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tv   Talking Books  BBC News  February 17, 2018 8:30pm-9:01pm GMT

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will increase our understanding of artists, their thought processes and the way they worked. how thrifty they were to reuse things. time for a look at the weather with darren bett. i hope you may be best of sunshine, because there won't as much tomorrow. this is what is coming your way. it will be spilling across the uk to night and into tomorrow, and already some cloud arriving in the far north west. ahead of that, clearer skies, no wind, so turning cold very quickly, with foggy patches in the vale of york. increasing cloud in wales, that might lift the temperatures but frost more likely further north and east. the fog will lift to the morning and the best of any sunshine on sunday is going to be across
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north eastern scotland and north east england and cheshire, but on the whole it will be a cloudy day, low cloud out in the west where it is thick enough to bring some rain. temperatures could be up to ii, is thick enough to bring some rain. temperatures could be up to 11, even 12, but cooler where it is brighter in the north—east. this is bbc news, our latest headlines: commentator: lizzie yarnold goes to the front! lizzy yarnold becomes the first british winter athlete to defend an olympic title after winning gold in the women's skeleton. laura deas took bronze. taking team gb to its most successful day in winter olympic history. she said she would come and do this for our country and she has. it hasn't sunk in at all. earlier izzy atkin won bronze
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in the women's ski slopestyle, a first ever medal for britain on skis. members of ukip have voted overwhelmingly to sack their leader, henry bolton, after less than six months in the job. the party now faces its fourth leadership election in less than 18 months. survivors of a school shooting in florida that killed 17 have taken part in a rally demanding tighter gun controls. protesters in fort lauderdale held placards reading, ‘enough is enough!‘ and chanted "no more guns!" we need to pay attention to the fact that this isn'tjust we need to pay attention to the fact that this isn't just a we need to pay attention to the fact that this isn'tjust a mental health issue, he wouldn't have harmed as many students with a knife. theresa may warns european union leaders not to put lives at risk by blocking a security deal after brexit. the president of the european commission confirmed his desire to maintain a security bridge between the two. now on bbc news it's time for talking books with rebecca jones.
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hello and welcome to talking books, here at the birmingham literature festival. celebrating its 20th birthday, this festival brings together writers, poets, speakers and thinkers across the whole of the city centre. today i'm talking to preeti shenoy, who began her career writing a blog and has gone on to become one of india's top—selling writers and an influential celebrity. you are the only woman, preeti shenoy, on the list of india's top—selling writers. why? laughs people like my writing. but is there something you are doing that perhaps others are not? i think my books do have an emotional connection, and one thing i am not afraid to do is go out there and market my books,
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i think it is important to, if you have written a book, you have to have the courage to stand up and say, "hey, this is my book, this is what i have written about". because unless you talk about your book and unless you believe in the book, why should others? that is one thing which i follow. it's a business, in other words. it is, because if your books don't sell, your publishers don't make any money, and they won't want to publish you. i know you have said in the past, in india, you tend to either be a wife or a mother, and given the size of the population, a number of women in the workforce is proportionately very low. so ijust wonder, do you see yourself as a role model for women in india? no, here's the thing. i don't see myself as a role model, others seeming as a role model, and i am like, oh, what have i done? i don't really think about it. i am most comfortable when i am sitting in my hiding hole in my home and writing.
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that is when i am most comfortable. would you be comfortable being called a feminist? i don't know, because the word feminist has many connotations. i would say that i believe in equal rights for men and women, i do believe in equal rights. i think it is important as a woman to speak up for what you believe in, and if that makes me a feminist, and i am a feminist. you are one of india's most successful writers. how easy or difficult is it to make a living as a writer in india? if you have gone into the big league, by big—league i mean, if you sell something like 30,000 copies or thereabouts, and you will get good advances. i have been fortunate, for my first and second book i could not make a living out of my writing. but now i am nine books old, so now i can completely make
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a living out of writing, which i am gratefulfor. but a new author would probably sell 2000 copies, or 2500 copies. then it would be very difficult. so my advice to anyone who wants to make a living out of writing is, just wait until you reach the big league. don't quit your dayjob. that is how it is in india. does it help if you write in english? in each state they have their language, in the regions, so the regional book sales are smaller than the national book sales. and also when it comes to me, i have never lived in one place for more than more than three years. my father had a transferable job. we have these things called central schools in india, you have english, you have hindi. you simply don't have an option but to write in english.
