Sumeetha Manikandan: Books, blogs and background

I’m very happy to have Sumeetha Manikandan on my blog today. I have known her since 2012 when we both got epublished by the same publisher, read and reviewed each other’s work. We have been mutual admirers since. Sumeetha has two books to her credit, The Perfect Groom, published by Indireads, and her latest, Love Again, published by Half Baked Beans. Untitled-1 copy

1. Welcome to my blog Sumeetha. I’m very excited to have you here. First off, tell us something about yourself and your background.

Thank you for hosting me in your blog Zeenat. I am a freelance writer who works from home and when I am not working on writing projects for my clients, I write for pleasure. I live in Chennai with my family and my husband is a film maker.

2. You have published two books to date, if I’m not wrong? can you tell us about them.

Yes. My first book is called ‘The Perfect Groom’. It was published as an ebook and is currently a best seller in Amazon India. The story of Perfect Groom was based on a real anecdote that I heard many years ago. My second novella – These Lines of Mehendi has been recently published as a double header romance novel called Love, Again. These Lines of Mehendi too is based on a real-life story of a beautician.

3. What set you writing in the first place?

I have been writing since college but I never showed it to anyone :) The Perfect Groom too might have sat in my laptop but I chanced upon Naheed Hassan ad asking for writers and I sent her a half-written story and after a year Voila! I debuted as an author.

4. Who is your intended audience? Do you choose who to write about, as in your characters, according to the audience you have in mind?

No. I just have a story to tell. I don’t write for any intended audience.

5. What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?
Trying to promote your book is the hardest thing. By nature, I am very reserved and I have always found it difficult to talk about myself. But one needs to put these things aside if you want your book to sell. That was a hard lesson to learn.

Perfect groom6. Your first book, The Perfect Groom, touches upon a very serious and taboo subject, tell us why you chose that topic?
The plot of Perfect Groom was a true story that happened to a friend’s friend. She too was married off in a hurry to a man whom she met once or twice and then shipped off to US. While in US, a strange country for a girl who has never lived anywhere but her hometown she discovers the truth about her husband. I was very impressed by the way she handled herself all through her marriage and strength she showed while picking up the pieces of her life. My plot deals with a serious and taboo subject that is most often than not swept under the carpet. Women shy away from discussing it because it is a reality that is difficult to accept, especially in a conservative society. To tell the truth, I didn’t consciously select this taboo subject. All I wanted to do was to tell Nithya’s story.

7.What has been the best feedback yet about your books and by whom?

I get excited when I read reviews written by total strangers. I got a mail from a lady who said that Nithya’s story was her own which was pretty sad.

8. Which writers inspire you?

Many and to name a few – Marian Keyes, J.K Rowling, P.G. Woodhouse, Mary Balough, Julia Quinn, Nora Roberts, Sidney Sheldon, Robert Galbraith, K. M. Munshi…

9.Which genre are you most comfortable in?
I like writing romance novels. Contemporary romance is easy to write though right now I am toying with an idea for a period romance and a historical fiction as well.

10. Any advice for new writers?
Keep writing… Don’t stop writing just because you got a bad review.

11. Since you’ve experienced both traditional and self publishing, what is the top most advantage / disadvantage of self publishing do you think?
I am yet to self publish actually. My second book was published by Half Baked Beans.

12. Many people have asked me this question and I’d like to get your opinion on it. How different is a South Asian Romance from a Western romance?
A South Asian romance plot will have many societal barriers that is easy to play around for the author, while things need to be handled in a different way for a western romance. For example, take a couple in US or Europe, they see each other they fall in love, have sex and then have conflicts and so on… While if the same couple were in India they would see each other fall in love and then their parents have to approve, then marriage… etc. In a South Asian plot one’s society is very much a part of of the story while in western romance the focus is completely on the couple and their feelings for each other…

13. Describe yourself in three words.
Reserved, Shy and Introvert

14. You’re stranded on an island. pick one book, one character, and one item of personal use you’d take with you.
Book – Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan

Character – Tyrion Lannister

Item – Big box of tissues

15. List three items that you cannot resist buying, no matter what.
Books of course :) Clothes and shoes

Many thanks for your time and your very interesting responses, Sumeetha! Truly enjoyed this interview. Good luck with your books and writing.

Sumeetha Manikandan is a freelance writer and an author who loves to write and base her plots on the tambrahm community of Mylapore, Chennai. She is the author of ‘The Perfect Groom’ that has been a bestselling ebook on the top 50 charts of Amazon India ever since publication.
An avid reader, she loves to read across different genres – romance, historical fiction, non-fiction, mystery, fantasy etc. A history buff to the core,
she is currently translating Ponniyin Selvan – the evergreen tamil classic epic history by Kalki Krishnamurthy into English.
Married to film maker K.S. Manikandan, Sumeetha lives in Chennai, along with her six year old daughter.


Meet the Writers of Crossed & Knotted

The brainchild of Dipanker Mukherjee, Readomania is a new publishing House with big ambitions. This year, Readomania launched a composite novel, India’s first, and it became a huge success. It’s understandable why. The novel is unusual in its form, structure and inception. I spoke with the team to understand how it all came about.

C&K Cover


1. Welcome to my blog everyone. My first question is, who came up with the idea of a composite novel? And how easy or difficult was it to adapt to this way of writing?

Arvind Passey: I read about the Readomania contest on the web… and frankly, all that my mind registered at that point of time was that if my short-story got the required number of votes from readers and had a certain number of comments, it would qualify to be read by the editor/s. So what mattered to me more than the structure of the final publication was getting through to the editorial board. To one who loves playing with words and ideas, a somewhat different ‘way of writing’ is not something to be feared. If you care to browse through the 850+ posts on my blog you’ll know that I do not step away from a topic that is ‘different’ or alien to my comfort zone. 

Ayan Pal: I am the 2nd author whose story/chapter is titled “The Diary of Joseph Varughese”. Dipankar and I had discussed the idea of a composite novel in 2014. In fact, I had already written one in 2008 over 13 days and had spoken about it with him. I am sure if would have discussed this with others as well! I wanted to actually be either the first or the last author and ended up being the 2nd. I did not find it difficult, probably because of the characters that I was free to choose from the previous story by Sutapa.

Sanchita: To me the idea was novel. I first read about it when Readomania announced their contest named ‘Short Story Cycle Project’, and found the concept interesting. Rather than easy or difficult, I would say it was exciting to participate in this relay novel concept. From the time the first story by Sutapa was shared with us, I found myself thinking about possible threads that could be carried forward to form a framework for another interesting story. To sum up the whole experience in one word, I would say it was intriguing.

Sutapa: I hold a postgraduate degree in English Literature so the concept of a composite novel was not novel to me. But it was Readomania’s objective to spearhead creative innovations in Indian fiction writing that led us to think of this literary genre. Readomania’s editorial team along with Dipankar at its head is always searching for fresh concepts and ideas in writing. It was during such a quest that this concept of trying to develop a composite novel cropped up and we thought, ‘Why not?’

Bhaswar: The idea emanated as an invitation from Readomania to participate in a short story cycle project…do not know whose brainchild it was. I was one of the link authors with my story- A Leap of Faith, tasked with linking the story before and after mine. It was a novel experience as it needed to span countries and the journey of how an Afghan girl becomes an Indian bride!

Deepti: The first story by Sutapa made all the difference, and helped break the ice. All we knew was that we would have to take an idea from the story that went before, a peg on which to hang our own stories. Once that idea crystallized, the writing flowed, as it always does.

Bhuvana: I heard about Readomania from a friend and when a contest was announced on the site, I sent in my entry. I was very happy to be short listed. Yes, I am of course aware of this genre –but I was super excited that I was going to be part of a very delightful experiment.

Avanti: Doing this was easy because there were guidelines w.r.t. time, word count and the seeding story was shared. In fact all following stories were shared and discussed. It was difficult may be for the first two reason mentioned and for the limited scope w.r.t.  plots, characters. But hands down it was a challenging task.

Mithun: As someone who has written short story in the past, I thought taking to the concept would be like a fish taking to water. I could not have been more wrong. When a story is hinged on several others, as in this case, the ballgame changes completely. I have however, completely enjoyed the rollercoaster ride.


2. To me they read as short stories, connected by characters and themes. Each story was separate and could be read on its own. What was the process of writing this novel for you all? How often did you meet, and discuss the stories?

