Milan Vohra’s first book ‘The Love Asana’ (Harlequin, 2010) made her the first Indian Mills & Boon author. Her second ‘Tick-tock We’re 30’ (Westland, 2013) was acquired by a major production house and is slated for a screen adaptation. Other books include ‘Our Song’ (HarperCollins, 2019), ‘Head over heels’ and ‘Mates, Dates & Double Takes’, a collection of contemporary short stories about first love.
In conversation with Medianews4u.com, Vohra spoke about how she landed as India’s first Mills & Boons author.
“I have worked as Senior Creative Director and Creative Head at global ad agencies like J. Walter Thompson, Saatchi & Saatchi and have experience across FMCG, automotive, tech, services and over 14 years’ experience in pharma communication. I always loved to write and have been writing since I was a kid. My journey as a Mills & Boons author started as a result of a disastrous anniversary dinner in 2009. The usual complaints about food and other things. I have got a forward on a Harlequin short story competition and to make up for that bad anniversary night, I started writing. I had the story thread in my head for a long time, which came as a result of learning yoga. I used to wonder what if a yoga instructor and student fell in love. I managed to send the story before the deadline. I had forgotten all about it and moved on with life, when suddenly I started receiving calls from the organisers saying that I was shortlisted to the top ten among the thousands of entries received. I travelled to Mumbai for the event and life changed in the blink of an eye, when I was announced as the winner. My first book ‘The Love Asana’ which made me India’s first Mills & Boon author was born that way,” she explains.
It was befitting for a person whose relationship with books grew along with her and helped her gain clarity about career and life. An alumnus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi in Public Relations and Advertising, Vohra is an advertising professional with over three decades of experience in the creative field. She is currently Head of Creative, Global Marketing (consultant) with Viatris Pharmaceuticals, working on advertising for brands like Viagra.
Apart from the regular job as creative head, Vohra juggles writing fiction both in long and short format, besides ad campaigns, plays and columns for print media.
She has written five novels and contributed to numerous anthologies.
‘The Love Asana’ went on to become a bestseller in India and abroad.
“The Love Asana became the largest selling book ever sold in India by Harlequin and within two months of launch it had sold more than a novel by Penny Jordan, who was the publisher’s most popular author at that time,” recalls Vohra.
Nuance Beyond Romance
Vohra’s books have an overarching theme of romance.
“What I like to do is within the theme of romance, I like to talk about other topics. For example, in my novel ‘Tick-tock We’re 30’, there is a romance that happens and another situation where there is a couple who had got married, broke up, and then find a resolution. But the novel also deals with what happens in old friendships. The novel is about the reunion of old friends. We always tend to glorify old friendships, but there are individuals who carry baggage and hurt from those friendships. The novel further deals with how they are going to re-work and recoup the bonds,” she says.
Vohra’s short stories have found homes in anthologies by Penguin, Harper Collins, Atta Galatta and Unisun India, among others. Milan has written op-ed pieces and short fiction for The Huffington Post, Vogue, The Hindu, Man’s world, Cosmopolitan and eShe Magazine, to name a few.
“The key difference between writing advertising and writing fiction is that even if you write a memorable campaign, at the end of the day the creator might not receive the fame and acceptance he/she deserves because the ad world is small. When you write a book or a short story or a film, there are high chances that you will be appreciated and accepted for that, because it’s your craft and you have your signature to it,” says Vohra.
According to the author, the beautiful part is people letting her know how her writing or characters have touched their lives.
“When people read the book, there might be a character or a plot that they could relate to, or would have touched them personally, which they can’t talk about in an open forum or at a lit fest. I have had several amazing experiences where people have thanked me for writing and how my writing has influenced them,” she adds.
She is currently working on a non-fiction project for which research has been ongoing for the last seven to eight years.
A winner of multiple advertising awards in India and abroad, Vohra is also a TEDx speaker. Some of her best known advertising campaigns include the iconic Woodwards Gripe water commercial, ‘Transform yourself’ campaign for Enamor, the India launch of Pizza Hut, AOL India launch, EpiPen, Ogivri (for the U.S), the Endwarts (Mr Wart vs the Warthunters) films for Europe.
Rewriting Women’s Agency
She has trained as a playwright with Mahesh Dattani, and as a screenplay writer with Anurag Kashyap. She has been a speaker at most of India’s literature festivals and is a strong advocate for women’s empowerment.
“One of the biggest changes happened during the pandemic. While stuck at home, I took back the rights of the Mills & Boons and rewrote and republished it as Head over Heels. The objective behind that was I wanted to refine it from the eyes of a woman who has much more agency than when I wrote it,” she says.
Asked on one piece of advice she would like to give to the women out there, Vohra says, “Normally people say that as a woman you should our loved ones’ needs first. My advice would be to let us learn to be selfish for ourselves. Also, think and do what matters to you before trying to do anything this world wants you to do. Make sure you are also ticking off your dreams, never put them on hold,” she concludes.
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