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Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Keep Calm and Read a Bollywood Romance": An Interview with Golden Heart '13 Finalist Sonali Dev


I am so thrilled to introduce you to Sonali Dev: 2013 Golden Heart Finalist and upcoming debut author with Kensington! She writes Bollywood romances--how cool is that?!?

SONALI: Hey Hanna, thanks so much for having me!

HANNA: Absolutely my pleasure. I was immediately struck by your writing and subject matter when I was a lucky ducky and got to read your manuscript months ago. Let's start the questions!

Tell us about your books!

Ah my books! Trust you to make me smile like a goofball right out the gate, because this is only my favorite thing to talk about. My debut novel, The Bollywood Bride, comes out November 2014 from Kensington. It’s the story of a Bollywood star, Ria Parkar, who has sold her soul for stardom. But she would do it again to keep her promise to her dying father, and to protect the man she loves from the insanity in her genes.

Vikram Jathar chased Ria across the globe once and lost everything in the aftermath of her betrayal. It’s taken him ten years to rebuild his life and he’s determined never to lose it again.
When a scandal in Mumbai threatens to expose Ria’s past, her cousin’s wedding in Chicago seems like the perfect place to hide out. Only, reuniting at a big colorful Indian wedding surrounded by everyone they love rips right through the tangle of lies and takes the two of them right back to everything they've been hiding from. The wordless bond that has always tied them together remains untouched, and the searing chemistry all but sparks them back to life. But even as Vikram unwraps her body from the silken folds of her sari, he might be unraveling secrets that could destroy them both. Now they must find the courage to heal the past and risk everything on a seemingly dark future a second time around.

[ummmm Hanna butting in here: "...unwraps her body from the silken folds of her sari..." YES PLEASE]

My second book, The Bollywood Bad Boy, just finaled in the Golden Heart and comes out in 2015. That one is the story of a child bride, Mili Rathod, who grows up and finds she's married to the wrong man. Although Mili has been bound by marriage since she was four years old, she's experienced the kind of freedom other girls in her village in India only dream about. All because her grandmother raised her to be a modern city wife. So when the husband she's waited twenty years for shows no sign of coming to claim her, Mili grabs the chance to come to America on a scholarship to fulfill her other dream of getting a higher education.

Filmmaker Samir Rathod is perfectly happy being Bollywood's favorite bad boy. He has never wanted to be a hero. But he will do just about anything for his own hero- his big brother, even travel halfway across the globe to take care of the 'wife' who just crawled out of his brother's past.

When Sam tracks down his brother's wife, he finds that Mili isn't quite the simple village girl he planned to bully into signing annulment papers. She's a whirlwind, who sucks him into her roommate's elaborate elopement, complete with enough drama to put his films to shame. Before he can gather his wits or the guts to yank her dreams from beneath her feet, she's got him drowning in her onyx eyes and forgetting what a jaded bastard he really is. 

Unfortunately, she fancies herself in love with his big brother. Sam and Mili must learn the difference between what is real and what they've been brought up to believe and reach for a love that turns tradition on its head.

I must add here that both these are working titles and both books will be released under different names. So, stay tuned. 

For those readers who may not know, can you explain the Bollywood setting of your books?

Geographically, a large portion of my books play out here in America although my characters tend to romp across the globe. The Bollywood Bride is set in Chicago, Mumbai, India, and Bristol, England. The Bollywood Bad Boy takes place in Ypsilanti, MI, which is a small university town adjoining Ann Arbor, and in Mumbai. 

Character wise, my protagonists usually work in Bollywood, which is the popular term used to refer to the Indian film industry housed in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). In terms of number of films made per year and fan-base, Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world. 

As I mentioned before, in the first book my heroine is a Bollywood star. In the second one my hero is a Bollywood director. So we do get to visit this world from the inside. 

The third piece of my setting is the style. I see my books as written in the 'Bollywood style' reminiscent of the large sweeping family sagas Bollywood tends to make. A wide-angled shot of what I see as the essence of being Indian. It’s the dramatic, just this side of melodramatic. It’s families that have no boundaries, no concept of privacy, love that makes choruses burst in your head. It’s beautiful people in beautiful places, but also the smell of the most wretched sewers. It hops around the world but is tied to the traditions of an ancient land. It’s the clash of the oldest culture in the world warring with the most modern values. 



Why does this particular subject/setting speak to you?

The easiest answer is that I was born and raised in India in your typical close-knit Indian family with the most a-typical thinkers. Where traditions that involved putting your family before all else were coded into my blood, but where the place of women in society and my own role as a woman was anything but traditional. Consequently, I feel just as strongly about the strength of familial bonds as I do about freeing women from the sometimes corrosive and regressive rules of my culture. And I'm more than just fascinated with exploring how we can walk the fine line between the wonderful security of family and the independence that every individual needs to meet their full potential. I have no choice but to dig into this in my stories. 
As for the Bollywood part, I was raised on a staple of both Bollywood and Hollywood films and I have a lot of friends and family who work in the film industry, so it is a world I feel very comfortable with and not in the least awed by.

