Writer Wednesday: Meet Nillu Stelter

NilluSWr-wr-writer Wednesday! Say it three times fast – then stop, and keep reading, because today we have Nillu Stelter with us. I met Nillu via the flash circuit, where I first admired her prose – and she mine, evidently, as she invited me to collaborate with her on a multi-author short story. She’s been a great vocal support for me, and I’m so pleased to have her here today!

Thank you, Margaret, for hosting me here at your blog for Writer Wednesday. I am imagining us kicking off our shoes and sinking into the sofa with some tea and chocolate. We begin…

What inspires you to write? 

I write for the clarity it brings, that sense of immersion and wonder. I can take the time to weave intricate sentences or get the nuance just right without worrying that it is already someone else’s turn to speak. I can examine a thought carefully, tangibly, without it slipping through the fog of my brain like a wandering child at a funfair. In a world of constant change and fleeting lives, it comforts me to leave a record of my thoughts.

Which type of romance do you love most, and why?

flashpointv3 FINAL[2]I like time travel romance – I’ve been meaning to read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for so long – because they bring together some of my favourite story elements: magic and love. I also like how this genre doesn’t always have to have happy endings. I like my romance with tragic elements. Think Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (oh that immortal line: ’that night, they were not divided’), Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina or David Nicholls’ One Day. Period romance is also delicious. I can’t wait to gobble up A Matter of Time.   

[ML: Oh, you are so sweet! I actually am reading Outlander for the first time (!), and it is a rich, heady book. I don’t claim to be in Gabaldon’s league.]

Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book. 

One of my characters is called Soraya, taken from the Persian to mean ‘princess’. I found myself reading about Soraya, Princess of Iran, who married the last Shah of Iran, at eighteen years old, and found she could not conceive. She refused to share her husband with another woman (he could have had two wives), and they parted after seven years of marriage, both unwillingly, because he needed an heir. The Shah went on to remarry and have children. Princess Soraya moved to France after their parting. When she was found dead in her Paris apartment in 2001 at the age of sixty-nine, her younger brother commented “after her, I don’t have anyone to talk to.” He died a week later. 

Name two things people don’t know about you.

I have a butterfly tattoo on my hip. One wing expanded during each of my pregnancies, so it was lopsided and then slowly returned back to normal. In another life, I used to write briefings for the Mayor of London.

[ML: Did you take pictures of the lopsided butterfly?] 

An Old Man From India Version FiveWhat one piece of advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out?

Only one? But I have so many! If there was one, it’d be this:- I wish I had sought out writer friendships in the early days of wanting to write. It is hard sustaining this dream when you are sitting by yourself in a turret. There’s an osmosis that happens when we make writer friends. It sped up my learning straight away, inspired me, made me accountable, and it comforts me to be part of a community of people on the same journey. I find Twitter and critique groups especially helpful here.

[ML: I agree, 100%!]

Nillu’s debut novel, The Voyeur 

The Voyeur is a literary romance set in Mumbai, where romantic love is traditionally played out behind closed doors. It is a story about sexual politics and second chances. In it, a man cheats on his new wife with disastrous consequences for them both. His only way to redemption is to love and be loved again. He remeets the wife he betrayed, and the lover he risked it all for. Can he be forgiven and rebuild what he broke, or will he end up with nothing?  


Tonight had come to pass like every other night since he lost her. As darkness fell, he made his way through the city’s streets in the sticky air, drawn to a white-washed mansion in Juhu he hadn’t visited before. Glittering white lights framed the house as if from a fairy-tale and, as Akash approached, the pungent smell of pink rose bushes overwhelmed him. He crept across the courtyard, camouflaged by the grime and dust that had become his natural attire.  It was the best and worst decision he had ever made.  

As he peered through the glass, a maid with flour in her hair kneaded dough for roti. A baby slept in a basket, wrapped in a deep orange swaddling blanket despite the heat. Nearby a woman in an embroidered salwar kameez sat in a rocking chair. At the table, a young man with fine eyebrows read a newspaper, his shirt buttons popping across his belly, his dirty bare feet in contrast to the sterile extravagance of the floor tiles. From time to time, he looked up to speak to the woman by the baby. Then an older woman entered the kitchen and Akash’s stomach lurched as if he was riding a ramshackle fairground ride.  

