Happy Tuesday, guys. I hope you are all keeping well and safe, and staying indoors?
Today on The Book Babe, I’m delighted to be sharing with you my very first author interview on the blog. It’s an absolute pleasure to be introducing you to Ritu Bhathal, author of ‘Marriage Unarranged’ today, and I hope you’ll grab yourselves a nice cup of tea and settle down to enjoy our chat! So kick back, relax, and please do feel free to say hello in the comment section to let Ritu know you’ve popped by. We would both appreciate that very much! So, without further ado, let’s get this author interview underway.
Ritu, it’s wonderful to have you here on The Book Babe with me today, and I can’t wait to chat with you and get to know you some more.
1.) So firstly, Ritu, can you give my readers a brief introduction to yourself?
Hello all, and thank you, Rebecca, for having me here on your fab blog! My name is Ritu Bathal and I am a wife, mum, teacher, blogger and writer – Phew! I was born and brought up in Birmingham, UK and now live in Kent, where my husband’s family are. It’s not as simple as that, though… I am Indian, by heritage, but born here in the UK. My parents, however, were born in Kenya, to parents who came over from India when the railways were being built there! Quite a colourful background, wouldn’t you say?
As I mentioned, I am married, have been for nearly 20 years, and have two beautiful (but draining) children in the teen/tween bracket. I teach for a living, but teaching is definitely something I have always wanted to do, ever since I was around seven. I love being with my class, missing them all right now, in this self-isolation time…
I write on two blogs, http://www.butismileanyway.com, which has won a couple of awards, over the years, and I recently started a new one, http://www.ritubhathal.com, which is more centred around my author persona.
In my spare time (what spare time?!) I love to read, bake and learn new things, like recently I have started a course in calligraphy.
2.) Tell us a little bit about your book, ‘Marriage Unarranged’.
My first novel was released on 9th February, 2020, Marriage Unarranged. Here is the blurb.
‘Chickpea Curry’ Lit – Chick Lit with an Indian twist!
started ended with that box…
Aashi’s life was all set. Or so she thought.
Like in the Bollywood films, Ravi would woo her, charm her family and they’d get married and live happily ever after.
But then Aashi found the empty condom box…
Putting her ex-fiancé and her innocence behind her, Aashi embarks upon an enlightening, journey, to another country, where vibrant memories are created, and unforgettable friendships forged.
Old images erased, new beginnings to explore.
And how can she forget the handsome stranger she meets? A stranger who’s hiding something…
3.) What inspired you to write this book? Was there anything specific or did the idea just come to you one day?
There was no real reason I began this story, other than I was planning my own wedding when the idea first struck me. What would happen if a girl was in the throes of planning her special day, and something huge went wrong?
4.) How long did it take you to write ‘Marriage Unarranged’? Was it an easy ride, or quite a bumpy one?
Oh, it’s been quite an epic journey, with me and this book. I started writing the beginning in 2000! Then the wedding happened, so it took a backseat. Then I told my Hubby that I had started writing a story, and he bought me my first ever laptop, so I could carry on. Around 13,000 words in, things took a nosedive as we started to try for a family, which raised its own issues. Once we were finally parents, parenthood took over. I didn’t really get back to writing until after I started blogging. It was the summer of 2017, when I really made huge headway, after being given encouragement from some people in my blogging life, and by April 2018, I had a finished first draft. So, not quite smooth, and definitely not a quick process!
5.) What sorts of themes are prominent within this book? Did you write about anything that is important to you personally?
The main character, Aashi, is a British Indian, Sikh girl – same as my background. The issues that get raised in the book; broken engagements, children out of wedlock, and even a touch of homosexuality; are all the things that get swept under the carpet a lot within the Indian community, but I wanted to address them in a light-hearted manner that could be thought of more seriously.
6.) Do you have a method when it comes to planning your novels, or are you more of a wing-it-and-see-what-happens type of writer?
I definitely started this process as a true Panster! I didn’t have a clue about how to write a full novel. I just wanted to write a story. As I became more au fait with the writing craft, I realised I needed some sort of structure. So I did just that. I created a story board, with key events that needed to happen, then I let the characters tell the story, and take me to those point.
7.) Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Books have always been a huge part of my life, since childhood. I don’t know when it was that I realised that you could actually write these books yourself! But when that realisation occurred, I knew that one day I would write a book. And I really wanted it to happen, too.
8.) Tell us what typical writing day looks like for you?