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it has been a journey for you from being a blogger to one of india's most popular writers. why did you start writing a blog? to be honest i have always written, ever since i was a child. my first book was at the age of probably seven or eight. no! it was. laughs it was a six page book. i read a lot of enid blyton, so it was inspired from there. it was four pages of text and two pages of illustrations. and i used to wonder, how can anyone write 200 pages or 250 pages? but i had never gone public with my writing. i used to take part in short story competitions in college and all about, but first time i went public was with my blog, and that was in 2006, october. and what happened, why did you do it? in 2006, september, i lost my father all of a sudden and it was a shock, i was depressed, i did not know what hit me. one moment he was fine,
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talking to my mother, and the next moment he was gone. and he did not have any age—related ailments or anything of that sort, and that was the first time i realised that death can be that sudden. it felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under my feet. to overcome the grief i started a blog, i did not know what i was doing, and in fact i started it anonymously. i never put my name on it. you used your initials, ps, why was that? i did not know who would be reading it. this was in 2006, and when you write something you are very vulnerable, you don't know who is going to be reading it, you don't know what will happen. so i was afraid. this is why i started it anonymously. and what were you writing about in those early blogs? it was very simple stuff, i realised that even though we don't
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have control over what happens to us, we do have some amount of control over what we choose to focus on. so i decided i would focus only on the positives. anything, whatever has happened during the entire course of the day, there would be one positive thing that happened. it would be very simple stuff like if i saw a rainbow i would be so happy. i would write about the rainbow. a small thing which is positive. and in the beginning you were essentially writing for yourself. but gradually, people started to respond to your blog. why do you think it struck such a chord? probably because there is much negativity around us. people like to feel positive, and i think they like to read that you can take joy from small things.
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which is what i did, because i was in a very dark place in 2006, it was all very dark for me. the only ray of hope for me was clinging on to that little thing that happened, it gave me joy. and i think a lot of people connected with that. and then everything changed, in 2007, when one of your blogs was picked up by an american radio show host, and it was named "the perfect post,", which must have been wonderful. i wonder if you might read us an extract from that. it was about someone you refer to as k. this blog is about my relationship with k. i will read the last paragraph of it. "then out of the blue, i got a phone call saying k was dead. he had had a massive cardiac arrest, it was like a very bad nightmare coming true. i couldn't believe it. this is what happened in the movies. how could this even be? it left me frozen, numb, speechless. i did not know it then, but it would take me a lifetime to recover.
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it would forever tinge all my happy moments with sadness. it would alter the way i looked at life. you see, k was not only my special friend, he was also my dad". how did people respond to that? what sort of things did they say to you. i got a whole lot of comments for that post, they were all messages of condolence, and some of them did not know that it was fiction, or whether it was real, so i told them every word written in that was real. i don't write fiction on my blog. all of it was real. it was very touching to get so many messages, but it did not help in anyway, it did not console me in anyway. i still feel the pain. i can see, you are still emotional. 3a of your most popular posts were brought together in a book called 3a bubblegums and candies. which is a wonderful and rather unusual title.
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actually that book is being relaunched, at that time i thought it was great, i was excited. but now i have grown as a writer, but when i look at the book, i kind of hide it, even though that was... laughs it is going to be called love a little stronger, because that is more relevant. 3a bubblegums and candies was interesting, it was like a little bubblegum, whatever happens to us, where you keep chewing and you extract it and then you discard it, or it can be a candy, a little sweet nothing which you swallow, you feel good about. life is like that, anything that happens to us, every incident can either be a bubblegum or a candy. that was the thought behind naming the book. you are very honest in the book, was there any reason to think, oh, i better not put this
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in the public domain? no, but here is the thing, i did not expect everybody to be reading it, i did not expect to be this well—known. so now that is the reason i'm relaunching the book, i haven't altered anything, i have edited the old stories. but i think it is fine to share because i have learnt that when you share you become closer to people, because people open up, it is when you open up, people open up, and now glad that someone has written about it. someone has shared the pain, someone has shared the joy. is there anything you wouldn't write about? politics. laughs i would never write about politics. i think you have to write about things that interest you, that you are passionate about. and politics, i feel it divides people. art, literature, culture, it brings people together. so that is one thing i don't write about. nonetheless, it's a big leap from going from writing
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a blog to writing fiction. how difficult is it to do that transition? it was very difficult. they are two completely different things. but what happened is that after my first book it met with moderate success, it wasn't hugely successful, so after that first book, we moved to the uk. so i lived in norwich for a while. that was where i wrote my second book. i think being in norwich helped, because i had access to a library. the first time i went to the library in the uk, they said, "you can take 15 books. "i was like, wow, 15 books?". i had never heard that before. between me, my husband and two children, that is 60 books, we would carry them back home and i would sit there and browse, and that kind of helped because i was reading a lot, i was exposed to a different culture, a different country, and that is where my second novel was born. you didn't make life easy for yourself, because you chose to write about a young woman
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with bipolar disorder. the book is called life is what you make it. when i was living in norwich i went to an art exhibition, and it was beautiful, it kind of blew me away, and they were all painted by people with bipolar disorder. it was a bipolar artists organisation. i thought this was interesting and i wanted to investigate further, and i happen to know a psychiatric nurse in the uk so i spoke to her and it got me interested. when i travelled back to india i went to bangalore, and that is where one of the finest mental health hospitals in india is, so i went there, i spoke to people, and gradually the research for the book grew. i was quite interested in it,
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and then i wanted to use a young girl, because, you know, people could relate, because i wanted to reach out to young people. i wanted to place her in a setting that was familiar to indians, so ijust chose the places where i had gone to college, and that is how the book came about. how openly are mental health issues discussed in india? at the time when the book came out, which was in 2008, it wasn't discussed very openly. the book was a huge kind of, it made an impact. but recently, of late, things have changed a lot, people are talking about it. the book has gone on to be a tremendous success, it is one of india's highest selling titles, but the path to publication was not smooth. it was rejected i think by nearly a0 publishers, was that cause of the topic, the subject, do you think? i think it was because of the subject, i sent it out to every agent, in india and the uk.
