Sharon Shefali Gupta, author of Toofani Days, Valentine Nights, a romance with multi-cultural layerings, set in Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal, said writing captured her fancy in childhood, but only recently approached the writing life more seriously. "Only recently did I manage to focus as a writer and decide exactly what I wanted to write about.
Toofani Days,Valentine Nights was inspired by the experiences in my own family, of multicultural romances! My sister is married to an American and they live in Spokane.My maternal grandmother was Irish. I’ve travelled to the U.S. several times and I’ve spent some time in the UK. We’re definitely a multicultural family! The book was inspired by the brouhaha over the celebration of Valentine’s Day in India. It happens every year and I thought it was a great theme, one that mirrors the tumult and continuous evolution of Indian society," she said.
Gupta said Toofani is a Hindu word meaning storm, and her novel relates the story of a love affair between an English researcher and a young, rich Indian businessman. She said the basic premise of her book deals with the trials and tribulations of a love affair between persons of different cultures
"Falling in love is difficult, heart-breaking but hugely rewarding, too. It’s all the more hard when the two people are from different cultures, but it’s always worth it. There may be moments of pain but the joy, the sheer ecstasy of being in love makes the ride worthwhile," she said.
Gupta admits being an emerging writer, in the midst of promoting a book does have its tedious moments. "The many rejection letters I’ve received over the years from agents, and publishers have been the low points. The high points? Each time I complete a novel, I make sure to celebrate in some small way," she said.
She said her approach to writing is methodical, and a great deal of planning is involved from the early stages. "I’m very disciplined. I generally begin with a theme and title ,and work out a rough outline of the plot. Then I work on a chapter-by- chapter event sequence, characterization, and only then begin to actually write the book. It’s very hard work," she said.
Her husband, she said has been instrumental as a supportive presence during the creative process. Apart from writing, Gupta enjoys a full and active life as a wife, mother, and government employee, and she tries to carve out a little time to pursue a few other passions.
"I’m a Civil Servant with the Ministry of Communications in India, so that’s a full time job, really. Besides, I’m also a Mom and a wife, daughter, daughter-in-law…many roles to play every day, so there isn’t much time to do anything other than writing. But I love music; I play the guitar, and I love reading, too, she said.
She said she does some writing at night, a time she considers productive after a busy day at work. "A typical day would begin with my reaching office, checking my mail, files and official work, and then trying to carve out some time to research or write, say, around lunch time. At night, after my family is in bed, I often sit down and write for a bit. I don’t sleep much- not more than five or six hours at a stretch," she said.
As far as plans for the future, there is an expectation that writing will take center stage, as she continues to grow artistically. "I want to succeed as a writer.
I’ve completed three romance novels and now I’m working on an Elizabethan era thriller that has Shakespeare in a lead role. I know all about sticking to a genre, but I would like to experiment a bit." she said.
She is an exception to the notion of writers as depressives, and acknowledges that her faith, and family life have contributed to her sense of gratitude.
"I am grateful for a lot in life: for my wonderful husband, my adorable son, my parents…my family in all and for the opportunity to be part of the Government of India. Every day I feel fulfilled because I feel that by doing my job honestly and sincerely, I’m contributing to making things just a little better. One step at a time, right? I believe in God and I spend time every day reading my Bible and praying, even if it’s just ten or fifteen minutes. It keeps me connected,"she said
Gupta said she considers writing the "best job in the world," but is not naive about the downside of being a writer, and has a piece of sage advice for others thinking about embarking on a writing career. "Be prepared for plenty of heartache and rejection. If you’re prepared to go the whole hog, then try it. Otherwise, it’s unlikely to work," she said.