I interviewed Neelmani Bhatia whose musings are available in the stores as Across The Seven Seas, Karma, Dawn to Dusk etc.
Here goes the interaction with her.
She is surely a woman of substance and a real inspiration for people who had been face to face with the harshness of life.
Hello, thank you for the time you will spend on this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
Born the youngest in the family of five children, I was pampered a lot but tied to a long leash…this far and no further. All of us were sent to best schools and colleges as my father, an academician himself (Principal Hindu College Delhi), believed that all should be educated, be it a girl or a boy and be financially independent. My mother too was well educated and dedicated her life to giving free education to poor and under privileged children. I had my schooling in Queen Marys. I am an alumna of Miranda House and Hindu College, University of Delhi. I hold a Masters in English Literature and postgraduate diplomas in Journalism, Creative Writing, Advertising, Personnel Management and Administrative Management from FMS. With over three decades of teaching English language and communication, I have also been a Counsellor and Project Guide to MBA students.
If you were to describe your book to someone who has yet to read it, then how would you do it?
It has a strong storyline arousing curiosity and suspense to make the reader go avidly to its end. It is a romantic story with a difference. The difference lies not only in the hero being an Englishman and heroine being Indian it lies in the handling of confrontation between the two which through series of comic situations leads to revelation of love for each other. Without straying too much into east-west theme the novel concentrates on pure human love and romance
Are the characters in your book real? I had come across an author once who had said “If you hate someone, write a book and make them the villain” , so any relation to any person in real?
It is purely fiction with small incidences borrowed from my own personal life, like the dog Monu, my mothers hospitality taking every lame duck under her wings or my father being a very impatient patient. The description of Delhi University is factual. There are no villains in my life, all the near and dear ones are heroes
We all had some master goals set for us when we were kids. So what was your goal as a kid?
Oh, that’s funny. I am sure you will laugh your head off or as the youngsters these days say LOL, I just wanted to get married to a very rich man, live on a farm with lots of children and animals. This was till I was a kid. Then in teens I wanted to be a doctor but my inability to master maths put an end to that dream . seeing that i was indecisive, God took over the reins and put me on to track of being an educationist.
Can you say something about your journey from being a person with a manuscript to an author of a published book ? How was the struggle ?
In one word: Horrendous.
This journey was or is more of an obstacle race , full of pot hole , pits fall, big boulders thwarting your run towards basket where you could put your ball read book in the publishers net. Never landed there. For example the novel Across Seven seas, you reviewed, I got it published way back in 1996 by spending a small fortune. It was a new publishing company so I had assumed the publisher will work hard to launch his company as well as my book. He worked hard- at deceiving me and doing the disappearing act. Call it my stupidity, naivety or enthusiasm, I signed a contract with a literary agent, tying myself in so many legal knots that it was difficult to untangle so had to wait till the contract period got over.
How did you manage to write a character as charming as Keith ?
Keith was created out of my dreams- my dream man- as from childhood ( some say I have past life association with England) I wanted to be wooed by a Briton and settle there . But those were day dreams of a romantic adolescent brought up on Mills n Boon, Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer
Can you share with the readers, the names of some books and writers who inspired you? Some of us could surely use some inspiration.
As children our father bought us books every month so reading habits were inculcated right from childhood. There are so many books which have inspired me but at the initial age some of the books were Heidi by Joanne Spyri, Little Women by L Alcott, Sir with Love, Black beauty ……then the romance fiction era of Denis Robins, Georgette Heyer, and adulthood saw me delve in to classics and am proud to say finished reading many and passion for reading is still alive and going strong.
Apart from the writers , who are the people and what are the things in your life that inspired you to write the book ? When did the idea strike ?
My parents, my sisters, my teachers, my friends , my students who loved my way of teaching(I am proud to say that some of my students of early eighties are still in touch with me) in fact I got lots of encouragement from editors of various newspapers like The Statesman, Hindustan Times, Times of India , Indian Express Pioneer, who published my middles. All my books have animal characters as I love animals specially dogs and cats. Have had pets all my life.
We all know that a book requires time. What was your family’s reaction to find you engrossed in writing ? Any incidents you would like to share with us ?
My family never came to know that I was writing or sending stories to editors till a piece was published. I am an owl or a night bird. I work at night, so no one disturbs nor do i get irritated by being disturbed by phone calls or bells when my thoughts are pinning to be penned ,but yes they all indulged me by not waking me up before 9 am !!
Any words for the young readers and the aspiring authors ?
For aspiring authors: Never give up, write from your heart but edit from your head.
For Young Readers: Read as much as you can, go by instinct and personal choice. give every author, every genre a chance till you develop your own taste and then zero down to your favourite, Sometimes words of mouth can lie.
Time for a fun question. You must have read fictions. Given a chance, which fictional character would you like to go on a date with?
Difficult to answer as being a hard core romantic would like to create my own prince charming taking a bit from one, and a bit from other. He should be courteous, well dressed, cultured with lots of sense of humour(not telling me whatsapp clichéd jokes) And if you ask from real life then it is Prince Charles!!!
And now , the final question without which the interview would go incomplete. Do we get to read another book from you?
As I said earlier Across Seven Seas was written in 1993, after that I have written three more- Karma, Melodious Love, Shadows At Dusk. I am currently working on my fifth novel , about wife and child of a terrorist as well as biography of my father . And later on may be on my own experience as cancer survivor.
Interviewed by Banaja Prakashini
Some regular talk after the formal interview made Neelmani Ma’am say some more about her and her family’s crazy love for reading and she agreed to let our readers to feast their eyes on her amazing bookshelf and the huge load of books in her basement.
Buy her book at- http://www.amazon.in/gp/aw/d/9386126656/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1487432130&sr=8-2&pi=AC_SX118_SY170_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=across+seven+seas
About The Author-
A member of AWIC (Association of Writers and Illustrators) and INSA (Indian Society of Authors), passionate about penning her feelings and thoughts through words. Besides three novels, Across Seven Seas, Hang Them All, Melodious Love, and numerous short stories and poems, both in English and Hindi languages, her academic foray is as impressive. She has presented diverse research papers at national and international forums, that include Literature and Social Idiom, Ethics in Children’s Literature, Role of Books in Children’s Upbringing, Environment Writing on the Wall, Biography Choices and Challenges, India or Hindustan, Spokes in the Wheels of British Reign (1857), Ideal Syllabus for Journalism Courses, The Role of Drama to Promote Literacy, Reaching Books Where There are None, Civic Sense and Its Importance in Society, among many more.