What We’re Reading with Arushi Avachat

January 3, 2024

Undergraduate Arushi Avachat’s debut novel, Arya Khanna’s Bollywood Moment (Wednesday Books), hits shelves on Tuesday, January 9. Learn more about Avachat’s writing process, her fave Bollywood film, and more in our interview below, and join the author at one of her launch party events this month around Los Angeles! For event information, visit Avachat’s website.

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Arya follows high school senior Arya Khanna whose life gets a Bollywood spin when her older sister gets engaged. In between shaadi planning and resulting family drama, Arya must navigate meddling aunties, changing friendships, and a burgeoning romance with her longtime rival on the Student Council. I had so much fun blending my favorite themes and tropes from Hindi cinema into a Young Adult novel!

Where did the idea for your book come from?

In ninth grade, I wrote a short story about two sisters and their relationship with their mom that I felt so attached to. I had so much more to say about those characters, and I had the thought to expand my story into a novel, with the larger goal of the novel reading like a Bollywood drama. That immediately meant a wedding backdrop, lots of family-centered conflict, and a cinematic structure. Beyond that, so much of writing this book has been wish fulfillment; I kept incorporating what I longed to see as a reader. There’s a Gilmore Girls inspired small town, a Pride and Prejudice inspired romance, and so much more. The final product feels so true to high school Arushi as a result.

Favorite Bollywood film or one you recommend?

I have so many! Arya would recommend any 90s / early 2000s Shah Rukh Khan romances, and I totally concur. A more recent favorite of mine, though, is definitely Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani. It’s true to the tradition of old-school Bollywood dramas, with family opposition to the pair, dream sequence dances, item numbers, and a wedding-centered conflict, but it also has really valuable social messaging too. My sister and I have probably rewatched this movie about a dozen times since it released.

What was your favorite and/or least favorite part in the publication process?

Just finishing the first draft was undoubtedly my favorite part of this process. I have been attempting to write novels since I was in sixth grade, and until Arya, I had started and abandoned countless projects. It was the proudest moment to finally complete a book, particularly one that felt so personal to me. Everything else has been such an added joy – unboxing my early copies and holding Arya for the first time was a close runner up for sure.

My least favorite part of the process is definitely self-promotion! I am not a natural on social media at all, though I’ve been doing my best to try and get the word out there about Arya as much as I can.

You wrote this book during freshman year at UCLA amid an uncertain time, COVID, and are now graduating this year. Do you have any advice to share about pursuing goals during a difficult time?

Be a friend to yourself and be gentle with yourself as you work towards your goals. It’s totally alright not to meet certain timeline related ambitions you may have earlier set for yourself; you’re never out of time or too late for your own life. One thing I kept telling myself when I felt anxious during my querying and submission processes was that my publishing goals were a matter of when, not if. I would always be a writer, regardless of any agent or editor rejections I racked up, and if not this book, then the next, or the next, would get me published. I think this mindset helped protect my love for my craft outside of any professional dreams I had!