writing and reading romance but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am denying or trying to reclaim something. Since childhood, I was drawn towards watching romance movies and listening to romantic soft numbers. I feel romance is embedded in my soul. We read romance so we can take a break from our real life for some time and drown into the lives of the fictional characters. I read to find peace.


  1. Another question which arises for me is, that is South Asia leaning towards popular literature now because the way gender issues and gender politics is changing? Is it relayed to the publishing boom in India? Is it related to the Book prizes that South Adian writers have been getting? How much do the fiscal changes of the region factor in it?etc?

Suleikha: Since I’m American, I can’t really speak to the literary climate in South Asia. I can, however, say that it’s still a struggle here to make diverse voices heard amidst the largely white, Christian, field that is romance fiction. And I’ve found that I don’t fit the mold for Indian readers either. They don’t seem interested in my stories and seem to prefer the fantasy and escape that comes from reading Mills & Boon books about white characters.

Dipankar: There are two ways to look at it.

One, the market has opened up, the readers have increased. There is a lot more simplified literature that is available to read, which in turn is generating more interest and hence demanding more content. This cycle continues to drive the market.

Second, the authors, the suppliers of content have also increased, which in turn has increased the spectrum of views, thoughts and subjects that are being written about. This pluralism in literature has brought in a lot of acceptability of issue based writing, including gender.

Sara: There is no doubt about the fact that South Asia literature has risen tremendously over the past couple of years. People are coming out of their nest and mustering the strength to write about something. Publishing industry has also shown a boom in India because people are actually interested in literature. Gender issues and politics are discussed openly in the books and that’s what makes them more relatable among the readers.


SuleikhaAuthorphoto2014Suleikha Snyder is an editor, writer, American desi and lifelong geek Suleikha Snyder published her first short story in 2011. Subsequent releases have included Bollywood romances Spice and Secrets, and Bollywood and the Beast, and contemporary short stories and novellas for a variety of publishers. These days, she’s hard at work on more South Asian-themed romance and erotic romance.

Suleikha lives in New York City, finding inspiration in Bollywood films, daytime and primetime soaps, and anything that involves chocolate or bacon.

Visit and follow Suleikha on Twitter, @suleikhasnyder.

Farha_headshot3Farha Hasan is a writer based out of Boston of South Asian descent. She was born and bred in the South Asian community in Toronto and has a degree in business and a passion for books. Her creativity and her passion for the written word first took her into advertising and then research. A slave to fiction Farha has been reading and writing short stories since she first learned to hold a pencil. The Mother-in-Law Cure is her first Novel.


Sara Naveed is a romance writer.

Dipankar Mukerjee founded Readomania as a platform for new writers. He is a management graduate from IIT Madras, and has worked for the consulting industry for almost eight years, with organizations like IBM and Ernst & Young, before taking the road less travelled, to pursue his passion for reading and writing. He has started a new literary social network,, a platform for encouraging more and more new authors from the region. This region has traditionally been the land of storytellers and a lot of us have an inherent skill of creating good plots, good stories and good narrations. With a little encouragement and support, many more authors will be widely read and attain a place in the sun. This is the essence of Readomania-an initiative that nurtures emerging stars of the literary world.

The site also has a lot in store for the reader. Since the content is edited and curated, readers get quality reads on a platter. The variety on Readomania is impressively vast; we have romance, emotions, thrills, travel, humour and drama. Accessing Readomania makes for a perfect break of fifteen minutes from your daily grind. Read a story and unwind. It is appropriate to say,   Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are. Readomania epitomises this thoughtby transporting you to new worlds of on the wings of your imagination. Visit us at and enjoy a whole new world of literature.

Readomania’s first book, Chronicles of Urban Nomads has been critically acclaimed in India. Our next book, Crossed & Knotted, will be India’s First Composite Novel, is up for a release in India in January of 2015.


Trouble Has a New Name by Adite Banerjie

trouble1Indeed it does. It’s Neel Arora.

Grey eyes, dark hair, hot and brooding, and a body that Rayna, the feisty model and our heroine, cannot stop drooling over. If all our troubles looked like that, huh?

Rayna may be a model but she’s  your girl next door. She is sweet, suffers from a vacillating self-esteem and has made it to the top on her own. We first see her as a scatterbrain, in the throes of a hangover and overwrought with labels in caps we’d all rather avoid. (Dumped).  There’s the destination wedding–in the Andaman Islands–first introduced to me by M.M.Kaye, which is how Neel and Rayna meet. It’s Rayna’s best friend marries Neel’s business partner kinda situation and it has its rewards. Every time these two come together on the page, it lights up. They both have tragedies in their pasts and both have been scalded enough to not want to trust again and yet they are drawn to each other irresistibly.

There are a few forced coincidences that made me sorta cringe but the dialogue is spicy, the back-story is filtered in mostly at appropriate times and Banerjie really knows how to heat up the pages. Niiiiice!

