May 2008


Poonam Sharma has written two novels Girl Most Likely To and All Eyes on Her. Now New York-based and also working as a real estate developer, she has an MBA from The Wharton School and has written two non-fiction books on entrepreneurship.

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  1. Tell us about your latest release, All Eyes on Her.

    All Eyes On Her is a novel about a celebrity divorce attorney named Monica, living in Los Angeles. A major theme running through the book is envy and competition (professional and personal rivalry, to be more specific) between women. This book was born out of some of my own experiences with competition between female coworkers, which made me begin to question how differently women compete with one another than men do, and why. The results were enlightening for me, and led me to conceive of this novel. I hope readers will find the rivalry entertaining and funny, but I also hope it will make them think a little bit about how they treat - and how they view - other women.

  2. How does your Indian background influence your characters?

    I was born and raised in the US, by parents who were conservative by American standards, but liberal by Indian standards. I think that this tension forced me to draw my own lines of what was and wasn't appropriate earlier on in life than I otherwise would have. I had to decide what was right for me, rather than taking my parents' OR society's word for it. As a result, I think that the heroines of my two novels are very analytical, and are clearly active participants in their personal evolution. Besides that, being Indian and writing an Indian main character means that the family characters in my novels have ethnic attributes. Interestingly, I have been told by readers of various ethnicities that they related completely to the story because certain themes span across all first-generation children of immigrants.

  3. Like Monica, are you a follower of celebrity gossip?

    Ironically, I have almost no interest in celebrity gossip. Perhaps an aversion to celebrity gossip is a side-effect of self-absorption. But then again, perhaps so is being a writer. I wrote that fascination into Monica's character because I thought she needed a guilty pleasure, and celebrity voyeurism is something to which many people can relate. The funny thing is that when I lived in Los Angeles, people seemed much more interested in what was on the menu in their hands than in which celebrity was seated at the next table on a Saturday night.

  4. Why did you introduce the theme of female rivalry?

    We have all noticed at some point or another how much more strategically or covertly women tend to go about competing with other women (as opposed to how men compete with other men - right out in the open). As I grew older I was disappointed to find that the disparity didn't decrease - in my experience it got worse. At one point I found myself the victim of the evil eye from a woman who I really felt had no reason to compete with me (nor I with her). It got me thinking, and discussing, and eventually researching the topic of jealousy. I explored envy, the evil eye, and even the anthropological studies on female rivalry among non-human primates. What I found was fascinating, and it helped me to understand myself, that woman, and women in general better. Out of all of this research and contemplation was born a novel called All Eyes on Her, where I aimed to take a lighthearted but hopefully still poignant look at the reasons why women compete the way that they do.

  5. After your business success, why did you decide to become a fiction writer?

    Writing for me has always felt like a delicious emotional self-indulgence. I began in non-fiction, but soon enough found myself aching to tell a story. I don't think I chose between business and creativity; I feel I have been blessed to be able to pursue both. I'm very creative and introspective, but I've also got a very strong professional and analytical side that relishes finding the project, building the case, and closing the deal. The way I see it now, business gives me left-brain stimulation, and writing gives me right-brain satisfaction, so I'm pretty well covered!

  6. What inspired your character Vina from your debut novel Girl Most Likely To?

    Many authors will tell you that their first novels are at least semi-autobiographical, and so, too, was mine. Vina was the distant-distant-distantly related counterpart of a character I originally wrote based on myself. I lived in Manhattan, worked in finance, and had some big ups and downs in my mid-20s. What began as the story of my own adventures and misadventures, morphed through several rewrites into something resembling a novel. My agent liked it enough to work with me, and by the time GMLT was completed, Vina was no longer me; but she was someone I felt I would have been friends with. Writing that novel was cathartic and enlightening for me. Many of the scenes were backdrops from that period in my life; the meditation retreat, the stuck elevator, the nightclubs and even the office.

  7. What were you the girl most likely to do?

    I like to believe I was 'the girl most likely never to settle'. It's not always easy to hold out for what you really want, but I have learned that life is a roller-coaster, and things aren't always fair. You don't get what you deserve; you get what you settle for. And that's why, at least so far, I refuse to. And I don't think anyone else should either.

  8. What has been your proudest moment?

    Giving the Commencement Speech at my Wharton Business School graduation at the University Of Pennsylvania. It was such a beautiful day, and I was blessed to have an entire stadium watching, including a sizeable cheering section made up entirely of my family watching my face on the jumbo-tron. But this was graduate school, and I was a few weeks from turning 30, which carried a weightier significance for me. I think that after all the wildness and tumult of my teens and 20s, finding myself up on that stage in a state of gratefulness meant more to me than those watching could understand. I have taken my own sort of circuitous route to the things I needed in my life, and I felt proud because I had come full circle, and was able (despite my nerves) to mark that moment before thousands of people. Speaking on behalf of my entire class was such an honor, and I was grateful.

  9. What are you working on now?

    I've been laying awake nights thinking about a novel centred around the search for reason in loss and in love. Weighty topics, yes, but they've started to consume me intellectually. I suspect my next novel will be of a different genre than chick lit, but I have yet to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as it were).

  10. Name your favourite authors.

    I don't have a favorite author, but I do have favorite books. Some of these were written by: (Vanishing Acts) Jodi Picoult, (The Palace Of Illusions) Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, (Bel Canto) Ann Patchett, (The Ground Beneath Her Feet) Salman Rushdie.

  11. What are three things you couldn't live without?

    Laughter, Affection, Aspiration

  12. What advice do you have for an aspiring author?

    Write what you know, not what you think people want to hear. But remember that writing what you know doesn't necessarily mean writing your story. Figure out what you want to say first, and then figure out what elements of your experience and bits of your wisdom can help get your manuscript there.

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