So glad you’re here. The theme this year was…the cold outside and it got me thinking about the books we send out. So as a writer how do you feel when you do so? You’ve experienced the hatching of an idea with thrill and anticipation. You’ve enjoyed muddling through the darkness as the story comes alive on your computer screen. You sigh with relief, a sense of achievement when it’s done.
You put it away. You go out, meet friends, realize that the world is not such a bad place after all. A few days later, the nagging feeling that has been pulling at your heart, overcomes you. Then you go back to your first draft. You see the holes, the gaps, you try to pin the story down, you wrestle with it. You kill your darlings, you ignore the idea of preciousness you’ve attached to it, and this time when you put it away, you want someone to see it. They do. They see stuff you’d missed.
You must go back into that world again. More reluctant this time, more cautious, you tiptoe around the sentences, the characters, and you do the nipping and tucking like a surgeon. It’s time to send it out into the big cold world where it’s snowing rejection slips.
But sometimes miracles happen.
Haveli’s my first published romance novella. Though in South Asia we’ve traditionally had love stories aplenty, especially in the form of epic poems, romance writing in the English language is relatively new. I was so tired of reading about the South Asian woman as the victim because honestly, I see very strong women around me. They’re nothing like those silent ghosts we see in narratives of Orientalism. There are many more stories and nuances of South Asia and Indireads is helping new writers put them out. They were looking for new authors and I submitted the first chapter of Haveli. They loved it and my dream of getting published became a reality.
How is romance different in South Asia? Read my other blog post on http://www.zeenatmahal.com/category/blog-2/. I discuss it there. For now suffice it to say that there are many similarities in the traditional Western romance and the South Asian romance, but there are many more differences. Issues like pre-marital sex, caste, religious and ethnic differences still matter a great deal. Arranged marriages still happen and are still successful. Mostly. There are sub-cultures of the wealthy, the middle class and the consciousness of all that is still rife. However, so much is changing socially in our part of the world that there’s a story at every step.
My other novella is called The Contract. It’s a marriage of convenience romance set in Lahore. Both Haveli and The Contract are contemporary romances.
Haveli is set in a fictional princely state. It’s based on a real one though. I took inspiration from Bahawalpur, an erstwhile princely state in the South of Punjab, Pakistan. The language spoken there is called seraiki, and it’s the most musical language I’ve ever heard. No wonder the area produced so many poets. This was one of the oldest and most affluent of the princely states in undivided India. Bahawalpur has many beautiful palaces. The architecture is absolutely amazing in its grandeur and artistic masonry.
Book Blurb: Abandoned by her father, C. is brought up by her domineering, intractable grandmother,whom she privately refers to as ‘The Broad’. Raised in the closed environs of a haveli in Jalalabad, C. is rebellious, quick-witted and a self-proclaimed cynic. So, when The Broad presents her with the ‘suitable’ Taimur as a possible husband, C. isn’t too happy with the arrangement, no matter how gorgeous ‘Alpha Male’ may be. As it happens, the feeling is mutual. Or is it? And when C.’s long lost father enters the scene, things get really complicated…
Haveli is available on Amazon and Smashwords. The Contract will be up soon as well. I have a new novella coming out in March, also by Indireads. There is lots to choose from at Indireads, chick-lit, contemporary and paranormal romance as well as fantasy, all by South Asian writers. The website is: http://www.indireads.com/
Here’s an excerpt from Haveli:
He looked up.
All I had to do was hold his gaze but the gorgeous idiot dropped his, albeit reluctantly. Disappointed, mine as it wandered aimlessly, was captured by a pair of dark eyes that refused to drop, or look away and held mine as if there was nothing else in the world that mattered except me. As the seconds ticked away, a triumphant gleam invaded those sexy evil eyes.
All evening his gaze kept locking with mine because the poor man was besotted already, I could see. He was done for and he didn’t have the brains to see that I wasn’t interested. He’d never been denied a conquest most likely and he didn’t know how to respond to my disinterest.
I’m spoken for, you Wickham, you; Darcy awaits me. Ignoring him, I batted my eyelashes at Kunwar, who looked as if he was going to go into a fit of convulsions at my unladylike display of sexual overtures.
‘You know, you should enlist Manhal’s help.’
Sound advice I thought ,and turned to see evil Moriarty considering me with a thoughtful expression.
‘He’s too dense. You’re wasting your talents on him.’
I was too flabbergasted to say anything, which gave him the upper hand and he continued, ‘He’s too old for you. You seem smitten, though. It’s quite sad actually to see you make such an effort. You virginal Asian girls don’t know anything about seduction. I’ll have to give you tips.’
