'The Soul Catcher' explores the land of supernatural, spiritual and more
Equal parts storyteller and food writer, Monica Bhide, an award-winning author of ten books with prestigious publishers including Simon & Schuster, Random House India, Adams Media, and more
Equal parts storyteller and food writer, Monica Bhide, an award-winning author of ten books with prestigious publishers including Simon & Schuster, Random House India, Adams Media, and more, writes culture driven articles for the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Town & Country, among others. Her latest book "The Soul Catcher" is a magical, fantastical, and hauntingly written brand-new novel packed with resilience, magic, and love.
Monica in a conversation with "The Hans India" shared some important moments in her journey, Let's have a look into it.
You started with writing food books and moved to spirituality and now fiction, what made you shift?
Actually, I started with fiction! Many decades ago I wrote a short story collection. However, when it came time to market, I was told that non-fiction sells better than fiction and my agent at the time felt that I had enough market cred to write cookbooks (based on all the newspaper/magazine stories that I had written around food). I love to eat and cook and so cookbooks were a natural transition.
But, my heart was still in fiction. I had a hard time convincing publishers to let me jump from cookbooks to fiction so I published it myself. I took ten years to write that collection and I knew in my heart that that collection was my true calling as a writer. The readers responded and I have since focused more on fiction and inspirational writing. That collection, The Devil in Us, is all set to come out as a new edition in March of this year.
It has been a path of ups and downs. Even after the short stories released, I was getting cookbook offers. But, I tried to stay true to my inner guidance. A small group of us formed an indie imprint and we haven't looked back since. It took a whole lot of faith and blind faith at that. What is the old saying? "Faith is the evidence of things yet unseen". I tried to remember that every day when I would see my income flatlining. But, fifteen years later, my novels began to get recognition, my amazing readers were vocal and word about the books began to spread. The Soul Catcher is my eleventh book and I am so grateful that I can write about the topics that interest me and make me curious and my readers respond!
You are very vocal about your personal life and the challenges you faced of divorce after close to two decades of marriage, breakdown etc. what have all these experiences taught you?
When I was a young woman, a man I knew said to me: Women should be seen and not heard. My reaction was so visceral, I don't think I have forgiven him yet. However, he was saying what he had been taught. I think I even absorbed that for a while and conformed – trying to fit in, and not saying anything when I should have been standing up for myself.
Now, things are different. I am unapologetically me. What I learned was this: as a writer, I have to share all of me - the good, the bad and the, often, very ugly. If we don't share our darkness, then how will the light make any sense? Women are taught to run after some image of perfection that doesn't exist. I am a woman -- with all my edges, all my broken parts, all my ugliness, and all my gifts. My imperfections define me.
We tend to have labels define us – wife, mother, sister, daughter, divorcee, widow – but, at this point in my life, I have learned that labels are awful and do not define us. They force us into stereotypes and boxes.
My divorce forced me to rethink who I was at my core. I am
a human being. That is my core. Labels will come and they will go. The core stays the same: a flawed human who has the capability to love and nurture. I learned to be in what Dr. Joe Dispenza calls the "generous present moment" – to live in the now. The past is my guide, the future isn't known but I have learned that my power lies in my now and how I behave now, will define everything. Circumstances, people, obstacles, blessings all come and go. The present moment is all that we have.
Your latest book 'The Soul Catcher' delves in the realm of supernatural, spiritual and more, how much of it comes from your personal belief?
What an interesting question! The Soul Catcher is magical realism so if you are asking me if I believe that magic exists, then yes. I do believe that magic exists – it depends on how you define magic. Right? Einstein once said that you can live your life as if everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle. I choose to believe that everything around us is magical and miracle. The book poses a question to readers – what is your superpower? I believe we all have superpowers – empathy, compassion, love, kindness. When we share these emotions unconditionally, that is our super power. And those superpowers, when multiplied by the millions of people in the world can create magic and miracles.
Tell us something more about your journey as a writer and the difference you find from being a columnist to being a book writer?
My writer journey can only be defined by this one line – "The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are," as Joseph Campbell so eloquently said. I feel privileged to tell stories. I explore topics that I know nothing about and my curiosity carries me. I ask a lot of questions, I listen a lot and I realize, at the end of every book, how much I still have to learn. Writing has been a gift that keeps on giving. It isn't all roses. There are days that the blank page is daunting. There are days that I wonder if I can ever even write a good sentence much less tell a good story – but, I keep trying. I practice writing a lot. I keep on keeping on with the hopes that one day, I will be able to tell a good story that my readers love.
Do you think women face bigger challenges in every part of the world, what do you advise women who find themselves as single parent at a later part of life.
The challenges women face in the world could be a topic of several books! For women who find themselves as single moms, I would say only one thing – be yourself. Let yourself shine. We are role models to our kids. They look to us to see what is possible. The path isn't always rosy, there are thorns, there are difficulties, but we are strong and can get through this. The worse thing to do is to pretend that all is well all the time. My kids see my laugh, they see me cry, they see me giggle and they see me tense. They see me as a human being who makes mistakes and learns from them. Teaching our kids that we are resilient allows them to be strong as well. Vulnerability is not a weakness.