Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month!
While I read romance all year long, August is the month we celebrate romantic fiction! Come back every day to read the fun author Q&As – calendar here – and each weekday in August, we’ll also have an author guest hosting the Romance of Reading FB page. This year is significantly smaller in scale. If you’re interested, you can read about some of the reasons why here. It’s been a crazy year, and a complicated few months.
Happy August. Isn’t life better with #ATouchofRomance?! xo
***As you may know I’m a huge fan of Sonali Dev and when I asked her if she had anything coming out before her 2019 release (No cover or back copy yet, but if you auto-buy anything she writes, you can pre-order at Amazon here: Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors: A Novel )
She and her friend, Talia Surova, have a title coming out in early November, so I thought it would be fun to have them both do the Q&A. Talia will be on the page today, though Sonali may stop by and say hi. Enjoy! xo
(I’m including the cover to their book, but there’s no Amazon post yet, so keep an eye out on their pages. It’s supposed to release the first week in November.)
2018 RARM Questions:
Why do you write books?
SD: I’ve always had the need to write. My family moved around a lot when I was young and I was always the new kid on the block. Writing down everything I was feeling was a way for me to have friends all the time. Or maybe it was that I needed to hear the sound of my own thoughts. Writing books came later, by accident, when a friend challenged me to write a movie script. Once I had done that I was addicted to creating characters and worlds and saying what I wanted to say folded into the garb of a story.
TS: When I was a preteen and teenager, I used to read at night—well, okay, I read all the time, but also always at night. When finished a book, the story would stay with me, the characters acting out their lives past the end of the book and weaving their way into my dreams. I cherished that feeling, and hated waking up from those drowsy half-dreams. When I discovered that writing lets me live inside a story even more fully, I knew I’d found my calling. To be able to share those stories that live in my head with other readers? There’s nothing better.
What do you consider to be the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
SD: I always try to speak up when I think something isn’t the way it should be. And I’ve never believed people when they said that things are just the way they are and that I should accept them.
TS: After several years in Los Angeles, establishing roots and making friends, my husband and I packed up our belongings, sold our house, and hit the road with our seven-year-old son. We had a perfectly acceptable life in LA, but I missed New York desperately. We had no immediate job prospects in NY, and no assurance of a long-term place to live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. We did it on faith. It just felt right.
There was a moment on the drive east, as the landscape changed from dry mountains to green hills, that I realized this was real—we were really doing this. I had a full-blown can’t-breathe panic attack, wondering if we’d just made the biggest mistake of our lives.
That was thirteen years ago. It ended up working out brilliantly.
Tell us why you write romances or include strong romantic elements in your books?
SD: Growing up I read across genres, commercial and literary fiction that told stories that spanned love and adventure and crime and courage and relationships between families and friends. I always zeroed in on the love stories that to me were always at the heart of all the stories I enjoyed. I think of finding love as a journey to self discovery and exploring that arc is what fuels my writing. So, writing romance is just a natural extension of who I am and what I believe.
TS: Like so many romance authors, I’ve always been drawn to the romantic elements in the books I read, so it felt like a natural fit as an author. I remember sitting on the floor in my best friend’s bedroom in middle school, devouring stacks of Georgette Heyers and Harlequins; picking up my first full-on historical romance a year or two later and falling headlong into that world; buying piles of romances at the used bookstore down the street from my first temp job and reading them nonstop during my lunch hours and on the subway ride home. I love the emotion, the connection, the drama always inherent in relationships—whether romantic or not. When those relationships are romantic, it gives stories that extra frisson, that delicious tension.
Tell us about a romantic moment in your life. (Either romantic love, or romantic sensibility.)
SD: The first physical act of connection that happened between my husband and me was when he put his head in my lap. We had spent a day shopping and running around from pillar to post and we were exhausted and he actually laid down across the car seat and rested in my arms, so to speak, and it was beautiful. One of those moments when you flash forward and know you will know happiness with this person.
TS: I was 24 years old, working in film editing in Midtown Manhattan. I had a crush on this guy who worked across the street, on a different movie. We chatted sometimes in the hallways, and went to lunch a few times, but he had a girlfriend and I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. One day that December, that changed. (I later found out he had broken up with her over Thanksgiving.) We ran into each other in the elevator at work, and he asked me out to lunch. Over burgers at an old-fashioned coffee shop, we spoke for the first time about things outside of the business. He asked me what my astrological sign was. We talked about seeing a movie that weekend. As we walked down Broadway after lunch, heading back to our respective jobs, snow started to fall. We stood outside my building in the cold, both unwilling to say goodbye. I could feel snow stinging my cheeks, see the snowflakes melt in his hair. A nearby construction worker shouted, “Kiss her, already!”
He didn’t then. He did two days later, after that movie. We moved in together two months later and got married four years after that. He was the one. He still is. That moment outside in the snow and cold, I think that was the moment I knew it.
