Are men on the same page as women in matters of love and romance? A debatable question. But male writers in the country are way ahead of women when it comes to writing rollicking romance fiction. These lovey-dovey boys dominate the country’s pulp romance fiction market, with their books notching up sales figures of 30,000 to I lakh pretty easily.
Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Datta, Sudeep Nagarkar, Novoneel Chakraborty, Faraaz Kazi , and Rochak Bhatnagar, Anuj Tiwari , Vineet K Bansal, Aakash Verma ..the list of India’s new age romance writers-- most of them in their early 20’s -- is growing fast. Delhi-based Rochak Bhatnagar, 23, published his first book 'Love Happens Only Once' whem he was only 19.
“I was always interested in writing and teenage is when a person first experience romantic love. My books tried to capture the complexities of teenage love in a language that teens can relate to. A lot of people thought that I copied the title of Ravinder Singh's Can Love happen Twice, but the fact is that it was just a coincidence, " says Delhi -based Bhatnagar, who works as a software professional with a multinational in Noida.
Most of these writers admit that they draw heavily from their own life and those of their friends and colleagues.
Mumbai-based Sudeep Nagarkarm who has five romance novels to his credit says that all his five romance novels are based on real life love stories. His latest offering, 'You are the Password to my Life’ released in December 2014, has been on several best selling charts ever since. In 2013, his book "It started with a Friend Request" was voted as the most popular book in a reader’s poll on Amazon India in Indian fiction category.
Unlike a few years back, these writers are no longer writing just campus novels: from offices to call centers, to exotic beach resorts, to aircraft, their stories now have diverse settings. The titles of their books can give mushy romances of Nicholas Sparks a run for its money. Sample some of these titles: ‘It Happened That Night’; ‘Northing Lasts Forever’, 'Journey of Two hearts,' 'It had to be you' . Flowers, hearts, lips, couples walking hand in hand dominate the cover of these books.
"I finish writing my book in 30 days flat. But I spend more time thinking of the title of the book. The title and cover design can make and break a romantic book, " says Nagarkar, who is one of India's many new- age writers who have given up their cushy job to pursue writing full time.
To deal with the problem with new stories, many of them have taken to writing sequels and sequel to sequels. They say it is on demand from their readers who keep asking them what happens to the character in the book. Harsh Snehanshu, a IIT Delhi graduate, wrote his debut novel, “Oops! ‘I’ fell in love!” in 2009, his second book, “Ouch! That ‘hearts’..”came out in 2011, while “She is single I’m taken”, the third part of the trilogy, was published in 2012
Cashing in on their popularity many of them-- Ravinder Singh, Faraaz Kazi's have edited anthologies of love stories. Kazi, the author of bestselling Truly, Madly, Deeply, last week released LOVE: Lots Of Volatile Emotions, an anthology of love stories in the capital.
His first book, Truly, Madly Deeply, a coming of age novel of how teenager’s first love grows into an uncontrollable obsession was nominated in seven categories of the Goodreads Annual Choice awards, apart from being the first Indian novel to win the ‘Best Debut’ in the Romance category in the same awards. He also won National Debut Youth Fiction Award 2013.
Ask these young male writers if men are really emotionally capable of writing about matters of heart. And the answer is unanimous yes. " Men are as romantic and emotional as women; it is just that they do not display their emotionally openly. The idea of Alpha male is quite misleading," says Kazi.
Adds Anuj Tiwari, author of most recently, 'It had to be you. " In India men are more romantic than women. Unlike in the west, women are more practical in India,which is why most women writers in the west are women, " says 25- year- old Mumbai business analyst whose two romance novels are based on his love story. " Break-ups are happening like never before. People are losing faith in love and relationship. My books are an attempt to restore that faith between men and women".
IT had to be You, he says, has been written from her girlfriend's perspective. But can a man ever authentically from a woman's perspective? " It is all about understanding women; right from my childhood days to college I have been in the company of women. I understand them pretty well".
But Durjoy Datta, who has ten romance novels to his credit, has a slightly different take on the subject. He feels that men writers are doing better than their female counterparts in India is because women writers tend to connect only with other women..“ It is because romance books written by women are too high on emotional quotient. Men are not equipped with to deal with that kind of high emotion, ” says Datta.
He should know. He has written as many as four love stories with female co- authors. “ When I wrote with them, there were a lot of differences, especially over the portrayal of men characters. They would portray them as extremely emotional, something I would not agree with. But I often bowed to the wishes of my female co-writers. Our conflicting views brought a touch of reality to our novels ," laughs Datta.
Datta included a lot of steamy scenes in his first 4 books, but stopped after he started getting a lot of hate mail. " A lot of people said that I was using sex to sell my book. I could not really handle this stinging criticism and kept sex to minimum in my books," says Datta.
While a lot of these pulp romance books are published by not- so- well known publishers such as Shrishti Publishers, General Press, Mahaveer Publishers, who are flooded with manuscripts from aspiring writers. "Fifty percent of the writers who send their manuscript are from small towns such as Patna, Raipur, Jabalpur, Saharanpur etc. But the problem is most of these are the same and getting repetitive,” saysVinay Dutta , a manager with Mahveerer Pyblishers who has so published writer 40 romance writers in the past two years including Farazz Kazi.
In fact, many of these books are published on Valentine's day--the day when these books see a significant spike in sales. And many of the online portal give huge discounts and gift-wrap for these books.
Kazi, feels that marketing will play a key role in the success of a book in such a competitive marketplace of romance fiction. But these young romance writers sure know how to market themselves. Almost every day they post mushy lines on their facebook wall, and most them have sleek websites .
“A lot of these youngsters feel that romance book can be a short cut to money and fame. A lot of them are driven by market considerations than a passion for writing,” he says. Adds Datta, " For many of them it is way of acquiring female fan following". While that may or may not be the reason why they write, most of these writers have a huge fan following on their social media accounts. Many of them get fan mail---including I Love you messages – are from women.
Many like Kazi believes that market for romance will never stagnate. " We are all ‘suckers for emotions. The challenge for romance writers is to serve meaning tales,” he says.