Monday, January 25, 2016

Tips on Writing a Great Villain by Shilpa Suraj

How the bad guy (almost) won!

For someone who normally wrote straight up romances, trying my hand at a romantic thriller was to put it mildly, challenging. I got off to a flying start, albeit a murderous, bloody one. Aria and Karan, my protagonists, met under less than pleasant circumstances and sparks flew, along with quite a bit of blood and gore. And then we settled into our story, the three of us….them with the crime and romance to wade through, me with the writing of it.
For someone who has led a very sedate, straight and narrow life, trying to plot an intricate and tricky fraud leading to multiple murder story was...words fail me…and when words fail an author, it’s kind of a problem. Just a teensy one. Teensy-weensy, pain in the you-know-what one.
So I got Aria and Karan to cool their heels a bit while I spent time racking my brains, chewing other people’s brains and generally trying to figure out how a criminal brain would work. Life went on in both the fictional and real world until we stumbled, charged and sometimes desperately ran towards our finale. Days away from typing The End, I realized my villain was, well for want of a better word, stupid. So back to the drawing board I went, Karan and Aria’s eyes boring accusing holes into my back, they’d been interrupted mid steamy scene by my epiphany and were not amused.
This time, my re-worked, spruced up villain came back to do a much more credible job of being a murderous sleaze and we picked up where we left off – mid-steam – and ran with it towards the climax, pun intended.
All jokes aside, while being one of the more challenging things I’ve attempted, this book has also been a lot of fun to write. Stepping out of my comfortable box and trying my hand at something new has taught me a lot. Key learnings being:

- Research is key to everything you do.
- Speaking to people in the relevant field will net you a goldmine of information that all the surfing on the internet can’t.
- Your villain needs to be smart or the protagonists aren’t going to have any fun outwitting him.
- I’m really not cut out for a life of crime. I am in one word – a stupid criminal….ahh well, three words! J

About Shilpa Suraj:
Shilpa was a year and a half when she was first introduced to the world of books. Her mother would park her with a picture book on the floor of the kitchen while she finished her cooking for the day. While it’s no longer the kitchen floor, you can still find her tucked away in a cosy nook somewhere with her nose buried in a book. While books in all genres interest her, it was romance that captured her heart. While racing through every romantic fiction book she could beg, borrow or buy, her overactive imagination started to work overtime and weave its own stories. Years in the corporate world followed by a stint of entrepreneurship crystallised her belief that all she really wanted to do was give life to the stories bubbling inside of her. She briefly managed to tear herself away from the world of fiction to find her own personal happily ever after and now spends her time happily focusing on the two loves of her life – family and writing romances.

Know more at:


The Girl He Left Behind

Rescued By Love

Friday, January 15, 2016


On Author’s Circle today, meet author Stacey Agdern, to talk about writing, life and her story 'A Home for Chankah' in the anthology Burning Bright, which comes out in paperback on January 19th. 

About the Author: Stacey Agdern is an award winning former bookseller who has reviewed romance novels in multiple formats and given talks about various aspects of the romance genre. She also a romance writer. She’s a proud member of both LIRW and RWA NYC.  She lives in New York, not far from her favorite hockey team’s practice facility.

Hi Stacey, thanks for dropping in and letting us have a peek into your life.

So, what’s ‘A Home for Chanukah’ about?
Officially : Finding unexpected connections, the holidays in New York, and the miracle of love J
Unofficially, it’s about the yummy food that you find yourself eating over the holidays.  Did I mention I had cravings for everything from potato latkes, to soofganiyot to mofongo to gulab jamun as I was writing this story ? ;) 

What’s your favorite line from your latest novel? Why?
It changes, actually.  Right now?  It’s this sequence hereJ
“Suddenly, her excited grabby hands snatched the bouquet from his fingers.  He watched, transfixed, as she grasped the bouquet in between her palms and smelled the flowers with her entire body.”
My heroine is so happy here, and my hero gets to watch that happen because of something he’s done J It’s pure joy coming from a bit of simple attention. 

Do you have any strange writing habits?
Many ;) But I think the strangest is that if I end up having to write a synopsis before the book is actually finished, I need to wipe the synopsis from my mind entirely once I’ve handed it in.  Otherwise, I get stuck.  If I mange to accomplish this,  the book ends up pretty close to the synopsis, but I can only get there if I forget I’ve written it in the first place

What does your day look like?
It’s supposed to involve a lot of writing, but right now I’m getting over being sick (again) so there’s a lot of resting J 

What’s your favorite book by another author, and why?
Do I have to pick just one ? Hmm…I think I’ll go with the one that had the biggest effect on me.  That would be Marge Piercy’s ‘He She and It.’ A combination of Jewish mythology, science fiction and romance, this book inspired me, and paved the way for a lot of my creative ideas.

If your book becomes a movie whom would you want to play the hero and the heroine?
‘A home for Chanukah ‘ is actually one of the few stories I didn’t ‘cast’ in advance.  But strangely enough, long after I’d finished the story and turned it in, I was watching a movie on the hallmark channel.  The actor who was the romantic lead in that movie, Steve Lund, would be a pretty close fit for Jon Adelman.  Alicia Witt (who I’ve always loved ) might be a good fit for Molly Baker-Stein.   

How did you become a writer? In other words, tell us YOUR STORY.
I’ve always written on and off, since I spent the last month of vacation before 9th grade writing a novel (that will never see the light of day). But I never took it seriously until I discovered I was better at finishing novels than passing bar exams ;)  So I threw in the legal towel and set to working, to writing.  I worked in a bookstore, read, and wrote. My first story (written under a pen name) got published in a coworkers’ literary anthology.  The next one happened because of three crazy hockey fans. And the rest? History J  

What is your best marketing tip?
Always pay attention.  It’s easy to say, but it applies.  Pay attention to what other writers are doing, pay attention to who’s reading what.  All of the ‘best’ marketing tips in the world are useless if you don’t pay attention to the context of what you’re doing. 

Why write what you write? As in romance or suspense or thrillers?
I love romance because of how wide a playing field it gives a writer. My interests (and my stories) range from thrillers to science fiction and contemporary, even a short historical.  But all of them are driven by a central romance. 

Is there a certain scene you find difficult to write? Eg: Racy or action etc.? Why?
Neither actually. It sounds crazy but the scene I find most difficult to write is the one that’s too close to the music I’m writing to.  If I’m too lost in my world, what ends up coming out of my fingers is total garbage.  And making sense out of that nonsense is a difficult task ;)

Is your writing character-driven or plot-driven?
Both. Before I start, I need to know my characters and a general idea of what I’m writing about( beginning, end, theme).  I also need my playlist.  Changes to any of these can happen during the writing phase, but I need a smattering of each before I start.

Naturally, in part you are all your characters (they come from your head) but which of your characters is the most like you? Or resonates in you the most? Why?
It changes on a regular basis, but at the moment, I feel closest to Jon Adelman (Home for Chanukah) as he’s dealing with the consequences (both positive and negative) of accomplishing something he once thought was impossible. 

What do you wish to convey through your writing?
I’ve had three stories published, each of which deal with characters who discover where they belong (two of the titles actually have the word ‘home’ in it).  Apparently it’s a theme I love J      

What can we expect from you next?
I’m currently working on another hockey story. It’s scheduled to come out in April as part of the ‘Icing the Puck’ anthology. As of yet untitled, it’s the story of Kayleigh Emerson, a violinist who falls in love with a rookie on her older brother’s hockey team.
To end let's try a Rapid Fire round. Your answer should be the first word/s that pops into your head when you think of:
LIFE: love
PASSION: love(as in you can’t have passion without it ?)
HERO: Henrik *Lundquist, goalie for the New York Rangers. My favorite hockey team ;)*

Thank you once again, Stacey, for being here and talking to me. It was fun!
Thank you so much for having me here, Falguni :D 
You can find me on twitter at : @nystacey
Or at my brand new author page on FACEBOOK 

About the Book:
This December, take a break from dreidel spinning, gelt winning, and latke eating to experience the joy of Chanukah. When you fall in love during the Festival of Lights, the world burns a whole lot brighter.
It’s definitely not love at first sight for Amanda and her cute but mysterious new neighbor, Ben. Can a Chanukah miracle show them that getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t mean they can’t walk the same road?

Lawyers in love, Shari Cohen and Evan Sonntag are happy together. But in a moment of doubt, he pushes her away—then soon realizes he made a huge mistake. To win her back, it might take something like Chanukah miracle.