The most difficult thing in a romance is, I think, to find believable, plausible and logical obstructions to a happily ever after. So I wasn’t really surprised that Banerjie struggled with why they are kept apart. It just made an otherwise great story stumble a little. The non-issue of course resolves itself  when the time is right.

I loved the idea of the ‘touchstone’. Read and find out.

There’s humour and the Aunt was hilarious, irritating and lovable all at the same time. We know her, don’t we? Both the protagonists are fun, engaging and good hearted people who deserve love and romance and each other. Four stars. Nicely done, Adite.




Adite Banerjie (2)

This is Adite’s second book. Her first, The Indian Tycoon’s

Marriage Deal was also for M&B India.

You can find both her books on Amazon India.Adite- Orange Cover - small (451x640) (2)






The Sunday Observer SL weekly serializes my latest novella

My historical novella, currently called MEHRUNISSA, will be serialized in the Sri Lankan weekly The Sunday Observer from next week. This is the story of the eponymous Anglo-Muslim girl, caught on the cusp of major changes at the turn of the century. The Raj is in full swing in Lahore, WW I is on the horizon, the Khilafat abolished, nationalism is newly awakened and along with it all rage personal trials and vendettas against a matriarch, who will never accept Mehrunissa as her blood. Mehru is a ‘new woman’ and she isn’t going to take it lying down, even if it means a marriage of vengeance to a decidedly handsome man. But Mehru cannot afford to have a susceptible heart. Her goal is revenge and if Jamal is in the line of fire, so be it…

Read the introduction of Mehrunissa in The Sunday Observer SL here

Image of a painting by Abdur Rahman Chughtai. His early work the 1959 painting The Mughal Princess


Review of Done with Men by Suchi Singh Kalra


Done With Men by Shuchi Singh Kalra

Kalra’s brilliance in the execution of this novella is three-pronged:
a)she captures the chick-lit genre to perfection with the lovable but slightly neurotic heroine Kay, and the mature, grounded doctor who knows and loves her for who she is, as any sensible man would, duh!
b)her voice is humorous, intelligent and absolutely likeable. She carries the reader through ups and downs, hurdles and jumps, with a laugh here, a smile there and at times, stitches in your stomach with all the laughing. I for one cannot resist self-deprecating, intelligent heroines with a weakness for unfortunate tattoos and underwear.
c)she conveys the Indian setting, the culture clashes and represents the younger Indian generation with all its foibles and its determination to step into the brave new world and claim it as their own.
Rather a lot to achieve in a short novella, and to do it as effortlessly and as skillfully as Kalra does shows true artistic flourish. I’d read anything by her without a second thought, she’s THAT good. Move over Bridgette Jones, Kay’s the new girl we love!

Unsettled by Neelima Vinod

Magical Realism and the post-colonial literary tradition seem to be inextricably inter-twined; and hurray for that! Unsettled is a fascinating read that inscribes a world full of magic, magical creatures and of course the most magical of all things: love.

The plot seems to be simple enough and then Neelima Vinod, the writer of Unsettled, skillfully reveals a story spanning centuries, a long forgotten Royal Court and a contemporary couple seeking marriage counseling. Their journey is complex and wrought with fear and doubt, but then which journey of the heart isn’t? The pursuit of love is a dangerous gamble. The Yakshi, though the antagonist, a restless ghost still looking for lost love, wreaking vengeance, is somehow the most memorable character. The love of a mother and how it can even transcend boundaries of time and death is heart-wrenchingly portrayed here. It was the story of the poet and the Yakshi that holds the reader’s attention. The parts of the story concerning the modern era and the couple seeking therapy was less well-defined I felt.

However, this is a wonderful addition to the oeuvre of South Asian writing.

From the supernatural, to the contemporary Indian ethnic prejudices, to true love; it is a journey that has the reader entranced till the very last page. Wonderful lyrical prose, characters that leave an imprint on your heart and mind and the weaving of an extraordinary tale are the hallmarks of Neelima’s work. The novella takes the reader on a trip to the mysterious and ancient heart of India that has fascinated the world from time immemorial. One can almost feel the presence of the Kamasutra in the erotically charged poetic rendition of this dark and passionate romance.

Neelima Vinod is definitely a name to watch.

On Writing South Asian Romance

When I started writing romance, many of my Western friends and colleagues asked me, so how is South Asian romance different? My initial responses involved the usual themes: big families, their everyday involvement in all things, arranged marriages, class and ethnic differences. However, after having published two novellas and having had them reviewed, I’ve begun to understand that there are many more  dissimilarities that I hadn’t considered before.

The world is interested in South Asian culture and our stories. Yay, for that. However, social taboos and how they’re handled in our part of the world differs immensely from the West. Sometimes there can be huge gaps in understanding. What is perceived as virtue may not be regarded as such in the West, rather as a handicap or as primitive. Modesty, for example, is considered a virtue in both men and women in Islam. In many parts of South Asia, in fact. I don’t just mean not showing skin, but also for instance wearing loose maternity clothes that hide the ‘bump’, rather than showing it off as the ‘essential accessory’. It doesn’t mean that we’re ashamed, it just means we’re unalike.