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i was very hopeful. every agent, the british are very polite, so they would read and say, "i will get back to you", and i was very hopeful, oh, they are getting back! i was very excited. and then they would say it was not suitable, they would wish me good luck. i got used to it. it must have been dispiriting? i never thought the book would see the light of day. you know, ithought, "oh, my god", and then i said, "ok, i have had one book out, at least let me go ask my publisher, will you publish this? he said, ok, but he said trim it down to 70,000 words because he was conscious of the cost! laughter is that what it was? laughter sadly that was the truth. 0k. i know it sounds strange. so i said, "whatever it takes." you know, if i have to cut down 30,000 words, i will cut them down. yes.
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so i cut it down and that was how that book was published. and ever since then you pretty well publish a book a year and one of the overriding themes that seems to me to sum up all your books is the message that life is short and you need to seize it by the scruff of the neck. nonetheless, you do put your characters in some pretty challenging situations. i am thinking about your second novel, your third book, tea for two and a piece of cake, in which it opens with a woman being left by her husband. so why do you challenge your characters in that way? because i think life is like that, you know. there are events in life which you can't control and, also, if you write a novel where everything goes smoothly, it would be very boring. nobody would want to read such a novel and i think it is important to show that you can have the strength, no matter what happens to you, you can have the strength to overcome whatever has happened to you,
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so i think that is one message which i want to convey, which is why i put my characters in difficult situations because that is real life, life is not going to be easy. something else you return to time and again in your books is the subject of arranged marriage. sometimes obliquely, on the margins, but sometimes head—on, i'm thinking about your fourth novel, the one you cannot have. why is that a subject that interests you so much? probably it's because it is common in india and arranged marriages are very common, which would probably not be... you know, not be understood by a western world but, in india, even to this day, people marry the person whom their parents choose and, of course, there are people who have love marriages too but arranged marriage is a reality in india, and that's why i write about it. still, in this world of increasing globalisation, young people still want to obey their parents' wishes? at least they want their pa rents' approval. see, they may not obey their parents' wishes, because,
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in india, you see family is very important, and it's always family comes first so it is very important for a person who is getting married to have his mother's and father's approval. so it is a very close—knit bond. you know, the bonds are very strong in india so that is the reason why arranged marriages still exist. which brings us onto your latest novel, it's all in the planets, which is about a young man and a young woman who meet on a train but they are already committed to other partners. so what was the starting point for that novel? so the idea came to me when i was on a train journey myself. i was travelling from delhi to chandigarh, for a book launch, which was for the launch of my previous book, and i opened the newspaper and i saw the zodiac sign and i read it — all of us read itjust for fun, we may not believe it, we may believe it, and i said, what if this forms the start of every chapter in a novel?
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how would that be? so there would be a prediction and, you know, in the novel you would come to know by the end of the chapter has the prediction come true or hasn't it come true. so i thought it would be very interesting. i live in bangalore and i meet a lot of techies, people who work in the technology field, a lot of them are overweight because they've let themselves go after they got a job, because they simply don't have time, so that is how that book came about. the idea came to me and i based it on several people i know. and is that how books tend to come to you? are they inspired by things that have happened to you, people you know? usually, usually, yes, most of the time. does anyone ever mind? here's the thing, i change it so if it is a male, i would probably make him a female character, because the core is what i am concerned with, so they don't recognise themselves. i think all writers do that. all writers borrow from real life, borrow from things that
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have happened to them and i'm no different. i know your latest novel, which is about to be published, i know that you have said it is your most personal to date and that you very much have drawn on your own experiences. so tell me a little bit more about that. it is a story about a young man who travels back to his native village in kerala. so this boy is born and raised in bahrain, outside india, and he comes to pune to work, and he's got a very domineering father and he's got this huge ancestral property, in kerala, where his grandfather lives. his grandfather is a grumpy, old, angry man, in his 80s. and the boy is sent to live with his grandfather, and it's a tiny village in kerala, which doesn't even have internet connectivity. so the boy goes there and then, he talks to his grandfather and then the story proceeds from there. the real hero is actually the 80—year—old grandfather. and that is revealed as the novel goes along. why is it so personal to you?