When impulsive interior designer Molly Baker-Stein barges into Jon Adelman's apartment and his life intent on planning the best Chanukah party their building has ever seen, neither expects that together they just might discover a Home for Chanukah.

All Tamar expected from her Israel vacation was time to hang out with one of her besties and to act like a tourist, cheesy t-shirt and all, in her two favorite cities. She definitely was not expecting to fall for Avi, a handsome soldier who’s more than she ever dreamed.
BUY the Book:  HERE

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Aarti V Raman visits AUTHOR'S CIRCLE

On Author’s Circle today, meet author, blogger, naptime enthusiastAarti V Raman, to talk about writing, life and her next book, Untitled Book 3 but also called The Last Time. 

Hi Aarti, thanks for dropping in and letting us have a peek into your life.
Hello Falguni, thanks for having me over. I know this is long overdue so I hope the chat more than makes up for it. So, first of all, Happy New Year to you and yours.

So, what’s Book 3 about?
This is my third book, a straight up contemporary romance. No guns, no bombs, just lurveee. (I can hear disappointed exclamations already!) Firstly, I cannot believe I get to publish three novels with traditional publishing houses, something I only ever dreamed of.
Secondly, Book 3 is about a troubled ex-ballerina who comes home to Mumbai and wants to start a ballet school after her lovable but traditional Gujarati family want her to get married ASAP. The only trouble is, she cannot dance anymore. Enter Abeer Goswami, lawyer, ex-boyfriend and the love of her life who basically helps her get her dream running. How do these two find their way back to each other forms the crux of the book. And of course, the big question – Can you rebuild your life again when your dearest dream ends?

Do you have any strange writing habits?
ALL my writing habits are strange (laughs). For instance, I need to have a particular music playlist on my iPod, which changes with every book, when I write. Then, I need to wear my Santa hat if I write in December, which I almost always do. Oh, and I pace. A LOT. I think I will stop now before people decide I am too weird to read about.

What does your day look like?
I have a full-time job now, as editor at, an awesome news website about Asian startups, so my day begins at 8 AM when I have to wake up for work. I work throughout the day (read FB and YouTube a LOT in between), then chill for a bit. Exercising is my new motto so I do that, followed by a bit of catching up on my marketing and cooking dinner. But when I am writing (which is not as often as I would like) all rules go out the window and I become a zombied hermit, who talks to herself at 1 AM. Sometimes cries too (laughs).

Which author/s have inspired you the most?
Nora Roberts. Sidney Sheldon. Nora because her unparalleled achievements in romance writing opened it up as a phenomenon and Sidney because Nothing Lasts Forever is the first adult novel I read when I was nine. Yes, I was a precocious child.
I also love JK Rowling. She did for YA Urban Fantasy what Nora did for romance.

If your book becomes a movie whom would you want to play the hero and the heroine?
HAHA. If you read the dedications to my novels you will see the heroes are already decided for. Hugh Jackman in White Knight, Akshay Kumar for Kingdom Come and Abhay Deol’s laidback good guy with sense and sophistication and spine inspired a lot of Abeer so I guess, him. For the women, gosh…I don’t know…ME?! (winks). Hollywood, Bollywood are you listening?

How did you become a writer? In other words, tell us YOUR STORY.
How does anyone become a writer? They start writing J I don’t have a story anymore. It’s more an adventure that keeps changing with new obstacles and challenges being added, but with also better and more awesome surprises coming my way.
But I will say this. I wanted to write for Harlequin from the time I read my first Mills&Boon at 14. I accomplished that with Kingdom Come. That is my favorite part of my story, so far.

What is your least favorite part about the writing/publishing profession?
The evolving nature of marketing and the way social media has basically cannibalized the way we think about it. In the earlier days (say 2005), all you had to do was write a great book and sell it. Now you have to post on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, video it on YouTube, talk about it on Goodreads…gosh, just talking about it is exhausting me.
The upside to this is that it’s easier to create a reader base with so many platforms available for everyone to connect in. And I love talking so it’s still a win-win.

What is your best marketing tip?
Be true to yourself. People will only buy what you’re selling if you are genuine about it. So if you’re socially awkward be socially awkward. If you’re chatty (like me) be that. If you are smooth and sophisticated like a vodka martini who always says the right things, well, can I meet your publicist? (laughs)

Why write romance?
Why not? It’s the best thing in the world, isn’t it? Love? So why not write as much as I can about it.