Honor is tied with behaviour. The opinion of the community matters because we’re still bound as communities in Chawls, and mohallas, ethnic groups, and sub-cultures. Like the ancient Greeks, we have strict laws of hospitality, breaking them would be unthinkable. Beggars, eunuchs, street children are so much part of our consciousness, it may appear that we write about them unconsciously, perhaps even jadedly. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re indifferent to their plight. It demonstrates how disparate our worlds are actually. Ours is a developing world, still struggling with post-colonialism and partitions. It’s a world where little girls get shot in the head because they want proper schooling. It’s a world where criminals often go scot-free because they know a general or two. It’s a world where half the women don’t even report sexual assault. Rape is a four letter word that somehow brings shame not to the perpetrator, but the victim. Even though we condemn the rapist and sympathise with the victim, it’s still something we’re learning to address in a healthy way.

In the West, people are very aware of their rights. In South Asia, rights are relative. It’s something others ‘give’ us. This is a delicate issue with as many heads as a Hydra. There’s the gender politics, of course but there’s also the rich/poor and literate/illiterate divide. The former in both categories are more aware of their rights and their civil duties. The latter fighting for survival, think human rights is just a fancy phrase NGOs use.

One of my novellas has marital rape as part of the plot-line. I wanted to highlight marital abuse and show that women could still have a healthy relationship. I focused on the heroine’s response to the abuse and how she copes with it. I felt that it wasn’t the hero’s battle but hers, so how he responded to the revelation wasn’t important. It was how he responded to her that mattered. His only reaction to her had to be of love and desire, because I was trying to prove the point that other men can still find a rape victim, a divorced woman, the mother of another man’s child, attractive and desirable. Acceptance of rape victims in society by men is not as hard in the West, as it is in our society.

Western readers may not understand certain cultural constraints. In fact they might even be misunderstood for something else entirely. South Asian men  differ from their Western counterparts. For one, I think they’re far more sensitive than the average Western male, thanks to the close matriarchal relationship they benefit from.  Also, South Asian men will not address sexual assault on their wives and sisters without the burden of shame because they share the pain and horror of it with them. Their honor is tied to their women, and again that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing when those same men will kill those women because they choose to fall in love. There are other considerations. I write romances for heterosexual women in mind . For a lesbian reader, my heroes would probably be harsh and cruel because I portray them according to the demands of the genre, so they’re very confident alphas. Janice Radway, details the demands of the genre rather well in her book, Reading the Romance.

Today, writers are aware of many demands like safe sex. There are no longer  sex-scenes without the mention of condoms. In fact, Susan Elizabeth Phillips usually has a line or two thrown in about safe sex for good measure just before the hero is about to seduce the heroine. It’s the hero who usually takes responsibility for that and is her mouthpiece.

As a South Asian romance writer, religion, social mores, tradition and culture are a huge part of my stories and I try to integrate these with the modern world that has ended up having a very Westernised sensibility. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing either. However, I’m a writer trying to make a niche for my unique perspective. I have no desire to lose my pluralistic, hybrid point of view, to a Westernised cookie-cut vision, and that means that sometimes there’ll be things I write that the Western reader will not understand. Pre-marital sex is still an issue in South Asia, perhaps not in metropolitan cities, but largely it is taboo. Will I handle it the same way a Western romance writer does? Of course not. Difference is good. Different is interesting.

As Chinua Achebe has so wisely and eloquently said, “Let every people bring their gifts to the great festival of the world’s cultural harvest and mankind will be the richer for the variety and distinctiveness of the offerings.”

Sunadri Venkatraman’s Double Jeapordy

Indireads, the e-publishing that caters to South Indian sensibilities and tatses boasts contemporary and paranormal romances, historical romances, chick-lit, and fantasy all with a flavour of our very own desi-ness in varying degrees and forms. Most writers at Indireads have done superbly with the rendition of culture, story and context but some of them have pushed boundaries that have hitherto been barely seen in South Asian writing, or if at all in heavy literary epistles. To incorporate such challenging themes as gay couples, love as senior citizens, lustful female ghosts, pre-marital sex and the ‘consequences’ of these choices in romance and chick-lit and fantasy romance is indeed a commendable feat because it brings taboo subjects into the every-day realm. These are our issues and we deal with them even as we laugh, fall in love, dance at weddings that last a week.

One of the novellas that pleasantly surprised me with its bold themes was Double Jeapordy by Sundari Venkatraman. I expected a completely fun and frolic kind of romance but it is much, much more than just that. Extremely well written, Double Jeopardy explores sensitive social issues, fraternal bonds, a young girl’s journey of self-discovery and of course love.

Sundari’s rendition of an Indian household is interesting and gives a non-Indian a wonderful insight into it. One can’t help but fall in love with all the characters, because Sundari’s etched them all with such sensitivity and depth. I really, really enjoyed reading the novella and look forward to reading more from Sundari.

She was recently interviewed by Rubina Ramesh and you can read it here:

You can read more from Sundari on her  blog.