Abu Dhabi: She didn’t start off as a writer, but Monisha Gumber has been successfully tackling contemporary teen issues with flair since her foray into the world of authorship.
With her third teen novel – released last week – reaching the top of its category on Amazon India, the 43-year-old Indian expat currently based in the capital is happy that her work has been generally well-accepted, even as she explores sensitive themes like eating disorders and suicide.
“I had a corporate job for years, and had to quit it a few years ago due to personal reasons. I felt a bit directionless then, until my husband encouraged me to try writing a book,” Gumber told Gulf News.
Her fourth and most recent book – Dolly Won’t Play – is definitely the most hard-hitting. But even at the start of her journey as a writer, Gumber wrote with purpose.
Living in Bahrain at the time, the mother-of-two came across illustrated works of fiction. And she decided to create one of her own.
“I wanted to write about things I could relate to. I have always been on the heavy side myself, and even though I am a very confident person now, I have been through my fair share of insecurity. My daughter was also growing up at the time, so I decided to make my work relevant for youth like her,” Gumber said.
Thus was born her first teen novel, titled ‘Sick of Being Healthy’. Without giving too much away, the book focused on a ‘chubby’ teenager who tries to capture the interest of her neighbourhood crush, adopting negative habits in the process.
“It was about the girl – Tara’s journey to becoming confident in her own skin. The book came out in 2016, and in a matter of months, I had developed quite a following of young girls. They insisted on a sequel, and even though I hadn’t envisioned it, I wrote another book,” Gumber said.
‘Dying to Live’ came out in 2017, and was equally loved. This time, the focus was on Tara’s friend, an overachiever who is unable to deal with the pressures of her life and considers committing suicide.
The final installment in this series is the book that was released last week. Unlike the first two novels, which have a crisp narrative style of prose, this third teen novel is written in free style verse.
Gumber explained how this change was a direct result of the circumstances under which she penned the story.
“My father had just passed away and I was going through a period of grief. It was then that I read a book of free verse by [Indian visual poet] Rupi Kaur. So I started this book, and it was done in six months. Every other book took me at least a year,” she said.
This time, the protagonist is battling a learning disorder and sexual abuse.
“It is a different novel, certainly darker, and I am so happy people like it, even though we were not able to promote it and even after it has only been released as an e-book so far,” she said.
Of course, variety has become a hallmark of Gumber’s body of work.
Her third book, written before ‘Dolly Won’t Play’, was a departure from the teen genre, and had an immigrant Pakistani woman as its main protagonist. Titled “Bahir’, it was also aimed towards adult readers.
“One similarity between my works is that they tend to be female-centric. I like to try to get into the skin of the character, and I always try to give them a completely authentic voice. That’s probably why my books have female leads,” Gumber said.
Her two children - a daughter aged 17 and a son aged 11 years – have also supported their mother’s endeavours.
“My son is a homely boy and he has been excited about my role as a writer, participating wholeheartedly in the promotions. And my daughter, who isn’t too much of a reader herself, has also shared my book with her friends,” Gumber said.
Despite enjoying success as an author, and earning creative satisfaction, the Abu Dhabi resident however says she might go back to the corporate world in the near future.
“I’ve definitely grown as an author during this journey. And coming into contact with people looking for advice and help has helped me become more patient. I feel that this phase has mellowed me down. But it may be time to get back to a regular job,” Gumber said.
“At the same time, I do have plans to eventually develop a comic series for teen readers, an Indian version of Archie Comics,” she added.