About the Author
From the Publisher
1. How would you introduce your latest book Wake Up, Life is Calling?
Preeti Shenoy: My latest book Wake Up, Life is Calling is a sequel to Life is What you Make it, which is one of the biggest books of Indian publishing and which continues to top the charts even 8 years after its release. That book ends with Ankita dropping out of the MBA course, and completing her treatment successfully at the mental hospital, and joining a new course – something she wanted to do, but never had the courage for. Though that book tells you in the epilogue what happened 15 years later, it doesn’t tell you the story leading up to that. The sequel takes us through the first year of that journey. She joins a new course – Creative Writing, and everything is fine on the surface. However, there is trouble brewing, deep within.
2. This is a sequel to Life is What You Make it, one of the highest selling books in India, which has been in the top 10 of Nielsen’s bestseller list consistently. What was your inspiration to take the story forward? Preeti Shenoy: I had never thought that I would come back and write a sequel. Life is What You Make It was an extremely difficult book to write, and it took a lot out of me.
I had done two years of academic research, and have so much material. I had to then simplify it in order for it to be relatable. I began seeing everything through Ankita’s eyes.
It would leave me feeling drained and depressed. So I had decided that I would never again write about mental health, as it took a toll on me.
- But it looks like Ankita wasn’t done with me yet
- It took eight years (and nine more books in those eight years) for her to emerge and emerge she did
- This book was also equally hard to write.
- But once the story came to me, it took over me, and I just had to write it.
- I was like a woman possessed. Now that it is finally out, I feel at peace.
3. The book revolves around the life of a dynamic young girl who fights bipolar disorder bravely, and constantly fights to fit into the so-called normal world
How difficult was it to write such a story?
Preeti Shenoy: This one was probably harder to write than the first. In the first one, Ankita has no clue what is going to hit her. Here, she has emerged out of the mental hospital. She has been through hell and back. She is wary. She is terrified. Yet she is desperate to fit in. She has been out of the ‘normal world’ for so long, that every tiny thing is a celebration. I am sharing a paragraph from the book:
Giddy with exhilaration, I entered the college building, an imposing structure – a white multi-storied building that stood like a fortress. A black-board at the entrance welcomed us – the new batch of students of the creative writing course – and directed us to the fifth floor, where our classrooms were located. My classroom, surprisingly, had long red curtains that billowed ceiling to floor.
The windows overlooked treetops, and there was nature all around. The parrots perched on branches were surely a good omen. The afternoon sun cast rainbows in the room, the light filtering in through the redness of the curtains. I loved my classroom instantly. This was even better than St. Agnes!
I had been locked away from the world for so many months. For everyone else in the classroom, all of this was not anything unusual or extraordinary. But I stared at the benches, the blackboard – everything. It had been such a long time since I had seen any institution other than a mental hospital. I revelled in this atmosphere, soaking in every tiny detail. I loved it all! It was my own personal slice of heaven. ‘At last I am here,’ I high-fived myself as I made my way to the back of the classroom.
4. What message do you intend to send out to your readers through this book?
Preeti Shenoy: The tagline of the book is ‘When your mind is your greatest enemy.’ The core message is the same as the first book: That with love, hope and determination, we can overcome anything. We do not have much control over what happens to us. But we do have control over what we choose to focus on. The book demonstrates how by changing our thoughts, we can change our life itself.
5. How challenging was it to continue the story around a character that you created close to a decade ago?
Preeti Shenoy: I had actually forgotten some of the finer details, as I had written it so many years back, and there were many books after that. I usually forget about a book after I write it, as I immerse myself in the next book. I went back and read the book.
And then I thought ‘Oh! This book is so interesting! No wonder people still love it!’ I then had to make detailed notes about timelines, characters and events, in order to write the second.
6. What message would you give to people who fight ordeals related to any kind of mental illness in life and are struggling to make a place for themselves in the mainstream society?
- Do not be ashamed to go and seek help from a professional
- Do not ever give up. FIGHT it
- Things WILL get better. Do not lose hope
- Believe in positivity, focus on everything that is going RIGHT
- If you are on medication, please continue it
- Do not share your details with everyone
These are lessons that Ankita learnt. (And I learnt while doing my research!)