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Author Interview and Give Away: Anjali Banerjee (Haunted Jasmine)

I read this book and reviewed it when Anjali sent me a review copy. And now, on the eve of the book coming out officially, I've got an interview with Anjali and you have a chance to win the book (just fill in the form below). Here's my interview with Anjali Banerjee:

I am not usually someone who likes magical realism, but I really enjoyed Haunting Jasmine! What made you include the spirits of authors past?

One night I awoke to find the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe sitting at the foot of my bed. He said, Write about me… Quoth the raven.

Um, maybe not. But seriously, I have no idea what prompted me to include literary ghosts. My ideas seem to pop up out of nowhere. But a writer is always thinking, “What if…?” and “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” Sometimes the ideas take hold, and sometimes they float away. At some point I must have thought, “What if the spirits of dead authors could actually haunt a bookstore and try to get people to read their novels?” The idea had staying power…

In Haunting Jasmine, the spirits come to life as helpers, gently urging my main character, Jasmine, to remake her life after a nasty divorce from her philandering ex-husband. She’s a harried businesswoman from Los Angeles, temporarily transplanted to her aunt’s mysterious bookstore on a remote, Pacific Northwest island. Jasmine has a lot to learn about slowing down and enjoying her life – and perhaps even falling in love again.

I’ve always enjoyed ghost stories, loves stories, bookstores, and creaky old Victorian houses – Haunting Jasmine is a combo of all these things, I hope!

Did you bring to life some of your favorite authors? What authors do you enjoy reading most?

I chose iconic authors whom most readers would recognize – Beatrix Potter, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe. I would love to meet all three, but I would also love to meet more obscure dead authors. Maybe I’ll include a few of them in future novels set in Jasmine’s haunted bookstore. Each book could feature different dead authors helping bookstore patrons on their journeys. I also love many living authors – way too many to name.

What was your inspiration for this book?

Trying to pinpoint inspiration is like trying to catch a star or remember a fading dream. The creative process is enigmatic, elusive. Inspiration might appear as a glimmer from nowhere, but then as I think about the story, developing the idea, the light spreads like sunrise, growing and evolving, and then I forget what initially started the process. Perhaps inspiration came from the empty, historic Walker-Ames mansion in Port Gamble, Washington – the model for the layout of the haunted bookstore. Perhaps inspiration also came from The Dauntless Bookstore in Port Gamble, which is also in an historic Victorian house. The books I’ve read, and the many quaint towns and beautiful islands in our state, inspired me as well.

And we’ve all fallen in and out of love. I’m sure many people can relate to the anger and grief that come with being jilted by an unfaithful lover. Sometimes emotion-- sadness or longing -- inspires me to write a story. I want to see the character grow and change, find joy again, transcend darkness.

Do you have a favorite scene or character from this book?

Gosh, is that like asking a mother to choose her favorite child? Just kidding. I love Auntie Ruma for her bright eyes, determination, and mismatched clothing. I love Toni for his exuberance and nurturing qualities. I love the ghosts. I love the hero, Dr. Connor Hunt. I find him irresistibly sexy. And of course Jasmine strikes me as a strong heroine, even if she resists her true nature at first. I guess I don’t have a favorite.

What do you hope readers get most from reading Haunting Jasmine?

I hope readers will sit back, put their feet up, and just enjoy the book. But a writer can never predict what anyone will get out of a story. People are different, and each of us filters and interprets the world differently. All I can do is try to tell a good story. I hope readers will relate to Jasmine’s journey to reinvent herself. Who hasn’t had to remake herself at some point in her life?

I hear that your next book may not star an Indian woman, what are your plans for her?

My next book is about a young, grieving widow, the owner of a vintage clothing store in a picturesque town in Washington State, who comes out of her isolation with help from an enchanted cat. The woman’s ethnic background doesn’t seem important to the story, so at this point, she’s not Indian.

Many of your books are set in the Washington state area (which I love). Do you have plans to set a book elsewhere?

My first young adult novel, MAYA RUNNING, was set in Canada, where I spent much of my childhood. IMAGINARY MEN is set in San Francisco. SEAGLASS SUMMER, LOOKING FOR BAPU, INVISIBLE LIVES, and HAUNTING JASMINE are set here in Washington State, where I’ve lived for almost 14 years. Who wouldn’t set a story here? Washington is such a beautiful place – quaint historic towns, forests, majestic mountains, islands, lakes, rivers and ocean.

Where do you do your writing? Is there anything you need to have with you while you write?

My husband and I live with five cats, so at least one cat is always lounging somewhere nearby when I’m writing. Sometimes I write on my laptop in bed, but usually I’m typing away on my desktop in my home office. The room is small, only about 100 square feet, but I don’t need a lot of space. Somehow I managed to fit a cat condo and three additional cat beds in the office – one on a high shelf, one on the wide wooden windowsill, and one on the table next to my desk.

I had the walls repainted in a pale yellow/gold, the old carpet replaced with an all-natural Marmoleum® floor (the dark reddish color is called “Indian summer,” I think) and I had a solar tube installed in the ceiling to bring in more light. My window opens to a view of the forested front yard.

I work at an oak desk, and I have an ergonomic chair, bookshelves, plants, and my Bose Wave radio/CD player. I keep a yoga mat nearby, as well as family photos, recycled paper, pens and so on – the usual office supplies.

On my desk, I keep small gifts including a ceramic starfish made by my nephew, a glazed tile painted with his handprint, a little brass elephant, a small statue of a Canadian beaver, a tiny stuffed Canadian moose, a tiny ceramic vase, and a small carved statue of the Hindu elephant-headed god, Ganesh. I also have a flashlight labeled “Life + Gear” in case the power goes out in a storm.

I know you have a blog; how has technology affected the way you write or publish your books?

Five of my books are available as e-books. Technology hasn’t really affected the way I write my novels, but it does affect the editorial process and the way I promote my books. My editor at Berkley/Penguin and I work entirely via e-mail. Even the copyediting process is done electronically. The Internet is more important than ever for reaching readers as well – through websites, e-newsletters, blogs, Facebook and so on. I’m happy to meet with book groups via Skype!

How does it feel when you see your books in bookstores or hear from your readers?

It’s always wonderful to see my books in stores. Kind words from readers mean the world to me. I write for readers!

Are you doing a virtual or physical tour for this book?

I’ve scheduled a few book signings and events, and I’m heading “out” on a blog tour. My schedule is posted here:

My publisher has also posted a Reading Group Guide for HAUNTING JASMINE here:


Thank you so much Anjali! Good luck with the publishing of this book and the writing of the next one.

If you would like to win a copy of Haunting Jasmine, fill in the form below. The book will be sent by the publisher.


Amanda said...

What a great giveaway! I've only read one of her books before but loved it, and this one sounds really fascinating!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Amanda--Yay! Glad you're entering, this was definitely a fun book

Anjali Banerjee said...

Thank you, Amanda. Let me know what you think!

Athira said...

Love this interview! Really enjoyed your questions, and learning more about Anjali! I look forward to reading this book.

kavyen said...

Thanks for hosting the interview.

I loved this book. My review is at

Helen's Book Blog said...

Anjali--You've got fans all over the place, that's awesome!

Aths--Thank you. I think you'll really like this one

Kavyen--I am going to check out your review right now.

Anjali Banerjee said...

Thank you, Helen, for the great interview questions and for the chance to appear on your blog.

Kavyen, I loved your review and shared it on Facebook and with my friends, publicist, agent, and editor. I appreciate your good words and I'm glad you enjoyed the book!