Aastha Atray

She wasn’t ex­pect­ing to win, but when Aastha en­tered the Mills & Boon ro­mance novel con­test, that’s ex­actly what hap­pened.

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“I be­lieve a good author is one who can keep you glued from the first page to the last,” em­pha­sises Aastha Atray. She should know—she’s the win­ner of Pas­sions-ii, the an­nual writ­ing con­test by ro­mance-novel gi­ant, Har­lequin Mills & Boon. Last month, Aastha’s de­but novel, His Mon­soon Bride hit news­stands, mak­ing it the first M&B ever to have In­dian mod­els on the cover. “Be­ing picked as the win­ner from 700 en­tries was great,” says this 32year-old jour­nal­ist. “I en­tered the con­test at a time when I’d started doubt­ing my own ca­pa­bil­i­ties, so this novel is me writ­ing with­out any in­hi­bi­tions. I had fun writ­ing it, and the ex­pe­ri­ence opened my eyes to a whole new genre. It was like tak­ing a crash-course in writ­ing be­cause I fin­ished the en­tire story over eight Satur­days.” Writ­ing, for Aastha, was hardly an ac­ci­dent. “I al­ways knew I wanted to work with words—i was writ­ing prose and short sto­ries from when I was 12. As a child, I would only re­ceive books as gifts. That’s prob­a­bly why English was the only sub­ject I was good at.” His Mon­soon Bride is al­ready gath­er­ing fans and sell­ing out at book­stores, and this likely has a lot to do with the writer’s in­sis­tence that good au­thors don’t cater only to a niche au­di­ence, but strike a chord with many. Her own novel is a love story set in Mum­bai, star­ring Am­rita, a now-bank­rupt rich heiress who isn’t so tough to re­late to. “She’s a reg­u­lar girl,” says Aastha. “She’s not a Size 0 and is con­scious of that. She’s pretty but not in a movi­es­tar way, she works for a liv­ing, and chooses her own path—much like many of us!” “This jour­ney has been re­ally en­rich­ing and it’s my ex­pe­ri­ences that have made me a good writer,” she con­tin­ues. “What has helped me most through life is all the neg­a­tive crit­i­cism I re­ceived. When peo­ple doubt your ca­pa­bil­i­ties, it gives you the fuel to go fur­ther and prove your real worth.”

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