Arvind:Yes, each story is a story in itself. Complete. Fulfilled. Like any of us. The link, though there, can be imperceptible at times, but the reader knows intuitively that a bridge is there and that he is crossing over to a new world after each story ends. The process of story-writing wasn’t difficult for me as I was initially slated to be after Ayan Pal’s story… and had to carefully read the first two to know how things were moving. Not that any other position would have made it any tougher or easier. After all, we were doing our own writing according to our own researches and writing methodologies. I had picked up the ‘diary’ as the object to pursue and did some intelligent jugging of the name of the protagonist in my story.

We did not meet in the real world but were there for each other in the virtual space… not that discussions mattered to me much. The reason is that I detach myself form everyone and everything when I write. I allow my isolation to guide me.

Ayan: – I discussed about my previous story with Sutapa, the author to get a hint of when exactly this was set and accordingly set my story in a particular year. I also discussed about the year my primary character, who was introduced in the previous story, was born. I needed this to get the timing right in my story and keep things in perspective. I also had discussions with the next author (it was then Arvind Passey) and we discussed about loose threads in my story that could be taken forward. We as authors also read other stories and gave feedback to each other to see if the connection was working out.

Sanchita: After reading the second story by Ayan, the intrigue quotient was raised further and I immediately wanted to sit down and write my story. Meanwhile, the Readomania editorial team had sent out a small brief to me mainly reiterating what to stay away from while weaving my story. And it was not difficult to follow, as it was a small list. After sharing my story I had a telephonic discussion with Sutapa to fine tune it further and that was it. My story was ready.

Sutapa: To bring all the 14 authors to an understanding of how the concept will be developed did emerge from a lot of discussions. As the authors were spread across geographical locations in India and abroad, that itself was a challenge. But what actually kept the ball rolling was the enthusiasm and the excitement of the authors to be part of this innovation. Throughout the development, all the authors were aware of each move. Obviously the stories had to be written one by one. Each time a story was submitted, it was shared within this author circle. The result was a spate of encouragements and suggestions that only enhanced each story.

Bhaswar: As a link author it was challenging because I had to ensure that my story fitted in the one before AND the one after, a challenge which other authors may not have had. However it was a great experience and I do not think that this cramped my style.

Many authors here have collaborated on other platforms as well so many of us were virtual Friends. We did not meet for the stories- I was given the story before and after mine and had to link the two.

 Deepti: All our discussions were by email, and every story that appeared would throw up a whole barrage of comments from the others, each of them throwing light on the threads that held the stories together. What was interesting that the whole story came together in our minds only when we actually read the book.

Bhuvana:  As I live abroad, meeting the other contributors or the editor wasn’t an option. But team Readomania and all the authors were so thorough and regular in communicating over mails that at no point in time did I even feel the need to meet everyone. Now of course, I do want to meet the C&K team as we all  have bonded well.

Arpita: The composite novel as interpreted by the Readomania team meant that each author would pick up a hook or link from the preceding story and  weave a tale, preferably as different as it could get from the previous  one. The hook could be person/place/event…anything which was minor in  the preceding tale and had the potential to become major in the next  one.

Anupama: We are spread across the whole wide world. We met frequently over the cyber space, sharing our stories, bisecting them, cheering and egging on, each other.

Avanti: I think we mad the best use of cyberspace. Each story was shared, discussed, edited, re-edited, fleshed out and taken to a logical conclusion over e-mails, chats and telephone.

Mithun:The entire process, in spite of having been carried over mails, was strangely organic. As words bounced across mails, we realized what went where and tried to polish our writing accordingly, and bring out the best story that we could, individually. At the end of it, we might as well have been sitting across a room, sipping tea and discussing with each other and it wouldn’t have been any different. It was a strong and well connected exercise.

3. How was the experience of writing as a community?

Arvind: Praise makes me nervous because what I have learned from my presence on the social media is that people praise because they think this is what is expected of them. No one today is happy with critical remarks that talk about flaws. They may be right because humans have their fair share of flawed personalities… and we are awesome as a collective force. Moreover, the world has all sorts of readers… so what my mind doesn’t accept can very well be worth a pat to someone else. I accept this. Let me add here that even grammatical blunders don’t affect a lot of readers because they don’t appears as blunders to their sensibilities… we all do remember the Harish Bhanot comment during the CWG in Delhi a few years back, don’t we?

Ayan: The experience was fantastic! Though there were times when I was a bit possessive and disappointed about the reinterpretation of my story and characters, I was pleased with the final result. That’s what matters the most!

Sanchita: It was a rewarding experience for me. I felt like a student who had just submitted her dissertation and was waiting with bated breath for the jury of 13 to pass their verdict. And needless to say, from their feedback I got a feel of graduating with flying colours. Guess they were being generous here.

Sutapa: The technique was to keep the editors involved right from the start. Once the seed story was developed it was shared along with the queue with the author circle. While the authors wrote their individual stories picking up ‘ hooks’ from the previous stories, the concluding story giving the resolution of the novel was also developed and shared. So now, the authors were familiar somewhat with the progression of the novel, so they could take their stories in the general direction. But I would still say it was a challenge for all the authors to write within this restricted environment and yet retain their own style and voice.

Deepti: The experience of writing together as an author community was a whole lot of fun. Our mails to one another, and the Facebook messages, were not only linked to making the work in progress truly special, but also filled with good natured banter and revelry. This proved to be quite an eye opener as we got to know one another well enough to gently poke fun, crack jokes and exchange bits of personal information. Dipankar would suddenly appear out of nowhere, and subtly suggest that it was time to get ‘Crossed and Knotted’ once more. But this sense of camaraderie was what made our writing sparkle, I believe implicitly.

Bhuvana: It was very different and wonderful. When I am writing a poem or a short story on my own, I would long for a critical assessment once in a way – I was incredibly surprised by the amount of support that came in from the editor and my fellow authors. Also in a composite novel, the responsibility is greatly shared. One could leave ends loose; one could leave unresolved cues, as others down the line would attempt the resolution.

Arpita: Initially, this was perhaps not very clear to the authors, who mostly  picked up on persons as the hook…not places/events…and we had  instances where characters were getting repeated whilst details  regarding their description/background were getting muddled….for  example if someone created a character as a student of Arts…about four  stories later…someone else picked up that character and unwittingly  turned the academic stream to Computers! There was also a table created to pin down ages/years/matching mobile  phone models/other period references to sort out the time issue. As we  were almost touching the end of the current century at one point in  time…we then took a deliberate decision to remove all traces of  explicit year/time references from all stories.
4. I couldn’t help but notice how the pattern shifted from thriller to supernatural, to realism and back all over again. As a reader, I was very happy with so many genres packed so skilfully in one book. Though, Ii have to say, I read them as short stories connecting a community rather than as a novel. How many of you felt constrained by the previous stories, when writing your own? Did that influence the themes of your story?

Arvind: Why should the tone or choices of the previous stories affect any writer? For instance, if supernatural and realism were explored, the writer always had a choice to be different and opt for a different approach.

Allow me to add here that if a composite concept were to be taken up by just one writer, it would be terribly difficult for him to break away from his conventionally chosen pattern of expression… which is easily done when there are multiple writers taking up this exercise. So yes, it is exciting not just for the writer but also for the reader who gets to read more than one pattern in one novel.

Sanchita: I am so glad that you noticed this particular aspect which I think is the USP of this book. The fact that it has so many genres packed in one while skillfully taking a story and its characters ahead. I did not feel constrained, maybe because I was the third author and as I mentioned earlier my list of what not to write was a small one and it did not touch upon anything that I had in mind, while I was weaving my story in my mind.

Sutapa: Maybe it was quite maddening when a specific author left some loose ends in his/her story for the next author to pick up as a hook but found that they were all ignored and an obscure cue had been picked up. It made the author do a rethink as to what had really emerged from the story vis-a-vis what had been originally intended. Also for the editors, it was a challenge to ensure that the characters who walked across the novel and were build by different pens still remained consistent to their original features.  To juggle so many voices and styles in stories that were progressive across the main novel,without colouring any of them by you own nuances was a challenge for the editors.

Deepti: I believe that the true strength of this book is the shifting of genres, with each author picking a genre he or she was comfortable with. Personally, I didn’t feel constrained by the previous story, as I had a definite plot in mind, with a strong protagonist who, (many folks have asked me about this!) was purely fictitious!

Arpita: The most amazing feat in the making of C&K was precisely this  cohesiveness which was brought about naturally, by the flow of stories,  to the extent of 80%… the rest , of course, had to be tweaked by team  Readomania. This tweaking mostly included mentoring the authors about  the depth of character-portrayals, certain plots, certain narrative  styles and so on. 5. Final question, it’s said there are more writers in the world than there are readers. Yet, here we all are, still pursuing the dream. You’ve all been published. What does it feel like? How similar is your reality as an author to your dream? Any surprises, regrets, disappointments?

Arvind: Yes, it does seem that everyone is writing… even I’ve felt many times that everyone I know on the social media is forever talking about what he or she has written. But this isn’t true. Our world of experiences is so narrow and small… the world has a lot more readers than we tend to believe and this includes even those who keep telling us that they are primarily writers.

What I do not like is, of course, believing that there is a terrible rat race out there and then keep pushing my post or article or story or novel or book in every unwholesome way. I believe that marketing is a fine art that only a few can master. The rest are crass and vulgar and simply ugly. It does feel good to be published. I have a few poems published in journals in UK and India and a few stories in anthologies…but the dream to write a full-length novel is ON.

Sutapa: Being published has brought me more surprises and hardly any regrets. It’s a high that one would like to experience again and again. But I am sure there is nothing new in that feeling. All authors must feel like that. And yes. I do wish there were more  readers than authors but aren’t authors also readers?

Deepti: There are writers and there are readers, and often, the two go together in perfect tandem. The thrill of seeing my name in print still continues, even though my first story was published in 1984.

If I do have any disappointment, it stems from the fact that my first book, titled ‘Arms and the Woman’, published in 2002, which takes a light-hearted look at the life of an Army wife, didn’t get enough publicity. This time, I guess I am older and wiser! (Hopefully!) 😀

Bhuvana: I guess this statement is even truer in the internet age where anyone who ever wanted to write can put up his/her work and hope to be read. But it was heartwarming to finally hold a book that I have authored in my hands and to hear my friends tell me that they bought the book for me.

Of course one dreams of becoming a widely read author but that can’t happen overnight. Readomania has given us all a toehold in the industry and it is now up to us as individuals to keep working on our skills as writers. Honestly at this point in time I have no regrets and disappointments!

Arpita: I would rather deluge the world with writers so that the society is  compelled to pick up at least one book to read! Too much audio-video  options have robbed the current generation of children/young adults of  their power of imagination and describing abilities… is rare to  come across one individual, young/middle aged, who can carry out a  normal soul-baring conversation without veering towards sales-pitch of  some kind! So let there be so many authors that the world is unable to  ignore them anymore!

Thank you all for your time and for sharing your wonderful book with me.

You can buy the book here:


An Interview with Reet Singh

I had been wanting to read Reet Singh’s books for ages. I finally got my hands on them a few days back, and read them both in one night! I just couldn’t stop. Her narrative is so fluent, the ups and downs in the plot-line so engaging, the sizzling heroes and the adorable heroines too tempting to give up, even for a night. You can find my reviews here and here

And take it from a huge fan of romance, if you haven’t read Reet’s books, you’re missing out!

I requested Reet to give me some time to get to know her, and so I sent her a few fun questions. She has been most generous with her time, and though I haven’t met her in person, I already think of her as a friend. And this woman can give you quite the inferiority complex. She is a surgeon and an author of three books, and she knits and crochets! Whew! How does she do that? Let’s find out shall we?

Welcome to my blog, Reet. It is so wonderful to have you here. So let’s start with a simple one: who is Reet Singh?

Dear Zeenat, many thanks for sharing your space with me. I am honoured to be here! My love affair with books began when I was a tot. A fabulous mother, who recognized the power of the written word, read to me and my sisters every night, but once we could read on our own, there was no stopping us, or our imaginings! I adore writing about love and happy endings – it is food for my romantic soul.

Hearing from my readers is thrilling.  Do visit my website at to learn more about me; or drop me a line at  If you like my books, I crave to know!

My Amazon author page is

  1. What has the journey of being a writer been like so far?

Such a lovely adventure – I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope to carry on in the same vein. The thrills and fears; self-doubt and then the exultation at a great review; new friends, new fans; learning the craft, tricks and tips; meeting wonderful bloggers and writers! Fun! Fun!

  1. What is the toughest part of writing for you?

The discipline – sitting down and writing x number of words every day – I have failed at that. I work best under the duress of deadlines – my imagination and my fingers fairly race then!

  1. Gosh, that’s me too! I just cannot sit down to write every day. Anyway, what other interests do you have apart from reading?

So many things to be passionate about, so little time!

Writing stories, watching romcoms, doing creative things with wool and a crochet hook – even if the tiniest thing takes me eons to complete, I do love crochet. And knitting. Here’s a sample:reet

4. That’s beautiful! You do realize you’re giving a lot of us a very serious complex? Dare I ask, are you a full time                 writer?  If not what else do you do?

Not a full time writer, no, but I am a full time surgeon!

  1. Wonder Woman that you are, does that hinder or help you as a writer?

Some days it helps – so much inspiration at the workplace! I couldn’t resist the lure and wrote ‘The Cure was Love’ last year, where the protagonists were both doctors.

Other times, I wish my life were not so frenetic. I would love to retire to a quiet little place, with a beach or a vinyard close by, where I could write and write and write – twirling my toes in the ocean whenever I felt like it, and sipping the occassional Cabernet!

  1. Yes, the hot surgeon and the Murphy’s Law ridden Simi! Loved that book! So, which authors have inspired you the most?

PG Wodehouse is brilliant. Fabulous plot, twists and turns you wouldn’t believe (but do), witty dialogues, romance, action, family drama  – all the ingredients of a best-seller!

  1. I love P. G. Wodehouse too! Aunt Dahlia is so wonderful. No more gushing, You’re stranded on an island. Which two characters from any books you’ve read would you take with you?

Robinson Crusoe. And Jeeves. Yes, I am practical like that!

  1. Savvy! Now fill in the blanks:

I write because…..the voices in my head tell me I must!

My favourite food is…. Carb-free of late!

Best thing about romance writing is…knowing that there’s bound to be a Happily-Ever-After!

Which song would be suitable for Scorched by his fire/ The cure was love?

What a coincidence – I have alluded to songs in both books!

scorchedIn Scorched: The Bellamy Brothers croon “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body would you hold it against me?’ and Mita melts in Tanay’s arms while they’re dancing, even though they both cordially dislike each other at that stage of the proceedings.

The Cure was Love: Cat Stevens – “Morning has Broken” This song is the sound that Simi wakes up to in the opening scene of The Cure was Love!


If I were an animal I would be….I would be a beaver, but I’d be praying to be re-born a sloth!

My favourite book is…unfair question – so many, so many!

My dream holiday would be…at home, in bed, reading!


  1. Such entertaining answers, Reet! Laughing away. Okay, really look forward to your answer to this one. So, you can live in a book. Which one would you choose?        Alice in Wonderland – Through the Looking Glass                                                                                                                          
  2. Name one iconic woman you’d like to have lunch with?                                                      Zeenat Mahal                                                                                                                                                                          Awww! Thank you so much for the biggest compliment ever! It’s a date, Reet Singh! I’ve been wanting to visit India since forever.

Falguni Kothari: Wordfreak? Oh, yeah!

I first noticed Falguni Kothari because of the fantastic titles of her books. Bootie and the Beast, much to my delight was also a spin on a fairytale I had just finished working on ( no points for guessing which one!) and It’s Your Move, Wordfreak! What’s not to love?

I requested Falguni to read my latest book and give me a quote if she liked it. She generously agreed and gave me a wonderful quote. I am thrilled to have her on my blog today. Turns out she is just as interesting a person as I thought she’d be! Thank you so much for giving me your valuable time Falguni. image

1. What has the journey of being a writer been like so far?
Mostly fun. I love the process of creating fiction: the ideas, the research, the coming together of so many snippets of thought in one cohesive (hopefully coherent) novel. What I can’t stand is the after: the querying, the waiting, the unreliability of the publishing industry.

2. What is the toughest part of writing for you?
The middle of the book. I am super fast with the beginning and the end, but the middle is when I feel like burning my laptop to the ground and becoming a yogi.

3. What other interests do you have apart from reading?
I am a semi-professional dancer. I did Kathak for around 12 years in my youth. And for the past two years I’ve taken up ballroom and Latin dancing. I take part in dance-sport competitions and…have managed a silver medal or two. It’s completely freeing: dancing.

