An Interview with Monica Bhide

  • November 3, 2014

A popular foodie writer sets her sights on fiction.

An Interview with Monica Bhide

Monica Bhide has long been a nonfiction food writer — penning everything from columns to cookbooks — and presence on NPR and in other media outlets. Recently, though, the DC-based author published her first collection of short stories, The Devil in Us. While it may seem like a sudden departure from her usual writing, it turns out that Bhide’s transition to fiction has been a long time coming.

Your new book, The Devil in Us, is your first collection of short stories. What made you gravitate toward fiction after so many years in nonfiction?

Actually, I wrote the first draft of this book 10 years ago when I quit my corporate job to become a writer. However, all the advice I received at the time suggested that I write nonfiction and focus on what I really love. I love to eat, so I spent the next 10 years writing about food! I have loved every minute of those years and plan to continue with my food writing, as well, but I felt I owed it to myself to finish the book I really wanted to write.  

Do you approach writing fiction the same as you do nonfiction, or are they entirely different animals?

I love writing nonfiction essays and I find myself very attracted to the short-story form in fiction, as well. Technically, at least for me, the process is the same — find a topic, research the topic, figure out the storyline, figure out the theme, develop the characters, find the conflict point, write the story. In terms of preference, I love writing fiction.

Are any characters in The Devil in Us based on real people in your life?

None of the characters are based on real people but, yes, all the characters, the situations, the events are inspired by real life.

Fiction writers often say they’ll start with a plot idea and go from there, or, conversely, that they’ll begin with characters and let the plot unfold organically. What comes first for you?

For me, it is an image, a sound, a fact that makes me wonder what story I could weave around it. When I was a child, I was always mortified when people around me would pick up young babies and throw them up in the air. To be fair, they never threw the babies high up or anything, but that act fascinated me. Deep in my heart, I wondered, “What if? What if they lose their balance, what if the baby falls?” And now that wonder has been converted into a story [in The Devil in Us], “Karma and the Art of Redemption.”

Stephen King has said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” How do you make time to read, and which writers most inspire you?

I love reading and I try to read every single day. It is not a question of having time — you have to make time! I usually read at night before bed and during my lunch hour. And, yes, I always feel like I am so far behind in my reading. My favorite authors are Yasmina Khadra, Diana Abu Jaber, Vaddey Ratner, Rohinton Mistry, Kathleen Flinn, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I have learned so much from reading their books and have been so inspired by them.  

Is there a novel somewhere in your future?

Oh, yes! I am working on my next book right now — a novel told in short stories. Release date is March/April 2015.

comments powered by Disqus