She stood taller than the average Indian woman. She pushed her shoulders back with pride and her sari pulled tautly across her body in haughty dismissal of accepted styles for older women. Akash recognised her before she turned. The hair on the back of his neck rose in anticipation and his chest constricted as he caught her in profile. As she turned towards him, Akash’s head emptied for a moment before an explosion of unwarranted thoughts filled its cavity. Then, his mouth slackened, and he thought only I wish I could be someone else. Someone without my history. Someone cleaner, fitter, richer, deserving of her. His legs shook, and he flailed as his feet became tangled in the fairy-lights, falling against the pane of glass with a dull thud. For a moment he held his breath, considering himself lucky. Then all hell broke loose.  

“Ye kya hai? Maa, call the guards! Muna, stay inside with the baby!” shouted the man as he grabbed a flour-covered rolling pin from the kitchen worktop and dashed out of the room.  

Akash staggered up, held captive by the almond-shaped eyes of his lover for a long moment before stumbling back into the shadows on feet that did not want to do his bidding. She had not recognised him, he felt sure. Relief replaced his shame at his sad state. His legs felt submerged in tar as he ran, passing landscaped gardens and a swimming pool. He headed for the street, still reeling from the sight of her, and made it onto the gravel drive before the man even reached outside. His pursuer fought against his plumpness and the humidity, slow and heavy, cursing as the gravel slowed his bare-footed progress. Glee bubbled up inside Akash as if from a dormant volcano, uncontrollable and unwelcome. Joy at finding his lover threatened to send every other emotion into the stratosphere.    

He had to get away. Experience taught him the rich were the most vengeful if they caught him. Like gods in their palaces, with iron-wrought fences, sleeping guards and noisy dogs to keep them safe, they rose up in squawking outrage at their pillaged sanctity. Fat, manicured men, with great wealth and photo-ready families, belonging to the ranks of the privileged few in a city where the streets teemed with the god-forsaken. This one continued his cries of outrage as he chased after Akash, his breath heaving, driven on by his anger and hatred.  

The guards, woken by their master’s shouts and the old woman’s call, unleashed their snarling hounds. He screamed when a large dog, its fur ravaged, sank decaying teeth into his bare leg. Fear filled Akash’s belly at last, like a serpent unfurling and stretching deep within him. The men surrounded him, their eyes filled with glee and self-righteous anger. Vice-like they gripped his forearms, paying no heed to the dogs still snapping at his legs. An outbuilding with dimmed lights nestled in bushes a few hundred yards away. There they made their way as Akash’s leg bled and bruises sprang up beneath his skin as if he were an ageing piece of fruit. 

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About Nillu

old-books-11281939505MsrnNillu is a writer of literary fiction, poetry and essays. She is happiest barefoot with a book in hand. They are the first thing she unpacks when she is somewhere new. She lives in London with her husband, two children, one angelic and one demonic cat, though she secretly yearns for a dog. She has a BA in English and German Literature and an MA in European Politics. After graduating she worked in national and regional politics, but eventually reverted to her first love. If you fly into Gatwick and look hard enough, you will see her furiously scribbling in her garden office, where she is working on her debut novel. 

Want to connect further with Nillu? Find her here:

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Thank you so much, Nillu! I truly enjoyed reading this and learning more about you. And, oh, how I wish I were close enough to see you in your garden! 😉

The Liebster Award, Take 2: In Which I Opt for Cumberbatch, Armitage, Firth, AND Freeman

The Liebster Award IconOoh! Marvelous author and friend Tamara Shoemaker nominated me for the Liebster Award (which I also got in 2013)! Thanks so much, Tamara!