Now, that’s a question and a half! No day is a typical writing day for me because of the day job. When I am teaching, it mentally and physically exhausts me, so writing is not easy then; though editing, I can do at that time. When I write, it has to be the school holidays, when I know I can focus my attention, first thing in the morning, to my writing project, before the rest of the household wakes up. I’d write for a couple of hours then dedicate the rest of the time to the family. Given the current situation, I am hoping to get more writing days in, while we are on
house arrest, sorry, lockdown!
9.) How did you come up with the title for your book?
I had an idea in my head after I’d written a few pages of the book, for this first one, but after a bit of research, it changed totally, once the book was due to be released! The second and third already have working titles. I find something that sticks, and it means my project has a name, at least, rather than WIP one and WIP two. I always make sure I float the name around with a few people first too, so I know if it will work.
10.) Who are your biggest supporters?
There are a few! My parents have been huge supporters of everything I do. My husband has been there, constantly for me. My kids have been amazing too, from keeping quiet when I try and write, to listening to me read my work out and giving me ‘interesting’ suggestions! There are lots of friends, and colleagues of mine who have been my cheerleaders too!
11.) How would you normally celebrate publication day?
I’ve only had one real publication day, as my poetry book was a very sudden decision, so was just announced on my blog a few days before. This book, however, has been a long time coming, so I arranged a proper book blog tour for the release time, starting a few days before the release, then ending a few days after. The actual day, I was a bundle of nerves and constantly checking sales and being active with all my social media channels, to keep promoting. A large glass of something chilled was definitely consumed at the end of the day!
12.) When writing, is there a point in the book which you tend to struggle with? The beginning, middle or end?
It depends on the story I’m working on, to be honest. This one, I think I had a tougher beginning to work with, as it was very stop/start for me, writing time wise! But once I hit the middle and the end, I was in the flow. I’m finding the same with my current book too. I know where I want it to go, I know what I want to cover it in, but getting into that flow is taking its time!
13.) Do you set daily writing goals for yourself?
When I am on school holidays, then I try and set a target for myself. During term time, I am just thankful that I manage to write words, if I can!
14.) What would you say is the best thing about being an author?
I love that I am able to tell a story that will, hopefully, entertain others, and even educate, to an extent.
15.) Can you tell us about the first book that made you cry?
I can’t remember the first, but one of the more recent ones that I have read was ‘The Coordinates Of Loss’ by Amanda Prowse. She writes in such a way that you can’t help but get fully immersed in the situations. This one was about the loss of a child and I was in floods, several times, while reading.
16.) On the opposite side of that, can you tell us a book that made you laugh?
Gill Sims three books all made me guffaw out loud! Why Mummy Swears and its two sequels are gigglefests!
17.) Who are some of your favourite authors?
I grew up loving Enid Blyton, then as I got older, Virginia Andrews was a firm favourite. I would read everything out there by Katie Fforde, Penny Vincenzi, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and more recently, I have become a firm fan of Amanda Prowse. I have branched in my reading genres too, and I like the writing of Sacha Black and Shelley Wilson too.
18.) What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
I think it would have been to just write. No one is going to compose a masterpiece in one sitting at a piano. Likewise, no one is going to be able to write a novel from start to finish, just like that. Don’t expect perfection, just create words. That is how you end up with a draft which will become a book!
19.) What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I would reiterate what I was told. Have faith, and if you want to write a book, poem, article or blog post, just write. But make sure that once you write, you edit. (Or if it is a novel, get someone else to!)
20.) What are you working on next and do you have a release day for it?
‘Marriage Unarranged’ has been very well received, and as I wrote it, some of the secondary characters cried out for more time, so as a result, my originally-meant-to-be-a single book, has two stories stemming from it that will be my next releases. I am working on the first of those two at the moment. But I don’t have a release date as yet. (I’m praying it won’t take me another twenty years to get this one done!)
21.) And lastly, if you could pick any author to sit and have afternoon tea with, who would you choose, and why?
Honestly, it would have to be Amanda Prowse. She is a phenomenal writer, and extremely prolific too. I count myself lucky in that I have contact with her, though we have never met. She has given me wonderful advice over the last two years, with regards to publishing as well. I would love to sup a cuppa with her!
Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her.
From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is credited to her mother. The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her writing, from fiction to poetry. Winning little writing competitions at school and locally encouraged her to continue writing.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes. A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a sideline to her writing!
Ritu also writes a blog (www. butismileanyway.com), a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog Category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, and Best Book Blog in 2019.
Ritu is happily married and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the fur baby Sonu Singh.
You can find Ritu Bhathal on the following social media platforms: