Guest Author: Sonali Dev
Today’s guest is a multi-award winning author who received a
RITA Award for Best First Book. I was thrilled to meet her in May this year at
RT Reno and to attend the “Bollywood” function she co-hosted.
Sonali Dev writes beautifully emotional
romance stories where the characters are challenged by impossibly high stakes
and which make the HEA ending so, so satisfying. Sonali also gives the reader
an insight into Indian culture and her stories “Change of Heart”, “The
Bollywood Bride” and “A Bollywood Affair” have received fabulous accolades from
the Library Journal, Kirkus and the Washington Post. People magazine said of
her story “A Distant Heart” that it was “a gripping story of love, sacrifice
and risk” and I find her romances to have a fresh, unique flavour which is
Sonali, thank you for joining the Quick Author Quizzing blog today!
Hi Alyssa, thanks so much for having me on your blog.
Firstly, I’d love to hear about your newest release and whether the story posed any particular challenges for you as it unfolded.
A DISTANT HEART is the story of Kimi, a girl who is confined to a sterile room in her mansion in Mumbai for twelve years because of a rare illness, and Rahul, a servant in her house who ends up befriending her and becoming her eyes to the outside world until a heart transplant sets her free.
The book is
set in two timelines—their childhood friendship and their present-day
estrangement, when an underworld crime lord, who runs an organ black market, is
chasing her down and Rahul, now a cop, is trying to protect her.
This story was
actually such a joy to write. The only challenging thing about writing it was
getting the experience of a person suffering from a prolonged illness right,
and in terms of storytelling I had to work to get the back and forth jumps in
time of the narrative right. But the subject matter itself is so dear to my
heart, exploring it was a gift.
One of the
ways I describe this book is that it’s a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale,
which I think is an allegory for locking girls up in ivory towers. To me, the
soul of A Distant Heart is that very taking-back of agency. In all of society’s
micro-messaging, girls are told that they require protection, that their
‘preciousness’ is proven when someone takes care of them. Somewhere in there is
the message that they are incapable of taking care of themselves. Kimi’s
illness is definitely a tangible form given to this helplessness, and the
overtness of the attention and protection it gets her comes with loss of
control. Decisions are made for her and for complicated reasons she is unable
to wrestle control from those who love her. In the end, the story is about
drawing lines and defining what rights someone has over you under the guise of
love. How far is too far and who gets to decide that?
It sounds fabulous! I love that we, as romance authors, can weave such important and relevant issues into our stories and that stories can be both entertaining and thought-provoking.
What’s next for you as an author?
I am madly excited about my next book, PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND OTHER FLAVORS. It comes out May 7, 2019 and is loosely inspired by Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but with a gender flip. It launches a new series about the Rajes, an immigrant Indian family descended from royalty, who have built their lives in San Francisco. It's the story of two strangers from completely different worlds that explores cultural assimilation, identity, and the meaning of the word home.
Here's the back cover copy:
Only in a family like the Rajes could San
Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon be considered the black sheep. Dr.
Trisha Raje has developed groundbreaking technology and won the respect of her
peers and the life-long gratitude of her patients. Still, her large, close-knit
family—descended from old Indian nobility—has certain rules to uphold. Trusting
outsiders is frowned upon. Disloyalty of any kind is unacceptable. Trisha never
intended to jeopardize her brother’s political aspirations, yet her long-ago
actions inadvertently did just that. At last she has a chance to turn that
Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like
Trisha before—people who judge his background and find it lacking, who put
pedigree above character. He may need the lucrative, career-making job the
Rajes offer, but he has little time for Trisha, especially when he learns that
she’s the arrogant surgeon who wants to perform an untested procedure on his
As the two continually clash, their assumptions
shatter like spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. Drawn to DJ’s
steadiness, humor, and passion—as well as his extraordinary food—Trisha begins
to reexamine her view of the world, while challenging his beliefs about the
nature of family. But there’s a past to be reckoned with before they can hope
to savor a future bursting with delicious possibility.
You have degrees in architecture and in writing, what was the turning point for you when you decided to take the leap and make writing your main career focus?
In all honesty, I've always been a writer. One of my earliest memories is writing poems before I could read. I loved to rhyme and I rhymed about everything. I remember my mom finding me making up couplets about the covers of my math textbook in first grade instead of doing my math homework. As I got older I wrote about everything- movies I watched, books I wrote, my friendships and getting my heart broken. It was how I processed experiences. But the idea of becoming a real life author seemed just too 'pie in the sky.' So I got a degree in Architecture and then veered off into becoming an architectural journalist. Which then led to a master’s degree in professional writing and a career in Technical Writing. I didn’t really start writing fiction until my best friend, a Bollywood Producer, urged me to help her with some scripts and I ended up writing a script for her. It sits even today very safely beneath my bed but it hooked me on writing fiction.
Here’s hoping that script makes it onto the screen one day!
Migrating to the USA, what was the biggest culture shock for you and have you ever drawn on that in your writing?
I'm a pilot's daughter and I've travelled all over the world from when I was very young, so I've always had exposure to the world and it's vastness, differences and similarities and all. Consequently, I've never really had immigrant angst in the sense of culture shock. I also believe that I'm a nomad at heart--something I think all people who immigrate by choice are. It's a different state of being. We tend to carry our homes inside us, or on our backs like snails. We tend to own places in a different way than people who need to strike root do.
Having said that, there are a few sometimes funny, sometimes infuriating things that seep into my stories about differences in accents and culture. The bigger themes that seem to drive my writing are the search for home, and needing to reconcile your identity between what you're seen as and who you are. These are universal themes, but the angle of living between different cultures gives my stories an organic fabric to drape them in.
I love the way you’ve worded that—the “organic fabric to drape them in”! You certainly incorporate the universal themes into your stories which gives them international appeal.
If you could plan a dinner party and
invite any famous people, who would be the top three on your guest list?
Michelle and Barack Obama (Yes, I'm sneaky enough to consider them a
unit for the purposes of this list) Oprah Winfrey Vikram Seth
Wow, I’d love to be at that dinner table!!
Thank you for joining me today,
Sonali, and good luck with the upcoming release.
Thank you so much for sharing me with your readers. This has been such
You can find more about Sonali by
visiting her website at: sonalidev.com
Thanks for visiting the blog today. I
hope you’ll join me next Saturday for a fabulous Christmas giveaway from Eloisa James. Until then, have a
great week and Happy Reading!!
Alyssa J. Montgomery
About the Blogger:
Alyssa J. Montgomery is an Australian contemporary romance author who is published by Escape Publishing (Harlequin Enterprises, Australia). She also
writes medieval romance as Alyssa James,