Cover Story


April 5 -11, 2017

Gulf Weekly Kristian Harrison
By Kristian Harrison

Bestselling author Monisha K Gumber is preparing for the launch of her new young adult sensation, which has already skyrocketed to the top of pre-order charts around the world, including on online retail giant Amazon.

The Indian national, who has lived in Bahrain for 12 years, will release Dying To Live on April 20 and it will be available in Jashanmal stores around the kingdom.

The English-language story revolves around Megha, who seems to have the perfect life. She is a national swimming champion, good-looking, intelligent girl who is a celebrity in her school.

She is, however, hiding a dirty dark secret, going through hell in the form of broken, abusive relationships, parental pressures and failures.

It highlights the character’s ability to overcome obstacles, learn the rules about success, failure, acceptance, doing the right thing, and most importantly, never giving up.

The book is the sequel to Monisha’s debut effort, Sick Of Being Healthy, which has consistently featured in the Top 10 Bestselling List of its genre on Amazon India since it was published last year.

The novel was snatched up by fans around the world, whose thirst for more of Monisha’s stories has seen Dying To Live shoot to the top of Amazon India’s ‘Hot New Release’ chart in the Children and Young Adults – Sports category based on pre-order sales alone.

The 40-year-old lives in Bahrain with her husband, Manish, a management consultant, and their daughter Anusha, 14, and son Siddhi, eight. She spent the early part of her life travelling from one corner of India to another as the daughter of a retired army officer, before obtaining a Master’s degree in Business Administration and forging a career in marketing and HR.

However, she has gradually given that up to pursue her passion of writing, which started as a means of telling stories to her daughter.

Monisha explained: “With the first book, I wanted to tell Anusha many things without sounding preachy, and so I came up with the idea of developing that in a kind of novel form.”

It soon developed into a writing passion and she was stunned by the positive critical acclaim and commercial success of the first book.

“Combined with readers wanting me to develop a series, I was encouraged to write another book,” she explained. “This one is for the thousands of young readers whom I have had the privilege to connect with.”

The author-reader relationship is very important to Monisha, who has a growing following of 70,000 on her Facebook page, and regularly takes her time responding to questions.

She said: “Every day I am bombarded by hundreds of messages and comments from my readers. I don’t like to use the word ‘fan’ as I still don’t consider myself a celebrity. I have just been branded as a ‘Teen Sensation’ by one popular book portal in India which I found a little over-the-top!

“Maybe it has to do with the fact that I try to reply to each message I receive, especially from girls who share their problems with me.

“I cannot give a lot of time to each reader but frequently I post videos on Facebook about subjects that I feel are burning issues. I do a lot of give-aways to kids who cannot find my book in a bookstore close by or are unable to order online for whatever reason. I try not to disappoint anyone but, honestly, I do wonder how long I will be able to do that for as my readership grows.”

While Monisha shuns the celebrity tag, it is clear that she is fast becoming one of her genre’s most recognisable writers, and the status that comes with it. However, she is aiming to use this as a positive experience.

“At 40, I am no longer motivated by money, but that doesn’t mean I am indifferent to success and fame,” she said.  “I am very determined to not let my first book fizzle out and, in all humility, I am happy that my first book is consistently a bestseller. However, I want it to do even better and improve its overall ranking and sales figures. I am more ambitious about Dying To Live and believe that it also will give a push to my first book too.

“So far I have received only positive reviews about my work but I hope critiques continue to appreciate my simple, lightweight style. My goal has always been to entertain but with a message. I want to make a difference and I say this with full conviction and responsibility.”

Monisha won numerous state and national level drawing competitions as a student, and her talent with the brush as well as the pen is evidenced by the plethora of hand-drawn illustrations which litter the novel and add more personality to the narrative.

Monisha’s career as a writer only developed recently, and by her own admission, she resisted the temptation to devote herself full-time to it despite her husband’s pleas. She explained: “My first book was started reluctantly and rather casually as I did not have the confidence in pulling it off. I started it in my mid-30s, gave it up and then went back to it two years ago. Furthermore, like most writers, I went through numerous confidence-sapping rejections from publishers until Leadstart Publishing took a chance on me.

“After that, I started enjoying it and, although there was no particular ‘aha!’ moment, the fact that my first book was so well-received gave me a huge confidence boost and I’m fully embracing myself as a writer.”

Monisha has no plans to quit while she’s ahead, and vows to continue working on projects, whether that be writing herself or bringing people together through other mediums. She is currently working on the illustrative side of an anthology-style high-level colouring book for teens with a renowned documentary filmmaker, who will be doing the stories which focus on various sensitive subjects such as self-esteem, abusive relationships and online bullying.

She has a theme in mind for the third book in her series, but is keeping tight-lipped for now until Dying To Live rolls out to the masses. As for that, Monisha has a simple message: “I hope and pray that Bahrain accepts my work with an open mind and an open heart!”

Dying To Live will be available from Jashanmal stores this month, with a retail price of BD5. Furthermore, all purchases will come with a free copy of Sick Of Being Healthy.

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