4. Are you a full time writer? If not what else do you do?
Fulltime writer, homemaker, mother, dog companion, daughter, friend, blogger, reader, dancer, moviegoer etc…I have a fairly easy and busy life.image

5. Does that hinder or help you as a writer?
So far it hasn’t been a problem. I like working at my own pace in my pajamas, and at the same time from home as that is my first responsibility (at this stage) in my life.

6. Which authors have inspired you the most?
Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Diana Gabaldon, Chitra Divakaruni, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jane Austen…and many others.

7. You’re stranded on an island with two other people. Which two characters from any books you’ve read, would you choose to be with you?
Not my own books? Well, then I suppose Eve and Roarke from the JD Robb In Death series (they are very competent and resourceful) and James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser from Outlander-Diana Gabaldon (he’s just out of this world in competence and resourcefulness…and tremendously delicious to look at!)image

8. Fill in the blanks:

I write because…I love it.
My favourite food is…rice and Indian-style okra. I want it to be my last meal in this world.
Best thing about romance writing is…relieving your own romantic liasons.
Which song would be suitable for:
Bootie and the Beast theme song would be Paint It Red from the movie, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
And for It’s Your Move, Word Freak! it is Atif Aslam’s Tera Hone Laga Hoon.
If I were an animal I would be…a dog/wolf on land and a dolphin in the sea. Both are pack animals, smart as hell and vicious when they need to be.
My favourite book is...Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
My dream holiday would be...a World Tour picking one major central city or zone per continent and staying there for 10 days each. (Planning it for my 25th anniversary…which is fairly soon! Yikes!)

9. You can live in a book. Which one would you choose?
Palace of Illusions. I love historical India.

10. Name one iconic woman you’d like to have lunch with?
I’m going to go with a cliché here: Oprah. Don’t ask me why.

Author Bio: I write love stories. This is what I’ve written so far:
SCRABBULOUS IMPRESSIONS, a short story for Femina Magazine: Read for free here:
STAR STRUCK, a short blog story: Read for free here:

If you like my work, I hope you’ll tell me. I’m usually lurking about the Internet…a lot. Here are some places we can communicate and feel free to like, follow and support:




Thanks for reading!

A chat with Jyoti Arora: writer and blogger

Welcome to my blog Jyoti. I’d like to start off by asking you what prompted you on this journey of writing?

Thanks, it’s a pleasure to be interviewed by you.
I have always loved reading. My love of reading encouraged me to pursue B.A. in English Literature. Before that, I had only read books to enjoy. But studying them made me realize what art and skill went into creating a book. My love and respect for the written word strengthened. That was when I felt for the first time that I too wanted to be read and appreciated just as I was reading and appreciating the works of others. I too wanted to practice the art of writing and to create novels that readers would love. By the time I finished my Post Graduation in English Literature, the feeling had become a decision. After that, I did Post Graduation in Applied Psychology only because I felt it would help me in creating better characters. I also did a creative writing course from UK to train myself as a writer. That course gave me a confidence boost and helped me start my journey as a writer.

Can you tell us about your engagement with the genre you write and how it came about that you chose to write in it?
Both of my novels, Dream’s Sake and Lemon Girl, are general fiction and tell a love story. That’s what I enjoy reading. My second novel Lemon Girl can also be called Women’s Fiction or Feministic as it is about a rape victim and her quest to regain her lost respect and self respect. Lemon Girl raises a cry against the mentality of treating a victim as the culprit just because she is a woman.
What are the challenges of being a writer for you?
I think every stage of a writer’s journey is a challenge. From planning the book to writing it, and then getting it published. Even when the book is published, it is a challenge to market it and create the buzz about it. All this requires patience, determination and lot of hard work.
But my greatest challenge, as I feel it, is my limited scope of experience. Being a patient of Thalassemia Major, I have been forced to live a very restricted life. And so, there’s a lot of life that I have no way of experiencing. I could not go to school after class seventh. All my study after that has been through correspondence courses. I never went to a college or worked in an office. All that has made my experience very limited. And experiences are the seeds from which the ideas blossom. And I do feel my imagination hampered by my limited experience.
Also, it is difficult for me to go out and research for my books. I minded that a lot while working on my second novel Lemon Girl.

Tell us about the conception and writing of your books?
My first novel Dream’s Sake was inspired by O. Henry’s famous story The Gift of Magi. It was this story that made me want to write a beautiful love story too. And although the story of Dream’s Sake is very different, it too shows the protagonist sacrificing for love.
My second novel Lemon Girl rose out of my anger. In the past few years, we are witnessing a rising rate of crimes against girls and women. Even baby girls are getting raped. What’s worse is that the blame of such crimes is again and again thrown on women. I found this disgusting. No matter what the situation, rape is a crime. And blaming the victim for the crime is utterly unjust. I wrote Lemon Girl to protest against this victim-blaming mentality.

Did you self-publish? How was the experience if so?
My first novel Dream’s Sake was traditionally published by V&S Publishers. But my second novel Lemon Girl is self published. V&S Publishers no longer publish fiction. And the theme of Lemon Girl is such that I did not want to wait a long time to see it in print. Lemon Girl is based on rape and victim-blaming which is a raging issue in India currently. So I decided to self publish it. The increasing popularity of ebooks and online bookstores gave me the courage to do so. I found the process of publishing quite easy. I got the book critically reviewed before publishing to ensure that it was good. And I am confident that the readers would like the book and won’t find it lacking in quality, despite it being self published. The only thing that I am worried about is that my book is not available in offline stores. It can only be bought as ebook or as paperback from online retailers.

Who’s your favourite writer? Why?
I love reading classics best. And since Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre are my all time favourite books (I call them my comfort reads), I suppose the favourite authors would be Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. I also love books of Charles Dickens.
Among the new authors, I greatly admire the books of Khaled Hosseini.

If you were to change genres, which one would you be most likely to pursue?
I think I would enjoy writing romances or horror fiction. I can try my hand at a fantasy too. I also enjoy writing for children and want to develop some cute stories or books for kids.

What does writing and/or being a writer mean to you?
“The goal, I suppose, any fiction writer has, no matter what your subject, is to hit the human heart and the tear ducts and the nape of the neck and to make a person feel something about the characters are going through and to experience the moral paradoxes and struggles of being human,” said Tim O’Brien.
And I love doing that. I love making my readers fall in love with the characters I create. I love it when readers write to me saying that my books made them feel this or think that.
I love being a writer. I always find writing a hard work, full of frustrations. But I love reading my own words. And I love them being appreciated by my readers.
Writing is neither a hobby for me, nor a profession. It is my dream, my ambition and my sustenance. I don’t know what hopes my future would have had I not the belief that I am a good writer.

 If you could be a character from any book, which would it be?
I would love to be Elizabeth (Bennet) Darcy.

What is next?
I haven’t yet started work on my next book. I’m going over some ideas but haven’t been able to decide yet which of them I like best. But I do believe that it will be a happy, positive and optimistic book.

IMG-20141027-WA0005About jyoti Arora
Jyoti Arora is a Post Graduate in English Literature and Applied Psychology. Her writing achievements include two novels, three blogs, several wins in national level blog competitions, over five years of freelance writing experience, developing books for kids and abridging 24 famous English novels like Jane Eyre, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn etc.
Jyoti’s first novel, Dream’s Sake, was published in 2011 by V&S Publishers. It received great reviews and much appreciation from readers.
Books have always been Jyoti’s best friends. In fact, books so fascinated her from early childhood that she learnt reading, by herself, even before she started going to school. And she considers herself most fortunate that she is able to pursue her dream of being a novelist and work at what she loves best.
However, if books are Jyoti’s first love, and she’s still very devoted to them, the thrilling and steadily advancing world of technology also fascinates her. As a result, one of Jyoti’s blog is a technological blog called Techn0Treats. In 2011, a post in this blog won her the title of Samsung Mobiler when Samsung made her a part of the team of twenty bloggers chosen from all over India through a blogging competition. In this team of twenty bloggers, she was the only woman and perhaps the only one who had studied literature instead of science. As a Samsung Mobiler, Jyoti acted as the promoter and ambassador of Samsung on her blog.
Jyoti is a patient of Thalassemia Major which forced her to stop going to school after class seventh. After that, she continued her studies on her own through correspondence courses. Her zest to overcome her medical problems and zeal to achieve success keeps her striving on to make her dreams come true.
Jyoti is currently living in Ghaziabad, India.

Given below is the important information and links of her two books.