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is he your dad? no. the old man is actually based on my grandfather. because my mother lives in a tiny village in kerala, and there is no internet connectivity, and every summer vacation i used to go back to kerala and there was a huge ancestral home where i spent at least two months and what is described in the book is exactly like my ancestral home, in kerala. it brought back so many memories. it was lovely to reminisce because those things exist only in the memories. when i was writing i was honouring those memories, i was honouring the time... i was struck by a comment in it's all in the planets, when one of the characters says the only books that count... some people think that the only books that count are literary fiction. and i wondered who you had in mind? i get asked all the time — do you write commercial fiction?
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do you write literary fiction? ifind in india, there is a sharp divide. i would presume it is the same in the uk and the world over. commercialfiction are the guys who sell. literary fiction are the guys who win a prize. but i think it is important for your story to have the connect with the audience, whether it is literary fiction or whether it is commercial fiction, it doesn't matter. you have to tell a good story. that was the reason why one of my characters said that comment. ijust wondered, you write heartwarming stories about love and friendship and relationships and romance and ijust wonder if you think you might be taken more seriously as a writer if you wrote — as we talked about earlier — about politics, for example? i do not think you have to write about politics to be taken seriously as a writer.
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because my next book is completely different. i always tell people, 0k, wait for my next book because i always feel i better myself with each book and, as regards to serious writing, i have been published in the world, and my short stories tend to be very dark. i always tell people, if you want that kind of writing, then go read my short stories. because it is very dark — there is no redemption, there is no happy, there is no warm, nothing of that sort which is there in my novels. when my short stories came out, i had to actually tell my readers, look, it's a dark story, because they don't expect it of me. that is the image they have, oh, preeti is a happy, warm person who writes happy stuff, but that is not true. preeti shenoy, thank you so much for talking to us. thanks a lot. it's been a wonderful. thank you for having me over. good evening. a lovely day for many,
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but it could turn frosty tonight. it could look different tomorrow, with all of this cloud filling in across the atlantic and we have seen some of that arriving in the uk. 0therwise, clearer skies ahead, temperatures are dropping and we might have fog patches in the file of york. increasing cloud in wales, that might lift the temperatures but frost more likely further north and east. the fog will lift to the morning and the best of any sunshine on sunday is going to be across north eastern scotland and north east england and cheshire, but on the whole it will be a cloudy day, low cloud out in the west where it is thick enough
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to bring some rain. still quite cold to begin with further north and east, the best of any sunshine tomorrow probably north—east scotland and england for a while, maybe north east wales into cheshire, but we have the low cloud coming into northern ireland and outbreaks of drizzle in western scotla nd outbreaks of drizzle in western scotland and also wales and the far west. as we go through the evening and overnight, or the wet weather, spills its way into scotland and will be rain and drizzle, accompanied by low cloud as we move into monday, the eastern side of the uk could be rather dull and damp, and a beautifully, maybe some western coasts seeing sunshine. 0n the whole, another cloudy day, another mild day, temperatures 10-11, but that another mild day, temperatures 10—11, but that mild air is getting squeezed away, much reduced as we head into tuesday, it will be swamped by colder air coming from
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the atlantic and also from the new continent. still left with a lot of cloud, especially eastern scotland and england and wales potentially, the best of the sunshine arriving in scotla nd the best of the sunshine arriving in scotland and also for northern ireland. reasonable temperatures but it won't stay that way, because it isa mild it won't stay that way, because it is a mild start of the week but it will be turning cold as the week goes on and there may be easterly winds. with higher pressure it should be mainly dry. this is bbc news. president trump's national security adviser accuses the syrian government of using chemical weapons and demands action. it is time for all nations to hold the syrian regime and its sponsors accountable for their actions. meddling
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allegations anger moscow after the fbi charges 13 russians with interfering in the us election. thousands turn out to show their respects as the body of opposition leader morgan tsvangirai arrives in zimbabwe. and tough words for president trump as students from the school targeted in a mass shooting aren't tighter gun control.
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