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August 12, 2010


Posted by Dana

In today's guest post author Shobhan Bantwal (THE UNEXPECTED SON) talks about how the "simple life" she was bored with and took for granted as a child turned out to be a wealth culture and stories she could use in her writing as an adult.

The-Unexpected-Son-9780758232038.jpgSaris, Spices, and Superstitions

Growing up in a small, rural town in India, I used to resent the fact that God had chosen to put me in a place that was about as exciting as boiled white rice. Everyone knew everyone else and my father was the quintessential Indian master of the house. I was not allowed to date or even step out of the house after dark.

Being number four out of five girls in a conservative Brahmin family was not much fun, either. With no television and no children's programs on the radio, our only source of indoor entertainment was a small, fee-based library, simply called Oliver's. It was a dimly-lit, single room, crammed with books and magazines. But that musty-smelling library was my private Wonderland, a place where my active imagination took flight and soared.

Little did I realize back then that my simple life would actually be of interest to other cultures.
Years later, at the age of 50, when I took up creative writing, I finally recognized the value of my unusual upbringing, my Hindu heritage, my arranged marriage, my late mother's vision in educating her daughters in a private school and encouraging them to learn English and become avid readers.

There is such abundant fodder for story ideas in my own culture, that I rarely have to look outside of it. Consequently my books are essentially "Bollywood in a Book"—a kaleidoscope of all the elements of my native India—vivid tales woven around exotic women, authoritarian men, and hot-button social issues like dowry, female-fetus abortion, and the notorious caste system.

India is the land of the Kama Sutra, an ancient textbook on sex, and the Bollywood movies are
all about romance, and yet the word "sex" is rarely uttered, premarital sex is frowned upon, and legitimate sex between married people is looked at as a necessary evil. Nonetheless all those countless taboos, spices, superstitions, saris, and languages provide the most delicious cultural tidbits that add complex layers to my fiction.

Through my novels, I not only strive to entertain my readers but offer a rare glimpse into a different facet of Indian culture by introducing bold and controversial topics that most South Asian fiction authors shy away from. As a result, many book clubs and women's organizations have discovered and enjoyed my books, because my stories make for lively debates and discussions. I include a readers' guide in my books, too. I regularly speak at book clubs and fundraisers for victims of domestic violence. I also donate a large portion of my book income to charities—my humble contribution to society.

In my latest novel, THE UNEXPECTED SON (Kensington, Aug. 2010), my heroine's innocent
mistake made during her teenage years is quickly hushed up by her parents so they can arrange a suitable marriage for her. But that deep, ugly secret returns to haunt her 30 years later. She must now face her demons, but is she willing to sacrifice her comfortable and happy family life to reconcile with her past? This story has all the intrigue of forbidden love, premarital sex, dark secrets, and a caste and language-based socio-political structure that nearly brings an entire town to its knees.

-- Shobhan Bantwal, Author

Information on Shobhan's writing, contests, book clubs, author events, recipes, photos, contact, and the charities she supports can be found on her website: