Amazon’s annual two-day shopping event for Prime members, Prime Day is just around the corner on July 26 & 27, and its good news for book-lovers! A host of new releases are planned for Prime Day, with authors bringing you different slices of life, from essays to commentaries and fiction to fantasy. We speak to Preeti Shenoy, a novelist with over 13 published books. She has been featured in BBC World, Cosmopolitan and all major media. Her book, When Love Came Calling, won the Most Popular Fiction Award at the autHER awards in 2021. Her next book, The Magic Mindset: A Practical Guide for a Happier Life is non-fiction and will be out in August 2021.
An Amazon India finding is that reading increased during lockdown (last 18 months). How does this make you feel as an author?
As a lover of books, I am extremely happy to hear this. It’s a great thing, especially in these times of mammoth distractions, what with our smart phones, social media and OTT platforms encroaching on our daily lives. Even before the lockdown, I’ve always been a huge advocate of reading. I’ve written posts asking people to read more and pointing out the benefits that reading has on our overall well-being. I’ve always been an avid reader; I’ve read to my children from when they were babies and I continue to read every day. I am delighted that people are rediscovering the joy of reading. As an author that is always great news.
The idea for your latest short story – which is a Prime Day launch– can you take us through the genesis of the idea behind this?
I quite enjoy writing short stories. My earlier short stories —The Nameless Relationship, The Obsession, The Frogs, Poker Face and Somebody that I Used to Know — were very well received by readers. My short stories are always edgy and dark and they are very unlike my novels. As a writer, there’s a lot I can do in a short story, which I can’t in a novel. The thing about a short story is that it has to make an impact and leave you thinking. That’s what I aim to do with all my short stories. For Thanks for Your Time, I took inspiration from an incident that happened five years ago, which was all over the newspapers at the time. People do anything for love. One wouldn’t think that love can be an extremely dangerous emotion, but it is and that is what this story shows.
Trivia: Somebody that I Used to Know and Thanks for Your Time are both songs by Gotye—I like both these songs.
What was writing like during the pandemic?
As a writer, my work is solitary. I have to be by myself, and write. I’ve always written all my books from my home, from my room. I am not one of those writers who can work in a café or elsewhere. While the lockdown didn’t change any of that, what happened was that the news of death and devastation all around affected me badly. After the pandemic hit India in March 2020, I was in shock for the first three months. I couldn’t write at all. My children had just finished college and were stuck in a foreign country and I wondered how they would make it back. Added to that, there was endless housework and uncertainty of what was going to happen.
Like everyone else, I struggled to get through the situation. During the first lockdown, I started a blog series called ‘21 days of positivity’, and wrote a post every day. This was free of cost, and when 21 days were over, people began requesting me to extend this, which I did. It later took the shape of a nonfiction book The Magic Mindset: A Practical Guide to a Happier Life and it will be published soon. The book is full of tips and exercises which you can execute immediately to feel better. During this time, Amazon approached me for a story (a long story). It was an interesting project and I took it on. By now, I had learnt to compartmentalize what was happening around me and focus on things I could control. I wrote Somebody that I Used to Know and I tremendously enjoyed writing it. Writing offered me a way to escape the terrors of the pandemic, and so I wrote a lot. You will see these books coming out soon.
After the pandemic hit India in March 2020, I was in shock for the first three months. I couldn’t write at all.
The pandemic has seen us through difficult times – as an author, what would your message be to bring India back on track?
I see so many people going out without masks as soon as the lockdown eases. I am terrified that if this continues there will be a third wave from which it would be so hard to recover. I am saddened to see the livelihood of so many people being hit. If all of us behave responsibly, we can overcome it. So, keep your distance, sanitise, please mask up and get your vaccinations at the earliest.
If you do have the luxury of staying home, please stay home. Read more! Rekindle your hobbies. Stay safe. It is in our hands, and let’s do everything we can to prevent a third wave.
What books did you read during lockdown? Any books/authors you can recommend for our readers?
I think I must have read over 60 books during the lockdown. As soon as I finish a book, I review it in my Instagram stories, and then save it to my highlights. It’s hard for me to recommend books because it depends on what genre the reader likes and what they enjoy reading. Hence, I always just mention what I liked and whether or not a book worked for me. From the top of my head, here are a few books I absolutely loved:
The Stationery Shop of Tehran—Marjan Kamali
The Tattooist of Auschwitz—Heather Morris
The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury—Marc Levy
The Book of Lost Names—Kristin Harmel
The Hypnotist’s Love story—Liane Moriarty
Ways to Live Forever—Sally Nicholls (It’s a children’s book which adults can read too)
Finally, any product that has been forever on your shopping wish list which you might just fulfill this Prime Day?
In addition to being a writer, I am also an artist. I paint every day. I am crazy about art supplies—Daler Rowney Moleskine, Inktense, Prismacolor, Camlin Kokuyo, Staedtler, Strathmore, Lamy—I can go on and on. I will check if there are good deals for any professional art supplies, and if I come across any, I will surely stock up. I love trying new things and have a large collection of journals, and no matter how many I have, it is never enough!