Lemon GirlFinal cover used on Paperback - Copy

‘It’s all your fault.’
Mere words these are.
“But words can possess a shadow invincible enough to rob even a soul of its eternity.”
In a society that finds it easier to mark sins of a victim than the culprit, Nirvi is a young girl punishing herself for the faults she did not do and avenging her hurts by defeating her own truth.
She is scared of her future, and ashamed of her past. She is failing herself, and knows it. She has had a long line of boyfriends, and hated them all. She detests the guy she is living with, runs away from the one she loves , and seduces the one who can never love her.
When Arsh first sees Nirvi, she’s a free and frank girl in whose eyes sparkle the lemony zest of life. The next time he sees her, she is a voiceless doll draped in clothes that cover her body less and shroud her soul more. And Arsh can’t rest till he finds out what made Nirvi give up her own real self.
Nirvi knows she is dragging herself on a path from which there can be no recovery. Can her spirit survive the treacherous downfall? Or is the pull of fear and push of desperation just too strong to withstand for a girl who believes she has “nowhere else to go” but down.

“When it’s time for you to fall in love, even a lemon can become the cause of it,” says Arsh

But can love survive, when even the self love dies?

Can love survive when respect is no more?
Does true love have the power to revive a dying soul?
Find out in the pages of this brilliantly woven, intense, heart-warming and thought-provoking saga of RISING IN LOVE…

Preview and all availability links at-
Flipkart (delivery within India):
Pothi (International delivery):

Google Play:

DREAM’S SAKEDream's Sake

She believes she has a right to fight for her dreams. She believes a little bit of selfishness is necessary to survive in this world. Abhi, however, has not learnt that lesson. And he can’t accept the fulfilment of his hopes when they seem to rise from the ruins of Aashi’s dreams.

His sister Priyam and friend Sid are made from much the same mould. And in the path of their love too lies a dream – the dream of a dead and betrayed mother.

Feelings rise, and are suppressed. Past grips the present and threatens the future. Memories refuse to wane their shadows from the heart. Hope and despair fight a battle. Guilt rises up and resents the forgiveness. Revenge weaves a web. Friendship is tested. And love demands a sacrifice. A tumultuous battle wages on…

What lies at the end of this battle?

How far can a person go to fulfill the dreams of someone else?

Lose yourself in the pages of this gripping saga of love and friendship to find out.

Preview and availability link at-
Google Play:

Summerita Rhayne’s Hidden Passion

Summerita writes with another pseudonym (to be disclosed sometime in the future) and she is prolific and charming, and…er…racy. Yes, she is South Asian, and she is not afraid to write sex scenes in her novels. How are we all still alive? Just the shock should disintegrate us into vapours of shame and…yeah, that is so last century.

Jokes apart, it’s hard to write credible sex scenes but Summer is good at it. If you don’t believe me, go read her first book, Against All Rules. This one is a contemporary romance. Met Tahir yet? Sigh. That’s what I’m talking about. So her latest book, Hidden Passion, a historical romance set in Medieval India, is up for grabs, if you want to get your hands on one, leave a comment.


HP bannerBlurb: Rukmani, the youngest of her family, has always had her way and she thinks she would too when the question of her marriage arises. But when she expresses her wishes, her world comes crumbling down because aristocratic affairs seem to matter more than her heart. Who can she run to but the strongest ruler of the region, Deveshwaraya? Devesh finds himself torn between duty and desire. He is drawn to her yet being with her jeopardizes everything he has worked for. When even protecting her invites trouble, how can he let his heart become involved? When the walls of monarchical politics rise high between them, will her passion prevail? Hidden Passion – the story of a princess daring to reach out for her heart’s desire.

HP three d template (1)Excerpt: 

The words fell like hammer blows, crushing the hopes she had nurtured. She had looked upon him like a saviour and he’d denied her that right. Tears gathered and blurred her vision. She had taken her family’s lack of sympathy who, she’d erstwhile thought, cared for nothing more than her. To have come to the man she had the ultimate hope of being her protector and have him withhold that help without as much as a sigh of regret, was unbearable.

‘Very well,’ she bit out. Her lips trembled. ‘If I can’t have your help, I will not go back. I won’t marry that covetous lout who wants me for what I bring him. I’ll stay here with you.’ She cast off her uttariya, uncaring of the semi transparent stole falling to the floor and closed the gap between them, ‘Take me, Devesh, I would rather be a kept woman of the man who desires me for myself than the wife of a man who eyes me as a bargain.’

Her arms went around his neck and she pressed her body against his. Before he could draw breath, she had drawn down his head to make their lips meet.

Summerita Rhayne loves to write sensual and emotional romance. There’s no knowing when some quirky – or sometimes even not so quirky – happening in daily life might trigger her right brain and then she’s off craving a new story. She loves writing characters who learn and grow and find their way out of their troubles and emotional hang-ups. Hot, sensual heroes and sassy but sweet heroines mostly fit the bill in her stories. She also believes that a touch of humor never goes amiss in a book.

She divides her time between family, job and writing – and loves winding down with music, movies and the internet!



Buy link for Against All Rules:

You can buy Hidden Passion here for just .99 cents. (I thought Christmas was over?)

Romancing South Asia

In conversation with some of the movers  and shakers of South Asian publishing world, including Dipankar Mukerjee, an up and coming indie-publisher based in India. Sara Naveed is a writer from Pakistan, Suleikha Snyder is an American-Indian writer based in America and Farha Hasan, is a Bengali-American writer. Thank you all for sharing your valuable insights with me. It was truly rewarding to have this discussion with you all.

1. As a reader, I was taught to be acutely aware of the difference in the ‘value’ of ‘popular’ literature and ‘elite’ literature. The former had none. Now as a writer I find this belief problematic. I am aware that as a romance writer, what I’m sharing is not ‘serious’ but I do know that it can still be and is thought provokingat some levels. I love writing and reading romances but I loathe female stereotyping. How do you feel about all this?

Suleikha: The idea that romance — and genre fiction in general — is somehow lesser in value than literary fiction is one that’s been around for a long time and, yes, the roots of the elitism and the sneering do come from the fact that it is a genre written by and for women. The literary establishment can’t fathom that pulp for the ladies is both a money-maker and a cherished part of bookshelves. And that goes double for ethnic, diasporic writing. That we are not following in the footsteps of the Jhumpa Lahiris and Arundhati Roys  and writing about our post-colonial angst…gasp. Why would we choose to write commonplace, lowbrow, sexual novels? Well, because we have that choice, and because “happily-ever-after” is a valid ending for a story.


Farha:  I feel  that there is room for multiple types of  literature. Literary fiction will always have a place and always earn awards. However, fiction can not only educate but entertain. Story telling and now popular fiction has in itself been around for generations. I would argue that popular fiction is just a valid or even better form of escapism or entertainment than gaming, TV,  or browsing the web, as it opens the door to a love of reading. Once you have established this one can easily progress to appreciating other forms of writing.


Dipankar: Authors need to make a choice, a difficult one indeed. They need to decide the gallery they want to play for. Books can be written for the classes as well as the masses. Too literary a touch may alienate the casual readers and too simple a view may not please the discerning reader. Increasingly, authors are taking a middle path, where they write for the masses but give a touch for the classes. This helps them in being commercially popular as well as critically acclaimed.

Sara: In general, I hate stereotyping irrespective of what gender it is.


  1. Some feminists have a problem with romance writing and those who read and write it. To a certain degree, I agree. Especially since romance is based on the alpha hero. I love alpha heroes. Why alpha-ism is mutually exclusive with kindness is beyond me but I read and write romances to create kind, strong alphas. What do you think of this whole debate?

Suleikha: I think the alpha hero debate is rather silly, because the great thing about romance writing is that there are alternatives. For every rake and cad, there is a beta hero who is willing to let the heroine drive. It’s just that the alpha heroes get all the press. Are they inherently antifeminist? I don’t really think so. Because at the end of the day, writing characters like this serves the female reader. It’s about what women want. And you’ll notice that in most of these alpha-driven stories, the women either redeem or tame them. It’s not about being taken over so much as finding equal footing…and there’s a power in bringing an alpha hero to his knees, in making him a fool for love.


Farha:  I feel if you go back to romance novels that were written ten or twenty years ago you will see an evolution in the role of women and the nature of the alpha male. In modern day romance novels, the hero is more likely to appreciate qualities such as independence, out outspokenness and intelligence. They may get on his nerves but this only adds to the sexual tension. The heroine is also less likely to need saving. In the end the hero wants an equal.


