Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month 2016!
If you’re a new visitor to RARM, I hope you’ll come back every day in August to read all the wonderful pro-romance posts this year. Check out the full calendar here. You can also find links to the last three years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook. Enjoy August!
How Romance Equals The Pursuit Of Happiness
I’ve always been that girl, neither here nor there. Neither big nor small, neither short nor tall, smart enough but not so much that I wouldn’t have to work hard, and growing up in India, I was even too dark to be ‘fair’ and too light skinned to be ‘sultry.’ Then there’s that whole thing where I’m neither a fashionista nor bohemian, where I’m romantic yet practical, where both art and science make me breathless with wonder. All in all, the whole label thing has never quite worked for me, and I learned pretty early on that I wasn’t particularly interested in working for the labels either.
Throw into that mix the fact that I was a military kid and we moved a lot when I was young. I changed nine schools in twelve years. That means I was the new kid nine times before I was a teen and wanting to fit in got programed into my DNA along with a certain comfort with never really fitting in.
Okay, so you’re a mess, you say, what does this have to do with romance?
Well, as you can imagine this whole tug of war with belonging caused a raging need to read (there’s no escape like a book bound escape) and an utter dependency on writing (there’s no friend like a diary). And the alchemy between these two forces led me down a winding path to writing romance.
The path might have been winding, but as with all worthy destinations there was a
reason I landed upon this genre with a deep sense of homecoming that I could only compare to returning home from a camping trip on a cold rainy weekend after your tent springs a leak. Because, here, amid these pages were all the girls who didn’t fit. But only until they figured out that they didn’t really need to fit.
As romance readers we get told all the time that these stories we love are about the search for men (or simply a significant other) to make us matter. Anyone who actually reads romance and gets it will tell you that what we’re reading is the exact opposite of that.
We’re reading explorations of ourselves, of our needs and wants. We’re searching for stories about ourselves that don’t line up with the stories about us that surround us. Ones that tell us we have to be a certain way to get certain things. Romance novels turn those standards on their heads with heroines of every shape, size, ability and aptitude. And no matter what they look like on the outside, the one thing they struggle with is fitting inside their own skin. When was the last time you read a romance with a heroine who did everything the world tells her to do and got what the world promised her she would get?
Now consider for a moment that a successful relationship (or a happily ever as we love to call it) is only a metaphor for happiness. And in romance it always comes only after you have grown enough to let it in. Sometimes that growth has to do with finding the courage to pursue dreams no one thought you could achieve— not even you yourself; sometimes it has to do with finding the courage to overcome trauma and to forgive yourself for all the things that were or weren’t your fault. Often it is finding the courage to own your own body, your individuality, your freedom, your voice. But across the genre these stories boil down to the pursuit of the real you— the you you have to become to let happiness in.
If I had to pick what I love most about romance, this is what I would pick— the fact that it treats happiness as not just a definitive possibility but as a conscious choice that often times takes work. And if that’s not real life, I don’t know what is.
These authors have the most amazing voices and write smart stories with the kind of worthy protagonists we don’t see nearly enough of.
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
Having grown up in Mumbai, the two things that will always define romance for me are the monsoon and the beach. The Mumbai rains are hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced them. The raindrops are actually warm and the smell of wet earth is almost unbearably tender and fresh. And it’s unfailingly unpredictable, going in the span of a moment from a soothing drizzle that you can amble in for hours to a torrent that could blow you away. The only time I ever hated being single was during the monsoon. That craving to squeeze under an umbrella with someone special surrounded by the beat of raindrops and the smell of soaking earth, and getting drenched anyway because the Mumbai rains laugh at umbrellas— that’s possibly the most romantic thing I’ve ever experienced.
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
That would have to be my best friend. Naturally we’ve shared every detail about every crush we ever had since school (amazingly enough, only one on the same boy). But we’ve also mooned over every book and movie boyfriend for days and months, long after no one else would listen. Now she makes films and I write books and we have a lifetime of research to dip into. And just to be sure, we continue to discuss every detail of all the things we love and hate long after no one else wants to listen.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
I think I’d have to say Scotland. It was the first trip my husband and I took by ourselves after having our kids (thanks, doting grandparents!). It was our ‘oh look, we’re still young and we still actually like each other’ trip post parenthood. And what better place to rediscover such a precious thing than amid those ramblings hills, idyllic villages and castles, and scotch, unending amounts of scotch!
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
I think it’s my parents. For the strangest reasons. Yes, they’ve been married for almost fifty years. Yes, they grumble at each other and laugh at each other and drive each other crazy, but even today, my dad can make my mom blush with a compliment, and awful as this is to admit as their child, you can still see in his eyes how hot he thinks she is. And for all their quirks and accomplishments and failures, in all their words and actions, it’s clear to anyone with eyes that they essentially see the strongest most beautiful parts of each other even when no one else can. Especially when no one else can. It’s a friendship, a partnership, a grand love affair that I’ve seen stay rock steady my entire life and there’s nothing more romantic in the world.
Tell us about your dream date.
Kidding. Okay, not entirely kidding.
Coming back to real life. I’m not much of a date person— they’re too orchestrated for me. But the things I find insanely romantic are the things that happen by serendipity. A conversation on a bench in the middle of a walk, sneaking in a drink and a movie when an unexpected free moment miraculously shows up, driving by a sushi place when in a rare alignment of the stars we’re both craving it at the same time, and finally my favorite: that perfect song playing on the radio so we can dance in the kitchen in the middle of cooking.
Sonali is generously giving away two print copies of the reissue of A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR to US readers, and one ebook of THE BOLLYWOOD BRIDE for an international reader.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the *Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm PST Sep 5, 2016. Good luck! ***International friends, be sure to include your country in your comment so we know to include you in the international drawing. Good luck!
(*You don’t have to like the FB page, but we do recommend it. It’s easier to contact you if you win. Also consider joining the Read-A-Romance Book Club page, where we discuss romance of all kinds and will have drawings and events throughout the year.)
Award winning author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after.
Sonali’s novels have been on Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post and Kirkus Best Books lists. She won the American Library Association’s award for best romance in 2014, is a RITA Finalist, RT Reviewer Choice Award Nominee, and winner of the RT Seal of Excellence. Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.
Buy Sonali’s books:
*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and many text links connect to a Read-A-Romance Month affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!