Preeti Shenoy, among the top five highest selling authors in India, is also on the Forbes longlist of the most influential celebrities in India. She is the highest selling woman writer in the country today.

As part of our series How She Did It, we speak to her about her writing process, how she creates best-selling books, and strikes a balance in life.

Her Writing Journey:

Preeti says that she has been writing ever since she can remember. She wrote her first ‘book’ when she was 7 or 8 years old. Always creative, she would scribble on the margins of her textbooks, and re-imagine characters in the books she came across. She always dreamed of being an author, but never thought it would be a reality, nor that she would ever get the kind of success that she has now.

Preeti Shenoy
Preeti Shenoy

She went full time as a writer in 2006. Her father passed away that year, and to get over her grief, she started blog, which became very popular. It was so well received that a radio show in the US spoke about it. After that her writing career took off. She wrote for The Times of India, Reader’s Digest, and even Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Preeti starts writing at 9 am and works till 4 pm, when her dog — who she is very attached to — comes and paws on her laptop, and pulls her out to exercise.

She wrote her first book, 34 Bubblegums and Candles, which was a collection of true stories from her life, and was one of the first people to do creative non-fiction. The book is being re-launched again, with a new title and cover, and with many more hilarious and relatable stories.

Getting Published:

After the success of her first book, Shenoy thought getting her second book published would be easy. However the book, Life Is What You Make It, centered around bipolar disorder, a theme which was unexplored in Indian fiction at the time. After a few rejections, her first publisher decided to take it on, and both parties were surprised and pleased when it topped the charts. The book did so well that when Amazon launched in India, the book was the face of the company. All the ads showed the book.

She wrote her first ‘book’ when she was 7 or 8 years old. Always creative, she would scribble on the margins of her textbooks

After that every book of hers has done phenomenally well. Her 8th book sold 34,000 copies before even being released.  She has been writing one book a year.

Her Writing Process: 

“I am very disciplined. I am at it relentlessly,” she says. She tells us how one time her friend had an emergency because of which she wasn’t able to write for two days. She made it up by writing all night. She makes sure she writes every day and gives herself deadlines to follow.

I am answerable to myself and I am a strict boss. I will sit and write.

Interestingly, she says that she hates routine. “Only when it comes to writing, am I disciplined. That kind of focus is needed for a book, no matter what is going on in your life.”

I am answerable to myself and I am a strict boss. I will sit and write.

Preeti starts writing at 9 am and works till 4 pm, when her dog — who she is very attached to — comes and paws on her laptop, and pulls her out to exercise. Exercise is important to her, and she makes sure she gets a lot of it. She says that she doesn’t like keeping house help, and cooks all her meals for her family herself.

Also Watch: Amish Tripathi On Why The Idea Is Key For Authors

Secret Behind Making A Bestseller:

“I  wish I knew, so I would not have to stress,” she laughs. But she says that she guesses it is the emotional connect readers feel with the work. She has received mails from readers whose lives have been changed because of her books.  A person on the verge on committing suicide wrote to her saying that something in her book helped him. Another man’s  entire perspective on marriage changed. He said he had never thought about his wife’s wishes, and now makes it a point to be more caring towards his wife.

The story itself has to be something which is not the run of mill, she argues. “The typical IIT-IIM boy meets girl stories have done their time. Each of my books is a different story, even though they revolve around relationships, the core themes they talk about will be unique.

But at the end of the day, she says there is no one formula.

Creating Characters And Stories:

I am not like any of my characters, she says. She says that only one character in all her books can be said to be like her.

She does a lot of research before fleshing out a character. She reads, interviews and talks to many people. For example, in one of her books, there is a scene where a character’s father-in-law faints. Though the action is only one sentence, she says that she had to think about why he fainted, what did he eat, what time he left the house, the medical reason behind it, and the entire scenario before writing it down.

“I want my readers to have an authentic experience, which is why books feel so realistic. One thing my readers always say is that they can see scenes happening in front of their eyes as they are reading.”

On Work-Life Balance: 

She wonders why a successful male author is never asked this question. But she says that since her office is her head, and since she works from home, she manages.

“If you are passionate, you will make the time. I have certain rules and I set boundaries. For example, I have a board which I put on the door outside my room, which says ‘working, creating, sketching’, so my children know when not to disturb me.”