Madhuri Iyer is a writer and artist currently based in Mumbai. She began her career in Mumbai as an advertising visualiser. Her latest published work is Manhattan Mango.
NAW- Please give me your bio in brief highlighting your published works till date.
My bio can be a bit confusing. I wrote my London University O Levels from Moscow, Russia, then painted my way through a 5-year Applied Art degree in Mumbai, and subsequently, became an advertising copywriter with some of the top agencies in Mumbai.
My foray into novel-writing is a fairly recent endeavour. I began by editing fitness books for the Times of India Group, and Penguin India, including The 4-week Countdown Diet. After that, I wrote a novella for an online imprint, Indireads. The book is titled Pink Champagne. Manhattan Mango is my first printed work of fiction. I’m now completing my next novel, The Strongman’s Daughter. It’s in the edit stage.
NAW- When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?
Ever since I can remember, I loved reading. That automatically meant writing too. I wrote poems, short stories, dreamed up make-believe characters, even illustrated some of the stories, to add an extra dimension to the tale.
NAW- Tell us about your book, “Manhattan Mango”? What is it about? How did you get the idea for the book?
I lived in Manhattan. I saw the buzz around me. And in that context, I wanted to portray the lifestyles of young South Asians living in the city, as dramatically and chaotically as possible!
NAW- How did you come up with the title? Who designed the cover?
Since New York City is the Big Apple, I wanted my own take on it, from a South Asian perspective. The fruit that pretty much symbolize sour Indian cultural identity is the mango — so Manhattan Mango it was. For the cover idea I wanted to convey the bond between close friends with their body language. So they’re seen from the back, without the use of facial expressions. I worked closely with the publisher to develop this cover design. Lots of people have spontaneously commented on the cover. They love it.
NAW- How did you develop the characters of Neel, Shri, and Shanks?Did you limit yourself to observations or are the characters developed from real life persona?
None of my characters are people I know in real life. They kind of invented themselves as the story took shape. If you ask me where they came from, I have no idea. But I will say this —fleshing them out was super fun.
NAW- While the story is kind of pacy, it does have an emotional chord especially the bonhomie between the guys. How did you develop this bromance? I got reminded of sitcoms such as Friends and How I met your mother while reading the book. Were such sitcoms an inspiration?
I suppose most themes based in NYC will have some common elements – young singles living the fast-paced, frenetic lifestyle. So yes, in that sense, rather than a story or serial, New York City has been the real inspiration. The bromance has the South Asian touch, where relationships are totally emotion-led, and high on the drama. But hey, what are we talking about here? Haven’t we had bromance since the Mahabharata was first written, in Vedic times?
NAW- Tell us about yourself? What do you do when you are not writing books?
I’m painting. I’m a qualified artist and have held several exhibitions.My medium is oil on canvas. For me, a happy and healthy lifestyle is all-important so I try to balance great-tasting food with healthy choices. BTW all the stuff Shri cooks in the book are recipes I’ve made in my own kitchen!I love being in the company family and friends. My husband and I are empty-nesters so family time with our two daughters is precious. We’re constantly flying across continents to connect up.
NAW- What are you reading right now?
Just finished friend PiyushJha’s Anti-Social Network and have now picked up my sister Anita Shirodkar’s newly released book, Secrets and Second Chances.
NAW- Please name your favourite authors. Are there any who have influenced your writings?
Very tough, because the list could get pretty long. I do have a special weakness for Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier, Vikram Seth, and RohintonMistry. But I’m not sure if they influenced me. You see, as a copywriter, I wrote advertising copy for so many years, that it has influenced my writing style. I tend to watch the word count and keep the writing crisp. It cannot be too long-winded, because I’ve never written that way. And although this is only my second novel, something tells me I won’t stick to one genre. I’ll experiment!
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
A lifestyle cookbook. I’m very excited about it.