Can you tell us about your path to publication thus far?

I want to say it's been long and hard. But really, I've enjoyed it so very much I would be lying. I've written my entire life. And although I wrote and directed my first play when I was in fourth grade I mostly wrote to hear the sound of my own voice until about ten years ago. Until then it was all about expressing my opinions. Then ten years ago I got sucked into writing scripts for movies by my best friend. After that I was hooked on creating characters and putting them through the ringer to explore my own issues with the way the world works. As for publication, once I had completed my first manuscript some three years ago, I joined the RWA and with the help of my local chapter (The Windy City chapter) I went after it with everything I had. I took classes to learn how to write queries and synopses, how to revise, rewrite, polish and submit. I literally pitched and queried it until my pitching and querying limb was ground to a stub and the scabs on my rejection limb resembled bedsores on the dying. Finally after two years of this, I pitched my story to my editor in the middle of a spotlight at the Chicago Spring Fling conference and got a very enthusiastic request. I did another few rewrites after that, because Kensington was exactly where I saw my book. And the rest as they say is history (or at least will be some day).

What's your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite?

Gosh, this is a tough one. I love it all. I love dreaming up the characters. Love how they come to life inside me and haunt my dreams. Love dumping the story out in the first draft. Love grinding and chiseling it as I revise and polish. When I'm not actually suffering from the terror of it I even love the panic of plotting when I have no idea what on earth is going to happen next. 

What I hate most about the process is the having to shuttle between the real world and the world of my book. I understand that there is real life and that in the grand scheme of things that is what really matters. But I find switching between the modes of writer and functioning citizen of the world extremely disorienting. Then again, even that I love.

What are you working on right now? What's next?

I'm currently working on book three. And it is undoubtedly the hardest book I've written thus far. It’s darker than my first two books and explores healing from unspeakable tragedy and moving on and finding not just survival but happiness again. And it is totally kicking my butt right now. If I do get through writing it, next on the cards is working on the edits for my first two books. I do have the ideas for the next few books as well so those need to be developed and explored. I've also always wanted to write modern interpretations of the great Indian myths. Oh and raising my two teenagers and making sure they, like my characters, turn out fully developed, capable of happiness, and maybe even a wee bit overachieving.

Thank you so much, Sonali! 

How to get in touch with Sonali:

Website     Twitter     Facebook

37 comments:

  1. Sonali,
    What an absolutely fabulous interview! Bollywood romance is a brilliant premise! India has such a rich, vibrant history and the structure of Indian society throughout time has lent itself splendidly to a romance story. Oh, and congratulations on your Golden Heart final!!!

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    1. Hi Christi!
      I know, right? I'm hoping many more people share your enthusiasm for Bollywood Romance!
      Thanks so much!
      Sonali

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  2. Hi Sonali! Welcome to Lady Scribes!

    I love the idea of a Bollywood romance. I had my first introduction to Bollywood a few years ago with Bride and Prejudice and thought it was such fun. I've seen a few more and I enjoy them for all the reasons you mentioned.

    Can you tell us when your debut will be?

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    1. Hi Deb, Thanks so much for having me!

      Gurinder Chadda who made Bride and Prejudice has made two other movies that I LOVE-- Bend it Like Bekham and Bhaji on the Beach. I think you might enjoy those too.

      My debut is slated for November 2014!

      Thanks again,
      Sonali

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  3. Welcome to Lady Scribes, Sonali, and congratulations on the Golden Heart and your publishing contract. I have to say, my exposure to Bollywood thus far is rather limited--the occasional Bollywood dance routine on So You Think You Can Dance, and Slumdog Millionaire would about sum it up. I'm excited to learn more, though, and your books sound like a perfect means of getting there.

    I have to say, the whole time I was reading the blurbs for your books, I kept thinking about My Big Fat Greek Wedding, only doing it Bollywood style. I guess I'll have to wait and see if there's any relevance there or not. :)

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    1. Hi Catherine,

      There's definitely a relevance there. Indian families are also rather in-your-face and the weddings are a giant hoop-la that last for days and days!
      My cousin who is a second-gen Indian American married a second-gen Greek American. Can you imagine how much fun that wedding was?
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Sonali

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  4. Hi, Sonali!
    Thanks so much for joining us today. You have such passion for your stories! It's infectious and makes me excited to read your books. I love family sagas too. I didn't come from a big family, and I've always been envious of those who have such close connections with extended family members.

