Monica Bhide is the author of the new novel Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken. Her other books include A Life of Spice and The Devil in Us. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. She lives in Virginia.
Q: How did you come up with the ideas for your character Eshaan, a young chef who tries to help his poverty-stricken neighbors, and for his kitchen?
A: This book has been in my heart for years. I always wondered about people who have deep demons and if they can find the strength to go from failure to failure and more importantly HOW they find the strength to do this.
I admire Chef Jose Andres a lot and his work with helping the hungry really inspired me to figure out my character Eshaan and what he could and could not do.
The character is kind and sweet and generous just like Chef Jose. But Chef Jose is also extremely successful and has a brilliant business mind. My character did not and needed to learn!
Q: Are the recipes Eshaan cooks some of your own favorites?
A: Yes, indeed. Butter chicken is a classic favorite in our house. India has such amazing food and there are so many wonderful dishes we love, but when we are in the mood for classic comfort, we always turn to butter chicken.
My father used to make it for me when I was a kid and whenever we visit him in Delhi, he makes it for my kids now! I try to make it here and my boys insist that while it is good, it is not as good as his! And I agree.
Q: This is your first novel. Why did you decide to write a novel, after writing short stories, nonfiction, and cookbooks?
A: When I quit my engineering job, over a decade ago, all I wanted to do was write fiction. My agent at the time advised me to work on cookbooks since I had started writing about food…out of love of eating!
I kept working on my fiction over the years and, now finally, am able to release it to the world. I hope people will enjoy it! It is such a nerve-wrecking thing to do - release a novel! I am still learning to write and find my voice!
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing?
A: I thought I did but I changed the ending so many times! It was hard to know the right place to stop. I wanted it to be a satisfying experience for the reader and yet did not want it to be predictable or mundane.
Q: You’ve said there's a sequel--can you tell us more about that?
A: Yes, the lead character sets out on another adventure! I am not saying much more at the moment!
But, on a different note, I do have a coloring book releasing later this year. it is a coloring book for creative minds! A book that includes my inspirational and motivational essays along with intricate images to color!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Monica Bhide, please click here.