Manali Desai

Author Interview

Interviewed By – Sameeksha Manerkar

Manali Desai

  1. If you were forced to live the rest of your life as one of the characters from the book, who would it be and why?

 It would have to be Ayesha Banerjee because that’s the character I most relate to. She loves music and writes poetry, Not to mention, like me, she moved to the City of Dreams at the same age as me (18 years!) I would be miserable as any other character to be honest.


  1. What’s the most challenging part of being a romance writer? 

I’m a romance reader too and I do not like cliches or over-the-top stories. I consciously steer away from cliches and for me that has been the most challenging part. Other than that, I believe how the characters fall in love also plays a very crucial role. Because most tropes and scenarios are done with. The readers want something new or they’ll be quick to dismiss your story. So you’ve got to be creative right from your meet-cutes to the following meet-ups between the leads because you don’t want to be labelled ‘forgettable’ or a ‘copy’.


  1. What role do you think female characters play in empowering readers, particularly young women and girls?

We often undermine the role fiction plays in real life, especially the life of book lovers. Most bibliophiles are introverts and socially anxious beings. As such, they believe fictional characters to be their only friends and relate to them more than real people or those around them. It’s natural in such a case for them to draw inspiration from these characters. For instance, as a young reader, I learned to flaunt my love for books from Hermione Granger, and to embrace my quirky side from Luna Lovegood. I’m sure that’s the case for many young women and girls. And if the women in books create such a strong impression, it’s important to show these characters as being strong, independent and being able to reach for their goals with all they have.


  1. Can you discuss the importance of depicting female characters who are both strong and flawed?

Nobody can be perfect. Our flaws and our strengths are like two sides of our personalities. In fact, showing characters who are perfect is a recipe for disaster because we end up telling the readers to achieve something that’s not only impossible, but also potentially dangerous (especially for one’s mental health). That ‘good girl’ syndrome in a woman can only be thwarted by learning how to accept one’s flaws and knowing one’s limitations. Since books are one of the biggest mediums to do that, it’s only our duty as authors and creators to show characters with such traits. 


  1. What advice would you give to other female writers who want to create impactful female characters

I’d say, ‘Live vicariously through your characters’. That’s what I do. I make my female characters engage in activities I wish to do but didn’t yet get a chance to. I make them achieve success in fields I follow or am a fan of (dancing, art, et al) but could never bring myself to pursue. I make them overcome problems I or any woman that I know had to face. This gives them an edge and they automatically end up being impactful enough. 


  1. Are there any specific traits or qualities you tend to avoid when creating female characters?

Showing them as a damsel-in-distress is something I consciously avoid. Even in scenarios where they need help, I try my best to justify why, and even try not involving a man coming in to save the day. 


  1. Can you discuss any instances where real-life women or historical figures have inspired the creation of your female characters?

Not real-life women per se, but real-life incidents have inspired the poems in both my novels. These poems appear in the epilogue, middle and prologue in Love (Try) Angle. While one is inspired by the (evil) practice of female infanticide, the second one talks about creating an identity in a new place and is inspired by personal experiences, while the last is inspired from the many rape victims of political and religious conflicts. 
The poem in the concluding chapters of Love & (Mellow) Drama, is inspired by the many women who break the glass ceiling in their own way, right from our grandmothers and mothers, to our friends and colleagues. 


  1. Can you discuss the role of female friendships and relationships in your stories

Female friendships are the backbone of my series Love Trials. Ayesha Banerjee, Gayatri Kulkarni and Nalini Joshi, the three leads of this series, not only are great friends, but they stand by each other through thick and thin, to such an extent, that they unite to start something together, professionally; something they unanimously believe in. We need to hype up sisterhood and female friendships the way we do so for male friendships through movies like Dil Chahta Hai and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. While I’m not a filmmaker, I can deliver such stories in books and that’s what I’m doing. 


  1. Do you see any change or development of female characters and writers in the past 10 years? 

In classic fairy tales and literary romances, every single heroine (who lives to see the end of the story, that is), must get the prince or the Mr.Right, get married, and live happily ever after. Thankfully this narrative has changed and is constantly evolving every day. We have strong female characters in almost every book; characters who aren’t afraid to risk everything to do what is right. What I especially like about contemporary literature though is that we’re showing women characters in various professional roles/capacities, and not just as caregivers, homemakers, or the archetypical Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. 


  1. Lastly, What’s the one message you want to give to the woman out there?

Don’t let someone else decide whether you can or cannot. Try it out for yourself and if it doesn’t work, at least you tried, which is what matters most at the end of the day. 


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