The Liebster Award is less an actual award and more a chance to meet/get to know other bloggers better (a prize in and of itself, right?). When nominated, bloggers provide 11 random facts about themselves, answer 11 questions posed by their nominator, and then think up 11 new questions to ask the three lucky bloggers to whom they choose to pass on the Liebster Award.

So…here we go!

11 Random Facts About Me (Different from the LAST 11 Facts. Man, this is hard.)

1. I have the worst memory ever. Like, really. Locations of items and numbers stick in my head, so people are always asking me where their shoes are or what so-and-so’s phone number is. But as to my own childhood? It’s mostly a blur.

2. One time, when I was selling Girl Scouts cookies, as I was waiting for a potential customer to answer the door, for some crazy reason I stuck my tongue on their railing. In Iowa. In February. Needless to say, it froze there. I remember panicking, thinking the homeowners were going to open their door at any second and see this little girl with her mouth adhered to their personal property. So I did what any (ir)rational child would do: I ripped my tongue off of that sucker. Yes, it bled.

3. Any memories of my childhood, such as the Girl Scout one above, tend to revolve around getting hurt, whether emotionally or physically.

4. I have never had a car accident for which I was at fault, EXCEPT when backing up. I’ve backed over my son’s stroller, my son’s bike, my son’s basketball, my daughter’s chalk bucket… I backed THROUGH the garage door once. Unfortunately, my streak of never backing into anyone else’s car ended this fall. At least it was a parked one. Oops.

5. I have at least a thousand books in my TBR pile here at home. I kid you not. (Don’t even ask how many I’ve acquired via Kindle, either.)

6. My husband and his grad school roommate were the creators of the Oracle of Bacon, the famous online version of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. The site ended up being featured in a number of magazines in the mid 90s, and my husband even got to fly out to California to meet Kevin Bacon.

7. OK, that last one wasn’t really about ME, was it? Seriously, how much do you people need to know? Um, my favorite kind of cake is carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Not that I’m eating any lately, since I’ve given up sugar and all. But I am salivating now at the thought of it.

8. When I was a kid, my first career goal was to be a banker, because I thought bankers had all the money they wanted.

The 1980s Michael Jackson poster I had on my wall.

9. I was a huge Michael Jackson fan in the early 80s. Thriller was the first album (yes, I said album) that I ever owned. I can remember dancing around in our living room to Billie Jean PYT. I even had a Michael Jackson poster that I used to kiss goodnight. OMG, I can’t believe I just admitted that! But by 1986, the love affair was over. I’d moved on to George Michael.

10. I grew up in Iowa. Contrary to my husband’s taunts, however, I never lived on a farm, nor did I reside in a cornfield. I did detassle corn for pay. For half a day. Never again.

11. I adore cats and have since I was a baby (according to my mom). We currently have two felines and I’d have a few more if I could get away with it. But more cats would equal one less husband, I’ve been warned. So I satisfy myself with daily purrs from Presley and Scilla (whose picture you can find on my Contact Me page).

11 Answers to Questions from the Nominator (Ms. Tamara):

1. What would you say that other people say is your best talent?

Bwah ha ha – I just asked my son what my best talent was, and he said, “TALKING.” My husband and daughter would likely concur. My mom, too. was hoping for something like, “Your sparkling wit,” or, “Your amazing generosity.” But the crowd has spoken. And what they say is, I talk a lot. A lot.

2. What is your favorite genre to read and why?

Romance, hands down. Has been since I was a kid. I just love the notion that no matter what crazy plot twists life may hold, there’s one person with whom you’re destined to end up, and that nothing will tear you apart. That idea was very soothing to a child of divorce–and still holds great appeal to me today, too!

3. If you could take the place of any hero/heroine in any book/movie, what would it be, and why?

Wow! What an awesome question! I suppose I’d pick Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet, because she’s smart, witty, and feisty, AND ends up with Darcy.

