Many years ago, as a snooty young journalist Lakshmi Narayan met Charles Boon and made it evident she looked down on Mills & Boon romances. Never mind that she herself had read many of them on the sly in college. “We were told not to read them. And we did exactly that by covering the books in brown paper,” laughs the author. “Mr. Boon told me ‘Do you think it’s easy to write a Mills & Boon romance? The heroine has to be pure with no negative traits and she still gets the guy. You write one story and I’ll pay you 1000 pounds’,” recalls Lakshmi.
Years later, when Lakshmi moved to Singapore she started writing a romance simply to appease her Goan maid, homesick to be away from her boyfriend. “I wrote one chapter a day and my maid eagerly looked forward to the next,” says Lakshmi. She wrote 16 chapters and in the process, figured out she wasn’t cut out to write a frothy romance. “At one point, I thought I’d send this romance to Mr. Boon. But as I wrote, I saw the larger issues in society. I’ve heard that a book takes on the personality of the writer. That happened with me,” says Lakshmi.
Originally, she had written Bonsai Kitten with foreign characters and eventually changed them to Indian, then South Indian and then a Tamil Brahmin. “The writing is more honest when you write about your own community,” she reasons.