Dipankar: The Alphas are just one aspect of the debate. There is a lot more to it. What a lot of authors do is they create larger than life heroes for a woman to dream and desire, which builds their expectations from their partners. More often than not, reality stands miles away from such characterisations and hence the end result is mismatch of expectations, reality shocks and emotional turmoil. There should be a note saying, such characters are strictly for the fictional world J

Jokes apart, modern literature definitely appreciates a lot more of realistic characters, yet the world of heroes is not shunned. People need heroes to look up to and they should be created to ensure that we think of the ideal, at least in our dreams.

Sara:  I love alpha heroes too. They bring power and excitement to a story. They are highly overprotective, in control and like to stay in charge. Of course, there is no fun reading about alpha hero alone. The story gets exciting when alpha hero meets his perfect match.


  1. Feminism at one point meant denying femaleness. It isn’t the case anymore. To me being a woman is a privilege. It doesn’t make me stupid, weak or any less capable. In fact, there are things I can do only because I am a woman. Romance writing is not and should not be considered a woman’s genre. It’s a genre of writing not a genre of writing for women. Anyone can read and write it.

Suleikha: I…don’t really see a question here? Though I do think “anyone can read it and write it” is a sweeping generalization that deserves closer scrutiny. When we have the mainstream literary elite dismissing Nicholas Sparks as romance, while the author himself pooh-poohs romance and claims to be something better…I think we do have to set boundaries. Romance as a genre has certain tenets, certain rules that need to be followed in order for it to qualify. And I think there’s nothing wrong in claiming romance as women’s space, because we have so little of it. Sure, we can share, but why can’t it be ours?

Farha:  I agree that anyone can read or write romance but to me romance is a woman’s genre (just as porn is overwhelmingly a male interest). Women understand the value of romance better than men. They also understand women’s fantasies better than men. Just as men do not feel apologetic about enjoying sports, women should not feel trivial or frivolous about reading romance. They have just as much merit as any other genre (mystery, thriller, fantasy) or leisure activity.

 Dipankar: True that! Genres can’t be gender biased. It is all about creativity, emotions and ability to express which doesn’t depend on the author’s gender.

Sara: I absolutely agree! Writing romance is not only restricted to women and should not be considered a woman’s genre only. Any person who can feel romance can write about it.


  1. The ‘event’ of reading romance and writing romance as opposed to the consequence of that act which lies in the meaning of the text.Why do women largely read and write romance? Are we denying something? Are we denied something in real life? Are we trying to reclaim something?

Sleikha: I think, again, you can’t generalize. What each woman gets out of reading or writing romance is hers. Some find intimacy, some find escape, some genuinely love writing these types of stories. I have always read romance. I didn’t turn to it out of some desire to reclaim anything. I just liked it better than what I viewed as boring litfic. Give me passion! Give me adventure! Give me the knowledge that happiness exists! We don’t wonder why men write westerns or spy novels, do we?

 Farha: We don’t live in a culture of romance. Historically, arranged marriages have been the norm, which in modern times have evolved conceptually into “strategic marriages.” Today when you look at youth culture (especially on campus) we see the other extreme.  There is less dating and more casual sex, “friends with benefits” or “hooking-up.” In this regard, I do think that romance and sentimentality is missing from many people’s lives.

Dipankar: Motivation to read romance can vary, as a young adult romance helps you dream, desire and build a world of the surreal real. As a mature individual, romance helps you connect with yourself, provided you are a romantic person. Denial is subjective and can be at best one of the reasons a person reads, and this is not limited to romance.

Sara: Being a woman, I can proudly say what I feel about writing romance. Yes, I love writing and reading romance but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am denying or trying to reclaim something. Since childhood, I was drawn towards watching romance movies and listening to romantic soft numbers. I feel romance is embedded in my soul. We read romance so we can take a break from our real life for some time and drown into the lives of the fictional characters. I read to find peace.


  1. Another question which arises for me is, that is South Asia leaning towards popular literature now because the way gender issues and gender politics is changing? Is it relayed to the publishing boom in India? Is it related to the Book prizes that South Adian writers have been getting? How much do the fiscal changes of the region factor in it?etc?

Suleikha: Since I’m American, I can’t really speak to the literary climate in South Asia. I can, however, say that it’s still a struggle here to make diverse voices heard amidst the largely white, Christian, field that is romance fiction. And I’ve found that I don’t fit the mold for Indian readers either. They don’t seem interested in my stories and seem to prefer the fantasy and escape that comes from reading Mills & Boon books about white characters.

Dipankar: There are two ways to look at it.

One, the market has opened up, the readers have increased. There is a lot more simplified literature that is available to read, which in turn is generating more interest and hence demanding more content. This cycle continues to drive the market.

Second, the authors, the suppliers of content have also increased, which in turn has increased the spectrum of views, thoughts and subjects that are being written about. This pluralism in literature has brought in a lot of acceptability of issue based writing, including gender.

Sara: There is no doubt about the fact that South Asia literature has risen tremendously over the past couple of years. People are coming out of their nest and mustering the strength to write about something. Publishing industry has also shown a boom in India because people are actually interested in literature. Gender issues and politics are discussed openly in the books and that’s what makes them more relatable among the readers.


SuleikhaAuthorphoto2014Suleikha Snyder is an editor, writer, American desi and lifelong geek Suleikha Snyder published her first short story in 2011. Subsequent releases have included Bollywood romances Spice and Secrets, and Bollywood and the Beast, and contemporary short stories and novellas for a variety of publishers. These days, she’s hard at work on more South Asian-themed romance and erotic romance.

Suleikha lives in New York City, finding inspiration in Bollywood films, daytime and primetime soaps, and anything that involves chocolate or bacon.

Visit and follow Suleikha on Twitter, @suleikhasnyder.

Farha_headshot3Farha Hasan is a writer based out of Boston of South Asian descent. She was born and bred in the South Asian community in Toronto and has a degree in business and a passion for books. Her creativity and her passion for the written word first took her into advertising and then research. A slave to fiction Farha has been reading and writing short stories since she first learned to hold a pencil. The Mother-in-Law Cure is her first Novel.


Sara Naveed is a romance writer.

Dipankar Mukerjee founded Readomania as a platform for new writers. He is a management graduate from IIT Madras, and has worked for the consulting industry for almost eight years, with organizations like IBM and Ernst & Young, before taking the road less travelled, to pursue his passion for reading and writing. He has started a new literary social network,, a platform for encouraging more and more new authors from the region. This region has traditionally been the land of storytellers and a lot of us have an inherent skill of creating good plots, good stories and good narrations. With a little encouragement and support, many more authors will be widely read and attain a place in the sun. This is the essence of Readomania-an initiative that nurtures emerging stars of the literary world.

The site also has a lot in store for the reader. Since the content is edited and curated, readers get quality reads on a platter. The variety on Readomania is impressively vast; we have romance, emotions, thrills, travel, humour and drama. Accessing Readomania makes for a perfect break of fifteen minutes from your daily grind. Read a story and unwind. It is appropriate to say,   Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are. Readomania epitomises this thoughtby transporting you to new worlds of on the wings of your imagination. Visit us at and enjoy a whole new world of literature.

Readomania’s first book, Chronicles of Urban Nomads has been critically acclaimed in India. Our next book, Crossed & Knotted, will be India’s First Composite Novel, is up for a release in India in January of 2015.


“How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable/Seem to me all the uses of this world!”

For the last three days, after the Peshawar massacre of 16/12/2014, a date I’m unlikely to forget, I have found myself falling deeper and deeper into an abyss. We are helpless ‘in the face of such reckless hate’, as King Theodin says. The death of a child, somehow seems an unnatural occurrence. It is always painful to hear about. The murder of a child is unthinkable.

A massacre?

Words failed me for days. I looked to other writers to find what I wanted to say, what I felt. The horror was too great. The devastation too deep. Poetry serves us best when emotions are so heightened.  Wilson Owen’s Anthem of Doomed Youth seemed to express some of my pain and helplessness.

There is the anger still; the disbelief, the pain and shock, the hate and revulsion. I tried to think about how those men could have brought themselves to open fire on children. Children. 

And I couldn’t. Something just wouldn’t add up. They were human beings. Of  flesh and blood. A heart, a conscience?

That was when the fear hit. A deep primal fear.

They were human beings. They were not supernatural ghouls,ogres, orcs or aliens. They were just like you and me–in all but spirit. They too had mothers somewhere. Fathers. Brothers. Families. How could they do something so evil, monstrous, inhuman?