Colin Morgan, aka Merlin
Colin Morgan

4. Who’s your favorite? Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Armitage, Colin Firth, Martin Freeman, Gerard Butler? Why? And if you hate all of them, explain yourself (because there is no excuse). 😉

Why should a lady have to choose? I’ll take them all (don’t tell my husband)! Except Gerard Butler, actually. I’m sure he’s a nice fellow, but he just doesn’t do it for me. OK, really what I meant is, I’ll take them all to dinner. What a rip-roaring good time THAT would be. For me, at least. I do have to ask, though–where’s Colin MORGAN on that list, Tamara?

5. Who’s your favorite? Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emma Thompson? Why? And same as above, if you hate all of them, explain yourself. 🙂

Hrm. An interesting array of actresses, all of whom I like for varying reasons. I suppose I’ll go with Emma Thompson. Love the whole British thing, plus she was marvelous in Sense and Sensibility. 

6. Pretend you’re making up a new language. What would be the phrase for: “You steal my heart.” Tell me your process.

Furari cor meum. Oh wait, that’s a real language. Du stehlst mein Herz. Rats. Another real language again. My process is, why do we need another new language? I have a hard enough time with the one(s) I know.

Fine, here: “Ye steal me heart, matey.” Because we all know there’s NO better language than Pirate.

7. Explain why The Princess Bride is one of the greatest movies of all time.

There is no explanation. There is just fact. The Princess Bride is THE greatest movie of all time. Epic romance, witty repartee, impossibly funny giants, Spaniards, and Sicilians (oh my!), and a man as devastatingly handsome as Cary Elwes? The chances of there ever being anything better? Inconceivable! (Also, I met Wallace Shawn in UVa’s Alderman Library once. True story.)

8. What is your go-to activity when you’re bored/unhappy/sad? Why?

complexcarbsEating. Because I excel at the self-delusion that eating feelings buries them. You’d think after 42 years of trying and failing at that, I’d opt for some other coping mechanism. Nope. Excuse me while I go snarf some macaroni and cheese now.

9. Tolkein or Lewis? Why?

Um. Um. I fail at this question. Because they are two of the giants, and I’ve read so little by either. (Ducks for cover.) I have seen a number of the movies based on their works, but I hardly think that counts. So, well, again, both. Why not?

10. Favorite mythical creature? Why?

I’m rather partial to Santa Claus, because he seems a right jolly old elf. Generous, too. I don’t really have a better answer–I like a great many mythological creatures, although I would say each has its pros and cons. Could I go with Doctor Who? Because at least then I’d get to time-travel.

11. What was your favorite childhood story? What was so fascinating about it?

Wait, didn’t we already discuss the fact that my memory stinks? And now you’re expecting me to recall stories from years ago in enough detail to be able to tell you why I loved them? Like that’s going to happen. I do remember being absolutely enthralled with Charlotte’s Web and The Secret Garden. When I reread Charlotte’s Web recently, I was surprised again at how very sad that story is. I mean *spoiler alert*, the spider dies. DIES. And yet I loved that book so much that I asked everyone for a copy of it for my 9th birthday. I ended up owning three. The Secret Garden is a little fuzzier, plot-wise, since I haven’t read it in thirty years. But I loved it so much that I bought an annotated version of it just a year or so ago, which is moving to the top of that 1,000+ book TBR pile now.

11 (Occasional Two-Part) Questions for the Next Unsuspecting Victims:

1. If you could visit any time period in history, which would you choose, and why?
2. Do you believe in ghosts and/or other paranormal things/events? Why or why not?
3. What was the best book you read in the last year? Why was it so great?
4. What genre is your LEAST favorite to read? Why?
5. If your life story were to be made into a movie, who would you want to play you, and why?
6. Which celebrity would you be most interested in having dinner with? Why?
7. You’re stranded on a desert island and only have access to five books. Which would you take
8. Do you believe in the concept of a soul mate? Elaborate.
9. What is your favorite form/genre of fiction to write, and why?
10. Cats or dogs? (If you don’t like either, why not? What’s wrong with you!?)
11. And finally, the most important question you will answer today: What’s your favorite kind of pizza?

The Next Unsuspecting Victims:
1. Annika Keswick
2. Allison Garcia
3. Nillu Nasser Stelter