I began writing my first book when I was 12 years old. It was a detective novel inspired by my obsession with Agatha Christie. Unfortunately or fortunately, it was a failed attempt. My next book, What Would you do to Save the World?, was about a young girl’s experiences in the Miss India contest. This was, of course, after I had participated in the contest when I was in my second year of college. After this, I began writing The Great Indian Love Story, which is, in essence, a satire on love. This book was inspired by people whom I met and my observations of society when I moved back to Delhi from New York.
I have always loved love stories. Some of my favourite books of all time have been romances. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez are my absolute favourites.
At the same time, I don’t know if writing a structured, formulaic romance like those published by the Mills & Boon series is my cup of tea. I have been given the chance and not taken it. It’s not that I don’t like these books (who does not like a juicy Mills & Boon!). It’s just that it takes a certain kind of writing style and I don't think it is mine.
At the same time, I can appreciate that writing for a romance series, such as Harlequin or Mills & Boon, can have its own strengths and weaknesses. The biggest strength is that every love story is basically the same, and people fall for it every single time. So there is a certain formula that has been tried and tested and it always works.
The weaknesses are that if not done in the right way, with the right characters and scene, then the book can very easily be deemed clichéd or boring. Since it’s very easy to go right with a love story, it is also very easy to go wrong, so a writer has to be very careful.
The most typical story arc is as follows: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, but there is an obstacle in their path that they have to overcome either jointly or individually.
Despite all odds, the lovers stay together and eventually we see them overcoming all barriers and reuniting. If we want this to be a tragedy, then we see that the lovers are not able to come together and the story ends in broken hearts.
It is really important to have characters that go through strife and learning and the reader has to be able to empathise with these characters. Each character needs to be tailored in such a way that the reader begins to understand their trials, tribulations and longing.
I think romance writing has a great future in India, especially given the popularity of colourful, dramatic stories as we can see from Bollywood hits. As a culture we are very colourful, melodramatic and full of life and spirit, and in many ways, romance writing acts as a mirror.
(One-time model Ira Trivedi is the author of What Would You Do to Save the World and The Great Indian Love Story)