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A picture perfect

Inspired by Archie comics, Wimpy Kids and Chetan Bhagat, and forced by her husband, Monisha had no choice but to write this book – Sick of Being Healthy. Despite being an ardent fan of Ayn Rand when she was a teenager (talk about regression), she decided to produce something that would not only be fun but also teaches kids about life. Talking about kids, when she was barely six she won her first national-level drawing competition and then many more followed till she gave up participating, just as an act of rebellion, against nothing in particular. When she was in high school, she served as Editor of her school magazine. And that’s about all the credentials she has when it comes to writing. No articles in newspapers and no publications of her own. Yes – excellent at making proposals and PowerPoint presentations. That is the reason her husband forced her to come up with this! However, like all good Indian students, Monisha went on to get an MBA and has fifteen years of corporate experience. She has been working for a leading management consulting company but is now turning a full time author with two more books planned back to back. She is married with two kids and lives in Bahrain. She is passionate about alternative healing and genuinely wishes true health and wisdom for all. In this interview with DT News she unravels her novel adventures in the realms of writing.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
My first book Sick of Being Healthy has very recently got published. It is   basically a light and humorous take on issues that teenagers face in today’s world, such as self-esteem, academic pressures and complicated online relationships. The book is meant for young teens and comes with a lot of handmade illustrations. Honestly I have not defined any goals or places I wish to reach. All I know is that I want to write entertaining books with a social message- the kind of books that touch your heart and make you think. I want to be popular and loved while staying true to who I am as a person.

Which writers inspire you?
I have grown up reading Ayn Rand and was greatly influenced by her body of work for a very long time. However, when I actually grew up- I took a few steps backwards and started enjoying Sidney Sheldon and Chetan Bhagat too. I think I might have regressed even more now that I am a big Wimpy Kids fan these days. There is nothing I like more than reading Jeff Kinney and he has been a big inspiration for me. His books are funny, real and so ordinary that they are truly extra ordinary.  Kudos to him for having the guts to glorify simplicity in a big way. Perhaps that is the reason my own books have pictures too-as a tribute to Wimpy Kids.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
The main character’s name is Tara who plays a fourteen-year-old plump girl with a great sense of humor and personality. But she doesn’t like being fat a lot and thinks that she would never get the guy of her dreams because of the way she looks. Yes, she is cute and all but she has a major complex about her weight. The fact that this guy falls in love with her prettier and much thinner friend, pushes her deeper into a dark world of a food disorder. To lose the extra kilos, she goes on a crash diet and makes herself vomit almost after every meal. Yes, she loses some weight but she loses a lot more, like her happiness and self-esteem. She ends up being depressed and gets admitted in a hospital. Basically Sick of being Healthy is about how she rises above her issues and emerges a winner in the end. Does she get attention from her crush? Well, for that you should read the book.

What draws you to the  genre ‘contemporary teen fiction’?
I have a fourteen-year-old daughter and there are many things that I want her to know. But children resist the usual ‘lectures’ that we parents specialize in. So I thought if I could teach her and other children her age in a form of a light, unpretentious book, without sounding preachy- my job would be done. Of course, I get to use my drawings for the books and that itself is a big incentive for me to work on this genre. Because art is my passion and it is only now that I have been able to justify it and in the bargain made the books even more appealing to readers.

How much research did you do?
Well, as I said, I have a teenage daughter and most of my own friends have teenaged children too so I didn’t have to do a lot of research. Of course, since I was touching a sensitive subject like food disorder, I had to make sure there were no technical mistakes. I took advise from a couple of psychologists to try to understand this condition more, without sounding judgmental.

When did you decide to become a writer?
Some things are meant to be. I resisted for the longest time possible even though my husband felt that this should be my calling. My first book was started reluctantly and rather casually, as I did not have the confidence of pulling it off.  But with the grace of God, I started enjoying it and went on to write two more books that are in the process of getting published. I still cannot say which was my Á-ha’ moment but yes, I am a writer now and loving it too. The fact that it is so well received, specially in India has made my resolve even stronger.

Why do you write?
It’s a tough one but now that I have completed three manuscripts back to back in the last two years- I am certain about the fact that I write as I choose to do it over anything else. I love how a story takes shape, the complexities of characters, the subtle messages, the events that take the book forward. Needless to add, the sense of creative satisfaction and boundless freedom I experience- it’s totally worth the back pain!

What makes you sit down and actually start something?
There have been some ideas going on in my mind over the years that I have pondered over, argued upon and basically been serious or excited about. Like Body image, meaning of success, children with special needs etc. When I feel an issue needs to be heard and its time has come – I get down to work. I am not saying that I hit a jackpot with an original idea- but writing helps me to sort out and structure my own thought process regarding that idea in the form of a story. A story that all of us can relate to.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Since leaving my full time job in a prestigious IT company, I had been engaged in management consulting and recruitment for some time.  I still do that when a project comes through but since last few months I am spending a major chunk of my day simply writing. I don’t have any fixed time as of now but on an average I manage four to six hours a day. But there have been times when I have worked through entire nights. It depends on how restless I am to complete or even resolve something.

Where do the ideas come from?
Thankfully I am a good observer of life itself so I don’t have to look anywhere in particular for inspiration. Ideas are everywhere- you just need to be receptive and open up.

How do you think you have evolved creatively?
As I mentioned earlier, I had major hang-ups before starting my first book. Though inherently I am a creative person, I had got busy with the so called corporate life and running my house that I completely ignored it. But since then, I have made a lot of progress and realised that hard work is the only answer. My current work is more lucid, presentable and has a lot of depth. At the same time, it has remained simple and not over the top.  

What has been the hardest thing about writing your current book?
My current book is a sequel to my first book Sick of Being Healthy. The hardest thing about it was that I had to seamlessly and logically integrate it with the first book. I had to make it slightly more serious and mature as the characters have grown up by a year or so. Apart from that it was a smooth ride and I am really proud of it. The writing part is finished and now I am working on the drawings.

What book are you reading at the moment?
I am reading “Enlightenment for Idiots” by Anne Cushman. A funny book about a young free-lance writer for a ‘dummies’ book series. She is charged with writing a book on enlightenment and it takes her to a roller coaster ride in India where she experiences a world of ashrams, yoga, meditation and spiritual gurus.

Who designed your book cover?
My publishers called Leadstart Publishing, have been very kind and flexible enough to let me do it myself. So with the help of my designer from India named Ashwani Verma and designer from Bahrain named Sachan Chandran, we worked on not only the title cover but fifty plus illustrations/designs in the inner pages too.  In Bahrain the books are available in Jashanmal stores. They are also available on most major websites and bookstores across India. The Price is BD 3.6 in Bahrain and INR 225 in India. You could even download the kindle edition. Sick of being Healthy is available in Paperback and as an E book. Kindle edition is also available


My first book Sick of Being Healthy has very recently got published. It is basically a light and humorous take on issues that teenagers face in today’s world, such as self-esteem, academic pressures and complicated online relationships. The book is meant for young teens and comes with a lot of handmade illustrations.     -Monisha K Gumber