I am pleased to welcome Anjali Banerjee, who wrote Haunting Jasmine to Always With a Book. You can read my review of her book here.
Anjali Banerjee was born in India, and raised in Canada and California and received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. She has written five young adult novels and two adult novels. Banerjee lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and beloved cats. For more information about Banerjee and her work, visit her website.
Thanks to Anjali for answering a few questions.
What inspired you to write this book?
Jasmine Mistry here. Anjali Banerjee apparently “dreamed me up” as the main character in her new release, Haunting Jasmine, but I didn’t come from anyone’s imagination. I’m real. She “borrowed” me for her novel, in which I agree to leave my busy job in L.A. for a month to run my Aunt Ruma’s bookstore on the rainy Pacific Northwest island of my childhood. Aunt Ruma is off to India to “heal her heart”, and I’m worried about her health. So I agree to help her, although I hate the idea of sitting in a musty old bookstore for a whole month. I can’t remember when I last had time to crack open a book.
After my aunt leaves, I’m left with way more than books. She conveniently forgot to tell me about the ghosts of dead authors haunting the bookstore. They try to help me slow down and reinvent my life - even though I don’t want help. Not at first.
So what was Anjali’s inspiration for the story? Me, of course. I’m so spectacularly fascinating. Okay, truth. Her idea popped up from nowhere. She wondered what would happen if dead authors could come to life in a bookstore and try to get people to read their books.
She thought me up after she created the ghosts. Well, thanks a lot.
Oh, she says maybe the hunk came next - the mysterious, sexy man named Connor Hunt, the guy who keeps showing up in the bookstore at all the wrong moments to ask me on dates. Like right after a rogue wave sweeps up the beach and soaks me. At Auntie’s bookstore, I throw my wet clothes in the dryer and borrow Auntie’s purple polyester pants and bunny slippers and go commando (temporarily)… and who should show up, but that annoying man.
What gets you started on a new book? A character or story idea or ...?
Anjali says her process is different each time. Sometimes she starts with a hook – the dead authors in a bookstore – and then tries to think up a main character (like me), and sometimes she starts with a character who has a problem. In LOOKING FOR BAPU, she began with an image of a boy who longs to bring back his dead grandfather’s spirit.
Characters in her novels always have problems to solve. Just for the record, I don’t have a problem. Never did.
As a child, did you ever dream that you would be a published author? As a child did you like to read and write and if so, what were your favorite books?
Anjali won’t admit it, but she always dreamed of becoming a published author. As a kid, she typed Agatha Christie-type mystery stories on her rickety toy typewriter, stapled the pages together and pasted little copyright notices inside the front covers. She even illustrated the books herself. After she read The Diary of Anne Frank, she started keeping a journal. Now she has boxes of them.
She loved to read Curious George, The Bear Who Couldn’t Sleep, the Chronicles of Narnia, Enid Blyton novels, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, science fiction novels (The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, the four Tripods books by John Christopher, beginning with The White Mountains), novels by Alexander Key, and many more.
What’s your writing routine? Do you write every day or just when the mood strikes?
She should write every day, but often she doesn’t have time – for example, if she’s promoting a
new book or on deadline for her telecommuting job (she writes stock trading cost reports for an investment consulting firm). Normally, she likes to write for two to three hours a day, usually in the morning before the demands of the day set in. She lives with a husband and five crazy cats who often demand attention.
I try to stay out of her way.
What are you reading right now?
Who, me? I’m re-reading the classics. But I have to ignore Edgar Allan Poe, Beatrix Potter, Jane Austen, and other bookstore spirits who hang around and provide a running commentary on their books while I’m reading.
Anjali is also reading a number of books – too many to name. She needs to settle down and focus on one.
Are you currently working on another book?
Anjali is working on another women’s fiction novel, tentatively titled Enchanting Lily, in which a young widow -- who owns a vintage clothing store on a Pacific Northwest island – comes out of her isolation and finds love again with help from a magical cat.
I’m lobbying to make a cameo appearance in the novel. We’ll see.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
While I’m waiting for Anjali’s response, here’s a bit of advice. Listen to us, your characters, and stop throwing conflict and dilemmas at us. We don’t always want to change - just leave us in peace.
Anjali disagrees. She thinks stories are all about strife and conflict and characters that need to evolve.
Anjali says aspiring writers should also read widely and take their writing seriously. That means you need to practice, learn the craft, meet with other writers, take classes, go to conferences. Think of yourself and treat yourself as a writer. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Big ones. Write gloriously crappy first drafts. You can’t revise a blank page.