After a successful career as a business coach, Prerana Phadnis set her sights on a new goal, and in April 2022, had her first book published at the age of 68. Drawing on her own life experience, A Different Life: Piece by Piece is a refreshing approach to self-help that encourages readers to reflect on what really matters to them and how to break out of unhelpful habits.

We spoke to Prerana about her experience of becoming an author, the ideas and inspiration behind her book, and how she’s taking her work out into the world.

As stated within her book, Prerana says, “Live a life that matters. Manifest more positivity into your life.”

Migrating from India to become a successful business consultant

Mother-of-two Prerana grew up and studied architecture in India, before migrating to the UK in 1982 with her husband. She has since enjoyed a successful career as a business consultant.

She says, “Moving to the UK was quite a culture shock and I learnt very soon that I’d need more qualifications and business experience to build the career I wanted. I decided to complete a Master’s degree in Industrial Design and my employer later sponsored me for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree too, which I completed while holding down a job and caring for my family.

“I worked as a design councillor for the largest business advisory in Europe, which involved teaching and mentoring small businesses to think creatively, take risks, and try new things. Creative thinking is my thing and I really enjoyed helping people break out of their self-limiting mindsets and showing them that anyone can be creative.

“Many were also family businesses so I learnt a lot about people, relationships, and dynamics too.”

Then, at the age of 50, mother-of-two Prerana decided to branch out on her own and set up her own coaching business.

She says, “My children were at university at the time, so I thought, if I didn’t go for it now the opportunity would be missed. Setting up my own business was the best thing I did because it gave me freedom over projects and to choose which direction I wanted to take.”

Becoming an author at 68 - “I want to show people that whatever your age or stage of life - if you’re passionate about something, you can get it done”

Becoming an author at 68

Having enjoyed a successful career as a business consultant, Prerana felt it was time to take all of her life experience forward and try something new.

She explained that she first had the idea of creating a self-help book in 2018, age 65. At the same time, she also found a passion for mosaic making and began taking short courses at The London School of Mosaic.

She says, “I had dabbled in other forms of art such as still life drawing and photography. But the texture, the flow of fragments of stone, marble, ceramics, and glass coming together as a whole fascinated me. I decided to take up short courses in mosaic making to learn the techniques from the professionals and there was no turning back.”

In April 2022, now grandmother-of-two Prerana celebrated becoming a first-time author with the publication of her book, A Different Life: Piece by Piece, which her mosaic artwork served the illustrations for.

She says, “Throughout my career, I’d always been the one advising others and I was just itching to design something myself. I wanted to combine my love for art with my life experience and write a book that’d help people change their mindset for the better.

“I gave up my work as a business consultant to become an author and follow my love of art. I want to show people that whatever your age or stage of life – if you’re passionate about something, you can get it done.”

Taking around three years to complete, Prerana explained that writing and designing her book wasn’t always straightforward.

She says, “The book has definitely gone through many changes and I soon found that it’s really quite difficult to write things about yourself and your personal life. At the start, I definitely wasn’t writing the full story, but thanks to my editor who encouraged me not to be afraid of making it more explicit, I gradually became more confident writing about my own experience.”

The result was a book full of honest memoirs written to encourage positive changes – accompanied by beautiful mosaic artwork, which also tells its own story.

Prerana says, “I liken the texture in mosaics to the ups and downs of life and the paths that we choose. One technique that I use, ‘Pique Assiette’, literally means art from broken china or ceramics. Each piece used brings with it its own special meaning and history to the finished piece, which can represent our lives.

“A Different Life: Piece by Piece is an uplifting and easy read with lots of nice images, so you can dip in and out as you please and look at the contents table to see what appeals to you in that moment.”

“In later life especially, you have so much life experience to share, so it’s really an ideal time to go after your dreams”

In later life, you have so much life experience to share

A Different Life: Piece by Piece focuses on helping readers believe in themselves and find the confidence to do things that matter to them – which Prerana believes is something that a lot of people struggle with.

She says, “I think women especially don’t put themselves first and an important way to change this is to provide yourself with specific ‘me time’. If you know you really want to do something, you have to put your heart and soul into it, and be firm in your choice.

“The first thing I always hear is people telling me they’re not creative. But I want to challenge this idealised concept of what a ‘creative person’ is and help people to break out from the labels that society gives them, or the ones they give themselves, and explore beyond these boundaries to experience the positive change that doing this can bring.”

One of the book’s chapters focuses on our tendency to over-analyse risks, which Prerana explains often gets in the way of us actually taking action.

She says, “We’re all prone to making excuses. You might say things like ‘I need more feedback first’, ‘I’ve left it too late’, or ‘this didn’t work last time so it won’t work again’. You can analyse a situation of course, but after that comes the stage where you need to take action, because this is how things actually happen.

“It’s natural for fear or a lack of confidence to hold you back, but once you’ve got your ideas – just believe in yourself and go for it. Take the risk and see what happens – otherwise you’ll find yourself caught in a constant cycle of analysing without action.

“Sometimes it’s you who’s the baddie here and you just have to break out of that, put yourself first, and dream big! In later life especially, you have so much life experience to share, so it’s really an ideal time to go after your dreams. Remember, there’s always a little risk no matter what you do, but that risk is worth taking.”

“My mantra is practise, patience, and perseverance”

Just a couple of months since the first edition of her book was released, A Different Life: Piece by Piece has nearly sold out. Prerana spoke to us about the highs and lows of her journey to being published. She explained that while it was tough at times, the final outcome was worth it.

She says, “Writing and trying to get published was all new to me and all of the rejections at the start were hard. I also knew how I wanted the book to look, and the artwork was just as important to me as the written word – so I had to juggle between these things.

“I sent my work to the big five publishing houses and I was rejected many times. It wasn’t easy, but I learnt early on that it’s important never to lose heart. My mantra is practise, patience, and perseverance. After all, we all have to take rejections – that’s part of life.

“And the rejections were nothing compared to the joy and excitement I felt when the first printed copies of my book arrived. I remember when I opened the box with them in, it felt unreal. I couldn’t believe they were mine – the sense of achievement was amazing. It wasn’t an easy journey but it was certainly a satisfying one.”

Taking her teachings out into the community - “For me it wasn’t just about selling books - I wanted to do something that was meaningful and make a difference”

Taking her teachings out into the community

Mosaic artwork made at Prerana’s community workshop

Alongside her book, Prerana has also taken her work out into the community. For example, she recently held a community wellbeing workshop in her local park, teaching people how to make mosaic leaves inspired by the colours of different seasons.

She says, “It’s through projects like this that I’ll be working in my community to help people with their personal development, based on the 16 chapters of my book.

“Art is a great way for people to take time for themselves, think about what’s important to them, and create something from that. Depending on the way you lay the tesserae, you can make your mosaic artwork static, moving, playful, or chaotic. This gives tremendous scope for self-expression.

“When you’ve finished your art, you’re also left with a visual reminder of what you thought about that day and the next steps you need to take. It’s therapeutic. The mosaic artworks made by the community at my workshop will be installed in the park when they’re finished for all to enjoy – they’re doing a really great job.”

When asked about next steps, Prerana explained that she wants to continue working in her community, helping people to become the best versions of themselves.

She says, “For me it wasn’t just about selling books – I wanted to do something that was meaningful and make a difference. Luckily, having my book published has also given me credibility and will hopefully serve as a vehicle to do other projects that I want to do in the future. So no, there’s no retirement for me!”

A Different Life: Piece by Piece is available to buy on The Book Guild Publishing website.