    Would you call Monsoon Wedding a Bollywood romance? I loved that movie and remember smiling like crazy at the end. :)

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    1. Hi Samantha,

      Gosh, Monsoon Wedding is one of my favorite movies ever! And definitely the kind of story I aspire to write. In fact, my tagline for The Bollywood Bride when I was pitching it was Wuthering Heights meets Monsoon Wedding :)

      Thank you so much for your kind words, can't wait to see how you like my books.

      Sonali

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  5. Hey Sonali! Great interview and your books sound awesome! Can't wait to read them :) Thanks for bringing a taste of India into our reading world!

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    1. Thanks, Rashda,

      You and me both, girl!!

      I'm desi-girl high-fiving you here!

      Sonali

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  6. Hi Sonali,

    So excited and happy for you! Fingers crossed for the Golden Heart!

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  7. Hi Sonali! Thanks so much for stopping by Lady Scribes. I love Bollywood movies so I will definitely have to give your series a try. :)

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    1. Thanks, Lily!

      I hope you enjoy them!

      Sonali

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  8. Hi Sonali,

    Thanks for telling us why you write Bollywood romance. I can't wait to read your books!

    India

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    1. Thanks, India!

      You know you won't have a choice. I know where to find you, girl!

      Sonali

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  9. Hi Sonali! I love the sound of your books and I cannot wait until I get one in my grubby little hands :)

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    1. Thanks, Kate. I love grubby hands :)
      -Sonali

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  10. Welcome, Sonali!
    I'm so interested to see how your translate the energy and charisma of Bollywood onto the page. I've watched about a half a dozen Bollywood movies, and they are quite an event! Your books sound fascinating, so you can bet I'll be picking one up when they hit the shelves :)

    Thanks for joining us! (PS, my neighbor's sister is a Bollywood actress. Have you heard of Jacqueline Fernandez?)

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    1. Hi Erin,

      I can't wait to hear what you think of my books.

      Yes I know (of) Jacqueline-- she is what my mom would call one of the 'young girls' :)

      Thanks so much for having me!

      Sonali

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  11. Sonali--
    I can't wait til your release date! your books sound rick and lush. Congratulations on your sale and your Golden Heart nomination!!

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  12. Okay -- they don't sound rick -- they sound rich!!

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  13. Great guest blog, Sonali. What you said about exploring "the fine line between the wonderful security of family and the independence that every individual needs to meet their full potential" really grabbed me. I'd love to read more stories revolving around that topic, because I think it's an intriguing and complex one.

    So if you hadn't already captured my reader interest with your book titles, concept and blurbs - you'd have captured it now!

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    1. Yay, Jacqui, I live to hear that.

      Can't wait to see you moonwalking in Atlanta!

      -Sonali

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  14. Wow, Sonali, that Indian/Greek wedding must have been fabulous! I'm smiling just thinking about it.

    Looking forward to meeting you and the rest of the Lucky 13s in Atlanta!

    Gail

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    1. It was. I have to say the Greek dancing won out big time, though!

      Looking forward to meeting you too,

      Sonali

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  15. Very excited for these books! I also want to watch some more Bollywood--I've seen a handful of Indian movies but not too many.

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie!

      I'd be happy to provide recommendations. Or better yet, we can go watch one when a good one comes out.

      Hugs,
      Sonali

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  16. Sonali,

    Everything time I read something about your Bollywood stories, the more intrigued I get. I especially like The Bollywood Bad Boy idea of a woman realizing she's married to the wrong man.

    Congrats on your GH final and your Bollywood sales! See you in Atlanta.

    Sandra

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    1. Thanks, Sandy!
      See you in Atlanta!
      Sonali

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  17. Hi Sonali!

    I'm so thrilled that Kensington was open to a romance series that explores a culture that many of us are unfamiliar with, while underlining that love is love, no matter who and where you are. I'm looking forward to these books and to meeting your cute little self in Atlanta!

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    1. Hi Amy,

      So true!

      Can't wait to see your gorgeous self in Atlanta either!

      Sonali

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  18. Hi Sonali,

    Welcome to Lady Scribes and boy do I wish that it was already 2014. I'm ready to read your Bollywood romances. I loved that you're writing about actors and actresses.

    And it sounds like to me, that a family from India, sounds like families in the south. No concept of privacy and give their opinion on everything, whether you want it or not, lol! Of course, it's all done in love. ;)

    Congrats on your GH nomination and I'll be rooting for you at the RITAS!!!

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    1. Hi Marquita,

      Of course it's all done in love! (where's that rolling eyes smiley? :)

      As for wishing it was already 2014, you and me both! Can't wait to hear what you think about the books.

      Thanks!!

      Sonali

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  19. Hi Sonali--oh, fabulous stories, filled with emotion and passion, family and life! I can't wait!!! Many congratulations on your success!

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    1. Thanks, Miranda!
      See you in, what, five weeks?
      -Sonali

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