Milan Vohra on the journey undertaken to be the first ever Indian author writing for Mills & Boon.

Ask Milan Vohra what does it take to be a Mills & Boon writer and she replies, “The attitude to have fun and not take life seriously.” Milan, we have heard is a die-hard romantic as well and perhaps this aspect of her nature has also contributed to her being the first ever Indian Harlequin Mills & Boon author. And now Milan's first book “The Love Asana” with the 100 year-old publisher, which is a world leader in romance fiction, has hit the marquee.

Making her romantic side quite evident, in the author's note, Milan writes, “And Vivan? Well Vivan is the kind of man we've all found ourselves irresistibly attracted to, infuriatingly confounded by, and who we want to be able to understand…..I was lucky to find my Vivan years ago. If you haven't already, believe that you will too.” Milan, now, a mother of two, met her husband when she was 17 and got married at the age of 24.

Milan, a 45 year-old advertising executive from Bangalore had reached a stage where she was looking for opportunities to do something “purely for myself”, found out about a short story writing contest ‘Passions — Aspiring Author Auditions' announced by Harlequin Mills & Boon to search for writing talent from India. Actually, it was a friend who had forwarded an e-mail to Milan regarding the same and then as it turned out, she spent her wedding anniversary night writing “The Love Asana” at a frenetic pace trying to meet the deadline.

Being an advertising professional, writing in any case was an integral part of Milan's life and thus didn't require any struggle. And then it was Milan's yoga practice, which gave her the plot of a young yoga instructor who falls in love with a dynamic handsome man who walks into her class one day. A practitioner of Sivananda Yoga, she quips that it is only in this book that a unique asana like Love Asana exists and nowhere else and even here the readers won't find it until they reach the end.

Set in New Delhi, Milan wanted her story to be uniquely Indian and yet international. And yoga, a powerful element of Indian culture and heritage render the story exotica just like way Mills and Boons readers want it to be. The aspect of romance, the way conflict exists between the two main characters and how romance develops between the two, the author feels is in tandem with the set pattern of Mills and Boon stories.

Her story found favour with the jury and that's how she has joined the “talent pool of 1300 authors” as Manish Singh, Country Manager, Harlequin Mills & Boon India points out. Referring to the popularity of romance as a genre and the publisher, Singh says, “We received more than 500 entries out of which 40 per cent came from South India. Though 95 per cent of them were women but interestingly, the second-runners up was a man Mr. Ramamurthy Nagarajan.

Inspired by the contest's success, we decided to have its second season. Romance is very strongly embedded in the Indian psyche. The “Kamasutra” was written here and Taj Mahal, a significant symbol of love is in India.”

Mills & Boon, irrespective of its popularity and strong market worldwide, is still considered to be lightweight but Milan is not bothered. She cites the example of Nora Roberts, who she says has been associated with Mills & Boon and has also churned out best-sellers. “What you write has to be worth reading,” she concludes.

(Those interested will need to submit their stories of 1500-2000 words at www.millsandboonindia.com between 15th and 20th December)

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