The fear that gripped me was that despite my saying words like monster, inhuman etcetera, to tell myself that they were different from me, I didn’t believe it. I wanted to hide from the similarities that marked us.  I saw their pictures and I heard, they are not from Pakistan. They look so evil people said. They must be…X, Y, Z.  From somewhere far off. Somewhere, we could pretend, was different, therefore, evil. How far will we run? If memory and history serves,this mask of evil has been worn by many a Pakistani for years. For others. That darkness envelopes us today. We are the Other today.

The Pakistan of today, so different from the one i grew up in, reminds me of Browning’s poem ‘Childe Rolande to the Dark Tower Came’.

“…I think I never saw

Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve:

For flowers – as well expect a cedar grove!

But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind with none to awe,
You’d think; a burr had been a treasure trove.

No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In some strange sort, were the land’s portion. ‘See
Or shut your eyes,’ said Nature peevishly,
It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
’Tis the Last Judgement’s fire must cure this place
Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.’ ”

And we Pakistanis, continue to plod along, not seeing what’s staring us right in our faces. We are a stoic, resilient nation. But we are also a blind one. We are weak in the face of ‘knowledge’. We seek refuge in other people’s half-truths because we can’t be bothered to find out the truth about our own religion for ourselves. Half are afraid that what they will find out will be what they fear. That the Taliban might be right.

The Quran is for me. For you. Not for a mullah somewhere to read and interpret for you and me. The Quran is right there. Open it and read. That’s the trouble isn’t it? This ennui that has taken hold of our nation, which won’t let us shake off our fears and aporia long enough for us to wake up from this nightmare.

Allah says…they say. Why don’t we find for ourselves what He says because He speaks to us ALL. We don’t need an intermediary between Him and us. The Quran is for YOU. For me. Take from it what it gives you. If it holds back at times, and you dont understand fully? So be it. Rumi says, that you are only ready for what you receive from it. Read it again, and when you do, more of it will reveal itself to you.

We cannot let the lies of Taliban win. We cannot let their blasphemies get louder than the Truth of Islam. We must guard ourselves and our faith against the lies of Taliban, and anyone else, who tries to interpret our religion for us. We have been given all the equipment to do so ourselves. Pakistan may be broken today, it wont be forever. Nothing lasts forever. Not even fear.

“And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew. ’Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.’”



Welcome to my blog Alix Nichols. 

We both have the love of romance and Mr. Darcy in common. So my first question is: why do you think women today are still reading and writing romance? Many women today are pseudo-feminists if not wholly so, and yet we have this desire to read stories of happily ever after. Do share your thoughts.

Hello Zeenat, Thank you for the hosting this stop on your blog! Now, to your first question. It’s true that a lot of women today want it all: equal rights, a fulfilling career, a loving relationship and a family life. There’s nothing wrong with that. Technology has made the traditional division of labor obsolete in many parts of the world. Thankfully. As for enjoying romance books with a happy ever after, I would describe it as human rather than feminine. Because I suspect quite a few men would enjoy romance too if they dared read it or admit it. Just like a lot of women enjoy thrillers, science fiction and action movies (I, for one, do). But that’s the easy part. The darker and more complex part of the conundrum the fact that many women want empowerment AND an Alpha male. They’d like their boyfriends and husbands to do the dishes AND open doors for them. They want them to be sweet AND authoritarian, trusting AND jealous, rakish AND loyal, seeking their opinions AND all knowing… There’s a certain type of romance books that, no doubt, contributes to the myth that such a man exists. I don’t write that kind of romance.

Living in Paris, reading and writing romance. Sounds like a perfect dream. What’s that like? How much of your Parisian life translates into your books?

In many ways, Paris is like any other large city. It’s hectic, polluted and crowded. It rains 80% of the time. But it’s also insanely beautiful and fun. I hope I’ve managed to translate its beauty and its energy into my books.

What If it’s Love…ah, the million dollar question. Tell us about this book.

“What If It’s Love?” is the first novel in the Bistro La Bohème series. Its heroine Lena is a bookish, introverted heiress who comes to Paris to nurse a broken heart. The hero, Rob, is a handsome, charismatic and penniless waiter at the Bistro La Bohème, where Lena becomes a regular. They meet there and start an unlikely friendship that soon blossoms into love. Until she discovers his dirty secret. The title of the book is a line from a beautiful poem by Marina Tsvetaeva, a 20th century Russian poet.

Your second book is called ‘Under My Skin’…what’s that about?

“Under My Skin” picks up where “What If It’s Love?” left off. It’s a story of the rocky relationship between Jeanne, La Bohème’s spirited bartender, and the geek-turned-hottie Mat. It’s my Parisian version of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” .Alix_coffee_VS - copie

When and how did you first get published? What was that journey like?

I published my first two books “What If It’s Love?” and “You’re the One” (a novella in the Bistro La Bohème series) in June 2014, directly to Amazon. Having read and heard enough stories of endless querying and rejection, I decided to completely forego the traditional route. I’d rather let the readers decide for themselves if my stories are good enough than have that decision made for them by agents and publishers.

When is your next book coming out?

“Under My Skin” is coming out in October 2014.

Which is your favourite character from your own books and why?

Lena is the one closest to me. Rob is the one I could definitely fall in love with. Jeanne is the most endearing. But I think it’s Amanda (the “villain”) who’s my favorite. She’s so much fun to write!Teaser-WhatIfIt'sLove

Reviews. Bane or blessing?

Definitely a blessing. Even a bad review is better than none.

I figure if you’re fond of storytelling, you’re fond of movies. What’s your all-time favourite classic?

I’m glad you asked! My number one favorite romcom is the 1995 BBC version of “Pride and Prejudice”. Because Colin Firth IS Mr Darcy! And because it’s excellent from every point of view. But there are so many other great romance movies out there! Check out this page on my blog for a list (trailers included) of my favorite little-known gems:

If you could pick one iconic woman to play the heroine from one of your books, who would it be and why?

I’d pick Emily Blunt to play Lena.

There is a definite prejudice against romance writers amongst writers. There is the belief that smart women don’t read and write romances. Julia Quinn, one of my all-time favourite romance writers, as you may know, is a Yale graduate. She negates that stereotype quite effectively, I’d say. How do you respond to this kind of presumptions if you come across them?

I agree with Julia Quinn, who’s one of my favorite romance writers too, by the way. Courtney Milan – another favorite of mine – has a degree in Physical Chemistry from UC Berkeley. Eloisa James is a Harvard-trained Shakespeare scholar and university Professor. She recently wrote a great article on why romance novels are “more than worthy of respect”. You can find it here:

You are going on a holiday. Which one book, hero and heroine would you take with you?

You can probably guess the answer to this one – “P&P”, Mr Darcy. Cover WIIL-M

What is your advice for other romance writers?

I’m not comfortable giving advice at this point. Give me a year.

How do you write? Is it more inspiration or do you work hard at it?

It really depends. Sometimes scenes and dialogues just come to me. They play out in my head without any conscious interference on my behalf, and all I need to do is write them down. Other times, I can spend four hours on one paragraph.

Which romance not by you, do you wish you could’ve written? What do you love about it?

Courtney Milan’s “The Governess Affair”. It’s extremely well-written, poignant and… compact. I love compact stories.

Give us one quote from your book, which you are particularly proud of.

I’m not sure if I’m proud of it, but I certainly agree with Rob when he says, “People think they come to Paris because they’re in love with it. But in truth, they come here because they want to fall in love. And while they’re waiting for that to happen, they default to Paris.”

Thank you Alix, for sharing your interests and giving us an insight into a romance writer’s life.

Thank you for your thought-provoking questions! I’m very happy to be featured on your blog.


Book Details:

Series: Bistro La Boheme

Publication Date: June 2014

No. of Pages: 244 Pages

Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult

Book Blurb:                                                        

Can a Paris bistro heal a broken heart? Charm, wit and poignancy abound in this gripping contemporary romance. Introverted heiress Lena moves to Paris to nurse old wounds reopened by her neglectful boyfriend. Enter Rob, a charismatic and handsome Frenchman who waits tables at La Bohème — a café on Lena’s street — and has big dreams. He makes her laugh and forget her insecurities. She stirs something infinitely tender in his soul. Before they know it, they’ve fallen for each other, even though both had good reasons to fight the budding love. But their passionate romance is cut short when she discovers his dirty secret…


“Can we be friends again?” he asked.

“So you think we were friends?”

He nodded. She arched her brows.

“And you think you can be friends with me and Amanda at the same time?”