From sheer embarrassment to rage to shocked amazement, I whizzed from one stage of ire to another in seconds. Was it any surprise I was speechless? Still he wasn’t done.
‘I mean the tiny blouse, the hair, genius but…’ He paused as if mulling it over.
I could feel my eyes begin to sting. How dared he talk to me about such a personal matter?
Frowning, he said softly, ‘Maybe you’re trying too hard?’
Evil Moriarty had a point. However, I continued to glare at him out of sheer spite and uncharacteristic speechlessness at his audacity.
‘Now, now Medusa, I’m trying to help.’
‘Did you just call me a monster?’ I choked.People melted at my gaze. They did not turn to stone. Where was all that sarcasm when you needed it? Nowhere apparently.
‘Maybe,’ he said, off-handed and unconcerned. ‘More to the point, there’s only one way to win him. You have to make him jealous.’Nodding to himself as if he’d found the answer to a puzzle, without further ado, he put his hand on my bare small back herding me out to the balcony. And for the life of me I couldn’t get rid of the image of those two sparrows at it, on this very balcony.
‘Not only am I offering you advice, I’m generously offering myself for the job.’ He let go of me and moved mere inches away, and tilting his head, added with a smile, ‘You’re welcome.’
My breath hitched with embarrassment and the burning became more acute in my eyes. Did he care? No, Alpha Male was on a roll.
‘I’m sure people tell you all the time that you’re extraordinarily beautiful? You’re too smart to take that seriously, I’m sure. A woman’s body is far more important than her face. And yours is…’
He let his gaze wander all over me and I felt like the ugliest thing on planet Earth.
‘Not too shabby. You’ve got nice curves…if they’re real?’
My face burnt off, I think. Alpha Male was getting too familiar with me.
‘What?’ I managed to articulate. It was the wrong thing to say.
Unabashed, he asked, ‘Nothing padded?’
My mouth fell open in a little oval of shock. He grinned. He’d scandalized me. He knew it and basked in the advantage it gave him. Smiling that lazy predatory smile he’d perfected when he was still in his knickers probably, he asked, ‘You do want him, don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said with defiance and hauteur.
‘Then follow my lead. Let’s make him jealous.’
I scoffed, ‘You think he’d be jealous of you?’
‘You’re right,’ he agreed with too much speed. ‘He’ll probably need more than just us hanging out here…’
His voice dropped a decibel, ‘alone…’Another slow, leisurely step forward, voice softer, huskier, ‘in the dark…’
I stood immobile. He came closer, added in a whisper, ‘on this sultry night…’
There was hardly any distance left between us to speak of. His breath fanned my cheeks. He said in the same husky whisper, ‘If maybe, I do this…’ Putting his hand on my back again, he pulled me closer, ‘that might work. What do you think?’
His face and mine were barely two apart. My breath hitched.
‘I think I should go back in,’ I managed to say stiffly.
‘And here I thought you had more spunk than that, Medusa. Pity.’
I wasn’t going to play into his hands that easily. ‘Good hunting, Bagheera,’ I said archly and tried to push him away. To no avail.
‘If you’d just stop flirting with me for ten seconds, we might be able to talk strategy for you and Rohail.’
Before I could disabuse him of his misconceived notions, he continued, ‘See, you have to understand the game first, before you can play it. Rohail is…’
He paused, staring at me as if I was daft.‘Kunwar?’ he asked, surveying me with pity and sighed. ‘That bad, huh? Kunwar. So romantic. Okay then, Kunwar is of another generation. He likes to do his own pursuing. Man is a hunter. We hunt, especially the elusive quarry. We want what we cannot have.’
‘That was profound, Medusa. But that’s just how it is.’
He radiated sexuality. I could think of nothing else except for his nearness and my bare skin so close to his warm lean hands.
‘So what’s with the hiccups? Nervous tic?’
‘If you’re so nervous just standing with a man alone, with two hundred people a shout away, what are your plans for your wedding night?’
‘I beg your…hic…pardon?’My wedding night? Even I hadn’t thought of my wedding night, yet. And in any case, I’d thought I’d ask Kunwar…
‘You’re going to tell him to ‘give you time’ aren’t you? You’re just the sort to do that kind of thing.’
Spawn of Evil.
‘You’ll say you need to ‘know’ him better ‘before’. You’ll marry him happily enough, but you won’t let the poor bugger get it on and…Are you crying?’
‘N…hic…no!’ I denied with too much vehemence.