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Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Spotlight On Bharti Kirchner

Bharti Kirchner is the prolific author of nine books -- five novels and four cookbooks. Her fifth, a mystery novel Tulip Season: A Mitra Basu Mystery is now out. ("Engrossing," says the Seattle Times.) Her work has been translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, Marathi, Thai and other languages. Her fourth novel Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries (St. Martin’s Press) was selected for the Summer Washington Reads program. Darjeeling (St. Martin’s Press), a third novel, received endorsements from top national authors. Shiva Dancing (Dutton), her first novel, was chosen by Seattle Weekly to be among the top 18 books by Seattle authors in the last 25 years. ("A finely crafted novel," says Publisher’s Weekly. "A fresh literary terrain," says San Francisco Chronicle.) Sharmila’s Book, a second novel, was published by Dutton. (“Smart, swift, and funny,” says Publisher’s Weekly.)

An award winning cook, Bharti is the author of four cookbooks. Her second, Indian Inspired (Lowell House), was selected among top ten cookbooks of 1993 by USA Today and one of the best cookbooks of 1993 by Chicago Tribune. Her first, The Healthy Cuisine of India (Lowell House), was an alternate selection of Better Homes and Gardens Book Club and named by Food Arts magazine as one of the best cookbooks of 1992. Her two most recent cookbooks are The Bold Vegetarian (HarperCollins) and VegetarianBurgers (HarperCollins).

Bharti has written numerous articles and essays on food, travel, fitness, and lifestyle in magazines that include Food & Wine, Eating Well, Vegetarian Times, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Fitness Plus, and Northwest Travel. She is a freelance book reviewer for The Seattle Times and has profiled celebrities for the International Examiner.

Interview Part II

Location is vital to the heart of your work, how does your relationship with India impact your writing? 
India has had a strong impression on me and my writing and I’ve portrayed the country in many of my novels. But I’ve used other locations as well.

In my latest novel, TulipSeason, the early part of the story takes place in Seattle (then moves on to India). My protagonist Mitra Basu is a Seattle landscape designer and I make frequent use of the metaphor of garden and flowers. Some of Mitra’s ideas and realizations come from her when she’s in the garden, surrounded by nature. A number of readers have told me that they felt grounded by the description of those moments. So I guess the location is most effective in a novel when it can’t be separated from the character.     

You blend writing and cooking - and not just in your cookbooks! How has cooking and food been a part of your life? What drew you to writing about that aspect of life?
Food and cooking has been a major part of my life. I’ve always loved cooking and entertaining. You write what interests you and so it was not a surprise that I’d write about food. If not cookbooks, then essays. Even so, most of my novels aren’t about food. Only Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries, which is set in a bakery, employs food as a metaphor. It’s the “Zen of baking,” one reviewer said.     

What are you working on now?
I am working on a magazine article. It’s a nice break from longer, book-length projects. You can finish it in a short time and it brings you immediate feedback from the outside world.  

FInal Words of Wisdom: Love what you write, whatever interests you the most. It might seem like a cliché, but your readers will tell you that your passion can’t be missed on the pages. 

Scroll down to read Part I!

The Interview

You write in multiple genres, including fiction, cookbooks, and magazine articles and essays, how does writing in so many different styles impact your writing routine? Do you approach each project differently?
My daily writing routine isn’t affected a great deal by what genre I am going to tackle. It’s like taking off one hat and putting on another. I consider what I’d do next and then proceed. I might, for example, read a section of what I’d written the last time. The main consideration here is your level of interest. If you’re sufficiently excited by the project, you’ll make it work.  

Does any one of the genres you write in feel the most "at home" - do you plan to continue to write in a variety of genres? Or do you want to focus in one area for the near future?
I find magazine writing a little easier, which might have to do with the fact that I started my writing career working on short pieces. On the other hand, it thrills me when a longer length work, such as a novel, is going well. I can really get lost crafting the details of a scene, constructing plot events, or painting a description. I am in the flow. Time passes without my notice.

I hope to continue to write in multiple genres. That seems to come naturally to me. Also the publishing industry is undergoing changes. Some genres are likely to be de-emphasized. Others will rise. New ones will emerge. I like to keep my mind and options open.

You are a prolific writer, what keeps you motivated from project to project?
I find that external motivation doesn’t last long. It doesn’t sustain you over long periods of time. There has to be a spark within you to keep you moving forward, especially when it’s a book-length project and you’ve run into a wall. You have to keep pushing, despite what your inner critic is saying.

Check Back Jan 15 for Part II