Is there a certain scene you find difficult to write? Eg: Racy or action etc.? Why?
Truth be told, I find EVERYTHING difficult to write in the middle of my draft. And conversely, nothing. Because once the movie starts playing in my head, all I have to do is follow the script and put it down as I see it. I know, it sounds completely kooky…imagine what my family thinks of me!
I don’t find sex scenes or action scenes or dialog hard to write, because, again, it’s all there in my head. All I have to do is write it.

Is your writing character-driven or plot-driven?
It’s a mix of both. First the characters, in the form of hunky heroes make an appearance. But I am always thinking of new and interesting topics to write about (like, my new college romance which I shall begin soon…) and then I see a hot dude and things click. I mutter to myself. Force my mother to sit through narrations (haha) and put it all down as a story outline. So it is both.
But, I cannot make the plot work if the characters don’t work in it, so I do tend to skew my writing toward the people in my stories but never to the detriment of the plot.

Which is the best character you’ve written? Is he or she your favorite? Why?
The best character I have written is the one I am always about to write. This hero or heroine is my favorite because their world is open to me all over again --their choices, the growth arcs and the lovely wonderful ending I dream up for them. I am more attracted to what I CAN write than what I HAVE written, I guess.

Naturally, in part you are all your characters (they come from your head) but which of your characters is the most like you? Or resonates in you the most? Why?
All of them come from a place inside me. They can’t be completely independent of me, particularly the women. For instance, I can never write women who are weak-willed and depend on a man to rescue them from things. But no, apart from Ariana White of White Knight, none of my other characters are really like me. Ariana White is the idealized version of Dana Evans from Sidney Sheldon novels – kickass, war correspondent and stubborn as all hell.

What do you wish to convey through your writing?
I wish to entertain people with my writing. The world is an awful, messed up place. So, if by reading a story written by me, or a blog or a Facebook post for that matter, makes the people escape for a bit than I would have done my job well. For myself (smiles).

What can we expect from you next?
Book 3 from Fingerprint Publishing, as I keep telling anyone who will listen, haha. I also just finished a first draft of a take on The Prince and The Pauper and am attempting to write my first-ever college romance soon. Then there is my not-so secret dream of writing YA Urban Fantasy. So yeah…just this much. LOL.

To end lets try a Rapid Fire round. Your answer should be the first word/s that pops into your head when you think of:
LIFE: Living, coffee
HERO: Damon Salvatore (I know. I cannot get over him!)
LOVE: Forever
HATE: Inevitable

And that wraps it up! Thank you, Aarti, for being here and talking to me. It was fun!

About the author:

Aarti V Raman is an Amazon India bestselling romance writer who dabbles in romantic thrillers and contemporary romance. Happy Ever After are her three favorite words in the English lexicon.
She graduated from Mumbai University in 2007 with a degree in Mass Media focused on Journalism which provided her the perfect background for conducting sound research on any project. She then went on to study Creative and Professional Writing at Deaking University, Melbourne, Australia and is now a copy editor with e27, a tech startup news website that is providing a whole new source of inspiration for her. 

Aarti’s ambition of honing her craft and writing stories, particularly romances that have strong characters and stronger plots that remain etched in the reader’s minds, grew when she sold her first novel WHITE KNIGHT (Leadstart Publishing), in 2012.
In 2013, her work was excerpted in the Tamil Edition of Mills and Boon novels. And in 2014, her short story “Post-Coital Cigarette” was chosen to be part of the Rupa Romance Anthology “An Atlas of Love” curated by bestselling author Anuja Chauhan.  Her last novel “Kingdom Come” (Harlequin MIRA) has enjoyed a brief stay at the bestseller lists in Amazon India. And her next book, a sweet slice of life romance will be out with Fingerprint Publishing, in 2015.
She was chosen to be part of the Goa Arts and Literary Fest 2014 in December 2014 and The Hyderabad Literary Festival in January 2015.
She is represented by Red Ink Literary Agency, India.
You can find her at WEBSITE. She loves to hear from her readers and friends on email at EMAIL, on FACEBOOK and on TWITTER.

 Kingdom Come: Amazon India, Infibeam, Flipkart
 White Knight: AmazonIndia