If you could tell your younger self anything (either as a writer or as a woman) what would it be?
SD: Don’t be afraid.
TS: Be vulnerable and open and emotionally truthful in your work. Be confident in your life and in who you are.
Tell us something you uncovered in research that fascinated you.
SD: So many things. How rampant human trafficking is across the world. How enormously hard transplant recipients have to work to make sure their bodies don’t reject their new organ. The life on mission that doctors who work for Doctors Without Borders lead.
TS: There’s a hidden, abandoned subway station in Lower Manhattan—the old City Hall Station, complete with skylights, chandeliers, and vaulted tiled ceilings designed by Gustavino dating back to 1904. The station closed in 1945, but you can see it if you stay on the 6 train past the last stop; it uses the curve of the station to turn around and go back uptown. People advise standing in the front of the first car to get the best view. If you want to walk around and explore, you can sign up for a special tour given by the NYC Transit Museum. This is on my bucket list. It must be like stepping back in time to a grander age. The photos are gorgeous.
Learn more here: www.atlasobscura.com/places/city-hall-station-mro
How do you handle the voices in your head competing for their story to be written? (Thanks Eileen!)
SD: I let them tell it. My secondary characters always get their stories told.
TS: Ha, that’s the trick, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s so obvious—a character says, “Write me now!” Other times, the character is knocking at the door, but her story isn’t fully worked out yet in my head, and I have to say, “Wait a while longer,” and maybe it comes to me and maybe it doesn’t, and the story will only ever live in my head and nowhere else. (Those are sad ones.)
The book Sonali and I are working on now was one of the latter—I’d written the beginning of a book years ago and liked it well enough, but didn’t feel like it was quite right. It felt like it was missing some essential piece. I put it aside and moved on. When I showed it to Sonali recently, it became clear why. It had been waiting for her. Her characters walked into the book, shook things up, and now it works.
If you could live for a month somewhere (either in the present or past) where (and when, if applicable) would it be? Why?
SD: My grandmother went to medical school in colonized India in the 1930s. I always regret never having her describe what that felt like in more detail. I so badly want to know what it was like for her, doing that thing barely any women had done before her. I want to be in that college with her, in that time watching her fall in love with medicine and my grandfather.
TS: Oh boy. So many places, it’s hard to limit myself. But right now, I’m craving green and quiet, so I’m picturing a beautiful modern A-frame cabin in the Catskills mountains north of NYC, in a clearing in the woods. Green grass, maybe a brook nearby, and mossy undergrowth under spreading oak and maple trees. Wind and birdsong and the peace to write and simply be.
What is (one of) the most remarkable/inspiring things that has happened to you as a reader or writer?
SD: Everything about this journey has been magical for me. But discovering a tribe of women who share this mad burning passion for writing and reading and romance has been the best part. And the generosity of this tribe. I’ve seen the spirit of sisterhood in everyone from the aspiring writers to those who have sold multi million copies. To be part of this community is beyond inspiring and remarkable, it’s seeing courage and love and hope at work in every interaction and I cannot imagine a life where I might have missed being part of it.
TS: At the risk of sounding like a cliché, the first phone call telling me I was a Golden Heart finalist changed my life. I’d been on the verge of quitting writing, feeling like nobody was ever going to read my words, and what was the point? After I got off the phone with the RWA board member, I burst into tears. It meant so much, that validation from a set of complete strangers. And everything that followed—I’d never gotten involved in my local chapter, so my Golden Heart sisters were my first entrée into the warmth of a romance writing tribe. That initial phone call was the pivotal moment. I needed it.
I love books with strong sister relationships and her Matched To Perfection trilogy about the Fernandez sisters is lovely.
Take The Lead set in a Dancing With The Stars like dance competition is everything a good contemporary romance should be.
Her writing is intricate, intelligent, and thought provoking and I love it.
Kristan Higgins for her humanity and wit.
Pintip Dunn for her stellar plotting and storytelling. (Seriously, how does she do it?)
Meredith Duran for her ability to take high-concept, twisty ideas and make me invest completely.
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.
Her books have been on NPR, Washington Post, Library Journal, and Kirkus Best Books of the year lists, but Sonali is most smug about Shelf Awareness calling her “Not only one of the best but also one of the bravest romance novelists working today.”
Sonali lives in Chicagoland with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.
Find more at sonalidev.com.
RITA® finalist and Golden Heart winner Talia Surova writes smart, sexy contemporary romances that capture all the grit and glamour of her beloved New York City.
Talia has lived and worked in the wilds of Hollywood, California and is now back home in NYC, her native habitat, where she is living out her HEA with her perfect beta hero husband, quirky musician son, and two goofy cats.
To learn more, go to her website: taliasurova.com
Buy Talia’s books:
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