“Why not?”

“Can be a health hazard, what with all the sparks that fly.”

He grinned. “Never mind Amanda’s taunts. She’s like that with everyone.”


“Spiky. But she’s a sweetheart, once you’ve grown on her.”

“I wonder how I could ever accomplish that.” Lena smiled, a speck of sadness still lingering in her eyes.

He stared, mesmerized. He could never get enough of that smile. A cloud hiding the moon must have shifted, because suddenly silver light poured over the terrace turning it into an enchanted place.

Lena gasped.

“What happened to your hand?”

He followed her gaze and saw that the knuckles of his right hand were smeared with blood. Shit. He could bet there’d been none after he punched the wall. He covered the abrasions with his other hand.

“It’s nothing.”

She grabbed his wrist and yanked his hand closer to her face.

“Have you disinfected them?”

Rob didn’t register her question. He looked at her delicate fingers holding up his hand. Then at her face. She was squinting at his hand, trying to assess the seriousness of his cuts. Her gesture was devoid of any erotic subtext. And yet the contact of her skin scorched him, just like when he held her hand at L’Espace. It stirred an impulse inside him that was both feverishly raw and infinitely gentle. It made his heart bump against his ribcage as if demanding to get out. He gazed at her hands holding his. The urge to run his fingertips over her skin, from her nails down to her wrist and then inside her palm was too overwhelming to resist. . .

“So have you?” she asked.

Rob blinked and looked up. “Have I what?”


“It’s just a graze.”

“I have a disinfectant in my suitcase,” she said.”I can fetch it–”

And release my hand?

“Stay,” he blurted out. Shit.

“I mean, I also brought some, so you don’t need to bother. I’ll disinfect as soon as I get back to my room. I promise.”

“OK,” she said softly and let go of him.

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Author Bio: Alix Nichols is an avid reader of chick lit, romance and fantasy, caffeine addict and a badge-wearing Mr. Darcy / Colin Firth fan. She lives and works in Paris, France. When not writing, she reads romance (what else?) and spends time with her family.

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Interview with Devika Fernando

profile pic
Welcome to my blog Devika.

1. Tell us something about yourself and your background.
My life is a bit too complicated to summarize in one or two sentences, but I’ll try: I am a German citizen and grew up in Germany, but my mother is Sri Lankan and I was born in Sri Lanka. After spending 19 years in Germany, I moved here to discover the ‘other’ side to my origin. Writing has always been my passion. I turned it into my profession when I started my own content writing business for German customers in 2011. Since the beginning of 2014, I’m also a self-published author. I focus on contemporary and paranormal romance.

2. You already have a book published. What inspired you to write your first book and your new book?
“When I see your Face”, my debut, was inspired by a daily soap on TV that revolved around a good and an evil twin and one confused wife. The rest is my own idea and just formed itself inside my head as I went along. As for my upcoming release, “Playing with Fire”, it was sparked by fantastic artwork on deviantART, and demanded to be written.

3. I’d love to hear about your publishing journey. It’s always so inspiring to hear about a writer’s lonely hard work finally being recognized and viola…published!
I totally agree. In October last year, I decided to finally make my dream come true and write my own book. I had done a lot of online research on self-publishing and the romance market, and read even more books, and I was sure the time was right. I weighed all the pros and cons, and chose to opt for self-publication because it would be faster, more flexible, keep me in charge, and give me a chance to get my writing out there. I’m not saying it’s easy, but now things are possible for us (aspiring) writers that couldn’t have been imagined years ago. It’s terrifying and fun and rewarding all at the same time, and there’s always so much to learn. I love making friends with likeminded people during the process.

4. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Any interesting ‘story’ about writing the character or any in the last one?
Felicia, the heroine of “Playing with Fire”, can conjure and control fire. She discovers that she’s different during childhood, but she hides it from herself and others for most of her life. Only when she meets Joshua and his own gift (ice magic), does she realize that she’s not only different, but special. She fights to find the balance between blending in and being in power and true to herself.

5. Who is your ideal reader, if at all? What is your writing process? Do you think of writing for someone special or not?
Hm, interesting question. To be honest, I write what I myself would like to read. But I do keep in mind that there are certain things romance readers expect and appreciate. I don’t target a special readership like for example YA authors do it.
As for my writing process, I usually get an idea, write down a summary and make notes on the characters, sometimes of the first chapter, too. Later, when I get down to writing, I structure the plot a bit more and make character profiles. I usually write in sequence, but sometimes a chapter from towards the end wants my attention.

6. What was the hardest thing about your latest release? Do you think of ‘giving a message’ in your books?
It was a challenge to keep the right balance between action / paranormal scenes and the development of my heroine as well as the love story. And yes, I always include (subtle) messages. Sometimes they are voiced when the characters speak, sometimes you’ll have to read between the lines. “Playing with Fire” is about believing in yourself, appreciating that you’re different and unique, and rising to challenges.

7. What got you started on the path to writing? Do you have a day job? If so, what do you do?
I have been writing for as long as I know how to. The transit from hobby to profession started in 2010 when I was looking for online jobs and started working for a content writing agency in Germany. I went freelance with my own article providing service a year later, and that is still my main job.
WISYF cover web

8. What draws you to write in your chosen genre? Who are your favourite writers in this genre and why?
I am a helpless romantic, and I believe in true love, and that people in love not only find each other but also themselves. So, I just have to write romance novels. My favourite author in this genre has to be Nora Roberts. She makes every character come to life, and she never loses her magical touch, even though she’s written so many books.

9. What does writing mean to you? What does being a writer mean to you? I make the distinction here because I feel they are not entirely the same. Do you agree?
I agree. Writing in itself might mean many things (not only fiction, but also just the process of writing, maybe keeping a journal or typing texts for a specific purpose like blog articles or web content). Depending on what kind of writing it is, it means different things to me. First and foremost, it’s about the art and skill to know how to put something into words, to attract attention and then keep that attention and turn it into an emotion of your choice.
To me, being a writer means dedicating yourself to the task, working hard at it, constantly trying to get better, and being in love with the whole process of it.

10. If you were to choose one book, one male protagonist, and one female protagonist to take with you on a holiday, which ones would you pick? And why?
Wow, love the question, but it’s difficult to answer. I can’t give you one, so I’m naming two each…
There are two books that I have read more than 10 times by now and still love: “The Tale of the Body Thief” by Anne Rice, and “God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy. I’d choose one of these. As for female protagonist, I’d love to talk to Jane Eyre or to Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice”, to get to know more about their world and what made them inherently strong. As for a male protagonist, I’d choose between the vampire Lestat from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s classic.

11. Tell us about your latest release coming out next week? Be a sport and give us a blurb, and a bit of a sneak-peak?
Here’s the blurb:
Sparks fly when Felicia and Joshua meet. Discovering her inner fire and unleashing unimaginable powers makes her realize that all her life, she has been hiding her true self. When buildings burn and people are in danger, the tempting game of playing with fire becomes serious. Will their love and desperate struggle for control save her life, or will the fire magic turn itself against its mistress?
PWF cover web

Here’s a short excerpt from Devika’s new release:
Joshua took a last step closer until there wasn’t more than an inch or two of space between them, and she could feel her heat and his coldness warring with each other, testing the boundaries for a chance to leap and attack – or to leap and dance.
When he leaned his face down, Felicia’s breath hitched and her pulse started racing. Inside her belly, the flames shot higher and higher, wanting the kiss that was surely about to happen.
“Don’t,” she whispered despite the almost aching desire to feel that connection again.
Stopping a hair’s breadth before her face, he whispered back, “Why?”
His cool breath that smelled as minty and wintry as the whole man brushed over her trembling lips.
Struggling to put her conflicting feelings into words, she blurted out, “You’ll get burned.”
That purely masculine, dangerous grin tugged at his lips which were so enticingly close that she could almost taste them.
“What if I enjoy playing with fire?” he asked, voice deep and low and full of promise.

Devika’s words on the book:
“Playing with Fire” is the first book of the 4 Elements of Love Series. Each novel can be read as a stand-alone with a happy end, so don’t be scared of cliffhangers. I’m planning another 3 novels on the elements water, earth and air. The ideas have been jotted down, but they will have to rest for some more time.
I loved writing PWF, because it was my first foray into paranormal romance, and Felicia and Joshua really demanded my attention, and came alive. I’ve always been drawn to paranormal and supernatural topics, from vampires over shape shifters to wizards and witches.

You can find Devika’s books here: