July 15, 2017

Samar Pratap Singh and Nina Sabharwal can’t seem to keep their hands off each other. Yet, they don’t quite trust each other either and have decided that falling in love is simply not an option – no strings attached is how they roll. The more their lives become intertwined, the more they realise that love is just a leap of faith away. But will they make that leap?

Writer Sheila Kumar’s second tryst with the pen is a turbulent romance between two professionals, set in the not-too-distant land of Bengaluru. Here is a no holds barred interview with the author of No Strings Attached, which released on July 14 at Atta Galata, Bengaluru.

Your first collection of short stories Kith & Kin, were slice-of-life stories about a Malayali clan. How did the transition to romance happen?

No Strings Attached is a true labour of love, the culmination of a long-held desire to write a romance. While the stories of Kith and Kin fell into my head more or less complete, NSA was a planned affair in every sense of the word. I had to know if I had it in me to write a full-fledged romance.

Tell us about No Strings Attached. What were the inspirations behind the story and characters?

NSA had its genesis in a short story I wrote for a romance anthology edited by Anuja Chauhan, a couple of years ago. It was about a girl of mixed blood, half Punjabi, half English, who falls in love with an Indian boy. Sparks fly every time they meet but they have this huge obstacle…no, not of race, culture and suchlike, as you might imagine … but of misconceived notions they have about each other. Ultimately, love triumphs, of course. The story was chosen by Ms Chauhan, it ran in the anthology and I thought I might as well develop it into a full book. Both the heroine and the hero are interesting people, they deserved a whole novel to themselves. Also, they work for a newspaper in Bangalore, so this is my paean to print media, my cocking a snook at those who have been predicting the demise of newspapers for years now! In actual fact, newspapers have chopped and changed and adapted to the changing times, and so, are doing fairly well for themselves, at least in India.

How different is the experience of writing a novel compared to short stories? What are the changes that you made in your approach?

The short story is definitely more challenging to write, given the limitation of length and the necessity to tell the tale briefly, concisely, pithily, in just so many words. With a novel, you get more freedom to move the plot along, join the dots at a measured pace while keeping the tension just so all along. Having said that, it’s not the easiest thing to write a romance. Boy. Girl. Boy meets girl. Things happen. Then what? There are multiple strands to a love story that need to be wielded in a dexterous fashion to keep everyone, the boy and the girl, the reader and the writer, interested in the unfolding tale.

From the time that Mills & Boon covers used to be wrapped with newspapers and read in secret, to the present, how has the perception of the romance novel changed over the years?

Truth to tell, it had been a while since I’d picked up an M&B, having graduated to reading independent romances instead, and intermittently at that. I found that now it was less talk and all action…and boy, some hot and heavy action at that! Then again, romance while still being the crux of the plot, now melds well with other contemporaneous elements, spawning a wide range of different romance genres like the romance thriller, the vampire romance, the erotic romance, fantasy romance, paranormal romance, gay romance, the rom-com novel. Good fun, how the character of romances has evolved with the times.

What would your advice be to a budding novelist?

As someone or the other once said, an editor’s deepest wish is that the writer sends them something perfect. So read a lot, write at least 400 words every day. Read what you have written and critique it. Do it once again. Give your finished work to an impartial, critical Beta reader. Keep it away for a bit, then go back to it; if it still reads well, then send it to a publisher!

Sheila Kumar No Strings Attached
Published by Harper Collins India | Price: Rs. 199