Falguni Kothari: ‘Every Writer Is a Fantastic Eavesdropper’

falguni kothariFalguni Kothari, a stay-at-home mother of two in Edgemont, NY with no college degree, once completed an online six-week course on Ed2Go.com called Romance Writing Secrets

Though she had a sheltered upbringing in India, Kothari draws on her expat life experiences, both personal and observed, to write “messy love stories and fantasy tales.” Now she had written five, strong full-length novels and four novellas.

“As a stay-at-home mom, my focus was on the children, house and hearth, especially after we immigrated to NY in 2001 from Mumbai,” Kothari says. “But as the kids grew and needed me less and less, I started feeling a little redundant. Which is when my mother gave me a talking-to and said I need to do something that would exercise my brain and give me a purpose outside of the domestic set up. That’s why I started to look for courses online. At first, I thought of just completing my education (which I’d left incomplete when I got married at 20). I stumbled across the romance writing course and the rest is history.”

Kothari’s books have found their way to the “USA Today” bestseller list and has generated coffee-table discussions about common, yet unconventional themes about marriage, romance, friendship, family and parenthood. Her stories address and highlight social and cultural issues faced by Indian women across the diaspora.

While her first book, “It’s Your Move, Wordfreak,” published by Rupa and Co. in India in 2012, is about the trials and joys of online dating, Kothari touches upon the heavier subjects of domestic violence and patriarchy.

“There is a darkness with the light and I want my stories to reflect it,” Kothari says.

In “My Last Love Story,” Kothari delves into issues of surrogacy and IVF and continues to bring women’s issues into the spotlight. Even in a lighthearted romcom, “Bootie and the Beast,” she talks about gender biases in workplaces and the roles men and women play in society.

Kothari comes by her feminist worldview honestly: she was raised by an egalitarian father, who left an indelible mark on her young, impressionable mind; her paternal grandmother’s stories; and her progressive mother’s obsession for both family and self-improvement.

The product was a service-oriented woman with a strong sense of personal and social values.

falguni kothari

As a child, Kothari was encouraged to think out of the box. When asked what caused her to write on surrogacy in “The Object of your Affections” and why she feels it is an important subject to cover, Kothari explains:

“I’d read an article on how certain Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities were opting for surrogacy to have children. The topic seemed fascinating, as the stories and reasons varied from person to place. I especially liked Karan Johar’s honest take at 40, with no hopes to ever find ‘the one’ with whom he would have a family. As he was ready to have a family at the time, had the means to support them, he couldn’t see the reason to wait? I loved the idea that a man could also desperately want children. By and large, we tend to attribute the maternal gene only to women, but this man wanted children. So, I thought, what if a husband wants children and the wife doesn’t? How would that story work out? And that’s how ‘TOOYA’ was born.”

Through her female-centric stories of mostly Indian women, she intentionally addresses social cultural issues and situations that are outside the norm.

“Even if it’s a light-hearted story, I want it to be an eye-opener,” Kothari says. “I love that the audience connects with it positively and openly discusses it in book clubs. By bringing women’s issues into the spotlight, the readers should not feel they are alone and be able to connect.”

Kothari has brought up her son and daughter – both engineers – with a strong sense of community and heritage, an open mind and a love of learning.

She herself keeps trying new things. So, in addition to being a writer, Kothari is a semi-competitive dancer in Latin and ballroom dancing, and has decades of training in Kathak.

Kothari spoke to SEEMA about her work and motivations.

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When you write about a protagonist and other characters in your stories, do you draw from personal experiences and interactions with other personalities?

A hundred percent. Everything I write about or a lot of it, I have observed it happening or it has happened to me. A lot of the writing is very personal. Although the entire story is fiction, parts of it are based on the truth that I have seen. And every writer is a fantastic eavesdropper, always on the lookout for something quirky to fashion into their own books. On a subconscious level, I incorporated my cousin’s challenges with brain cancer in “My Last Love Story.”

How are you able to put yourself in other people’s shoes?

Before I wrote “My Last Love Story,” I did a lot of research and spoke with cancer survivors and caregivers of cancer patients. Along with intuition and observation, I found the internet is a great resource. Able to find someone who is more than happy to talk about their IVF experience and surrogacy, helped me understand the subject on a personal level, after I had done background research, and then they took my understanding to another level. I love reading and learning about new things and I am a voracious reader.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced?

Getting published. I had no editorial background, so putting myself in the industry was a challenge. I wrote “It’s Your Move, Wordfreak” as a lark and my friends motivated me to get it published. After it was published in India, in 2012 by Rupa and Co., life as an author began to get easier. I began to attend conferences, learn more and, as my community grew with every step, so did my view. My first two books were released by Indian publishers – Rupa and Co. and Harper India. After that I went indie for my mythic fantasy, “Soul Warrior,” and then my two latest women’s fiction novels are under the aegis of Graydon House, an imprint of Harlequin/HarperCollins.

What have been your biggest triumphs?

Every time I write the end of a book or a story is a triumph. I love the process of writing and writing the story itself. Making USA Today, getting a review in The New York Times are wonderful moments. Also to know, “The Set Up,” is currently number three on the romance bestseller list of Audible Original.

What do you think about the future achievements of women?

Now that broken glass ceilings are everywhere, I expect more will be shattered. I hope my daughter will not experience gender bias at any level, be it personal or work.

So what it is that makes you tick?

Life makes me tick. The fact that we are here and alive is a celebration. Even though we are in a pandemic, we are here and living it.

For stories of more authors like Falguni Kothari on SEEMA pushing boundaries, check out Anisha Bhatia: ‘How do you fight your own mind?’