Please help me welcome debut author, Anju Gattani, to the blog today. Her novel Duty and Desire is available now, the first in the Winds of Fire series.
Author Name: Anju Gattani
Book Title: Duty and Desire
Book Genre: Multicultural Women’s Fiction
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Publisher: Scarsdale Publishing, Ltd.
Congrats on your new release, Anju! Please tell us a bit about Duty and Desire.
To uphold family honor and tradition, Sheetal Prasad is forced to forsake the man she loves and marry playboy millionaire Rakesh Dhanraj. As her world splinters into a web of lies, deceit and betrayal, Sheetal must find a way to ally with the stranger she married in order to protect their infant son from his family’s tyranny.
What sparked the idea for your book?
The story fell in my lap 19 years ago shortly after we moved from Singapore to New Jersey, U.S. My international freelancing journalism career paused because of the transition—you see the Asian magazines I had been writing for needed writers to live, interview and write on their turf in Asia. Many publications didn’t have established online platforms in 2001/2002 and so a decade-long budding career took a deep setback.
My kids, both boys, were about 1.5 and 5.5 years old at the time and the five-year-old was due back from Lincoln Elementary School one afternoon. Exhausted from the day’s never-ending run of household chores and raising 2 boys while my husband was still learning to navigate our new life in America and his new job—I took my usual afternoon nap. It’s amazing what a 20-minute nap can do for the soul and your sanity!
Thirty minutes later I woke up with a jolt. My heart pounded. My head spun. I had just emerged from a scene that could have been from a movie or a movie trailer. There was so much tension all around and I had to find out who the people in the scene were running away from. Who was chasing them? Why? How did this situation arise? How did I end up in a scene from a movie that didn’t even exist?
That afternoon episode turned my life and world upside down. I began the quest for answers and the search led me to pick up the pen and start writing the story.
What was your process? Did it take you long to write the book? And what about research?
The original handwritten draft (all my first drafts are handwritten by the way… talk about old-school!) *rolling eyes here at myself* took about 18 months to pound out. During that time we moved from New Jersey to Atlanta. Settled in, got the kids in new schools, etc. After I had a completed manuscript (a story map basically) the research began.
I worked with 2 of India’s leading fashion designers, Arjun Khanna and Anita Dongre. The leading characters are from the wealthiest strata of Indian society and for numerous scenes they had to be clothed in designer wear. Their jewelry, mannerisms, choices, habits and perceptions had to fit the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
I also worked with a Pilates instructor because a leading character needed an avenue (one of many) to find inner strength. Then of course I worked with my younger sister in the U.K., a doctor. She helped nail the right illnesses and medical remedies for the huge cast of characters. Don’t worry, they don’t all die… but life has its ups and downs for fictional characters as it does for real people!
What I didn’t know at the time was that I’d written 2 books and had a sequel in my head. So I wasn’t just dealing with one book and one story. I was dealing with one story that had spread out over 3 books (including the one in my head).
That doesn’t even take into account all the research I did on rituals, customs, traditions and festivals of India, toxic behavior patterns that exist between abusers and victims in cases of abuse and domestic violence, alcoholism, mental illness and so much more that I could go on about—but seriously, I won’t. I’ll stop here!
What do you love most about writing?
I love the ability to escape, travel and live the lives of different people. What better way than to experience all these through the written word? What better way than to let another writer or author lead you by the hand on their journey? Most of all I am passionate about other people’s experiences and the stories they have to tell.
With my own writing the experience is very different. The first draft is where I get to *play*, venture out into forbidden territory and experience my characters in their own shoes. As the rewrites and revisions take on, it’s honestly nothing short of grit-hard work. Endless, countless revisions and rewrites. But I LOVE IT! And when I start to see gemstones in all the white noise and sand of words, it’s an incredible feeling!!
Each book is a new journey whether I’m a writer or a reader. There’s so much to look forward to! So much excitement! So much ahead!!
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love furry animals and critters and end up friending almost all the dogs in our neighborhood, which is why every time my husband and I go for a walk and he sees a dog, he secretly thinks to himself—“Uh, oh.” I am a people-person too, but dogs and cats take the cake!
Speaking of which I Iove desserts too… more about that later. We have a lion-head rabbit, MoMo, who thinks he’s a dog and has attitude…so he suffices for a pet dog, I guess!
I’m a huge fitness freak. I workout 5-6 days of the week and honestly think fitness helps maintain my sanity and spurs the creative juices!! Or maybe it’s to keep my weight in check-and-balance.
I love to bake and wish I was a professional baker or cake decorator. So I’m guessing you figured out I love food too! Which contrasts with my fitness routine! Inner Conflict right there! I’ve been a vegetarian all my life, but don’t let that fool you…we veggies always figure out a way to customize our meals, pack on the pounds and bite into that delight! Oh yes, fusion cooking is another favorite. I love to blend recipes and / or ingredients from the east and west. The results can be quite fascinating… other times NOT! But you don’t know unless you try… like with writing!
Are you working on a new project?
I’m exploring a new book in the Winds of Fire series and so my antennas are out regarding research and a story map. Let’s see how far we go this round…
I’m also working on another book project and so my heart is in 2 places at the same time. But good thing is I get to switch hats and hearts with my characters!
Where can readers find you?
Facebook: Anju Gattani Author
Interview with NRI Pulse News, June 5, 2020: https://www.nripulse.com/atlanta-author-anju-gattanis-new-novel-explores-conflicts-between-personal-and-family-honor/
Thank you, Anju! Duty and Desire is out NOW.
To uphold family honor and tradition, Sheetal Prasad is forced to forsake the man she loves and marry playboy millionaire Rakesh Dhanraj while the citizens of Raigun, India, watch in envy. On her wedding night, however, Sheetal quickly learns that the stranger she married is as cold as the marble floors of the Dhanraj mansion.
Forced to smile at family members and cameras and pretend there’s nothing wrong with her marriage, Sheetal begins to discover that the family she married into harbors secrets, lies and deceptions powerful enough to tear apart her world. With no one to rely on and no escape, Sheetal must ally with her husband in an attempt to protect her infant son from the tyranny of his family.
A fiction author, freelance journalist, fiction writing instructor, blogger and former newspaper reporter, Anju was born in India but grew up in Hong Kong. She has also lived and been published in Singapore, India, Australia, New Jersey and Connecticut in cover stories, fiction, feature, news, interviews, travel, perspective pieces and more. She finally dug her roots in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, with her husband, 2 dashing boys and a rebel lion-head rabbit. Duty and Desire the debut in her Winds of Fire series, is slated for release on June 2, 2020. Anju hopes her books will Bridge Cultures and Break Barriers.
Melissa Sercia is back to chat about her first book in her second series, Smoke and Ritual. Welcome, Melissa!
Author: Melissa Sercia
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Title: Smoke and Ritual (Beautiful Dark Beasts Book 1)
Release Date: May 5th, 2020
Publisher: City Owl Press
Please tell me a bit about your latest book. Is this a new series?
Smoke and Ritual is the first book in my 2nd series, Beautiful Dark Beasts. It takes place ten years after the events of my last book, Gods and Demons (Blood and Darkness Book 3). However, you don’t need to read the Blood and Darkness series first. While Smoke and Ritual is set in the same world as my other series, it has a new female protagonist and a brand-new storyline! We start the story with Arya Frost, an Elemental witch who has been living at Sanctum, a haven for supernatural creatures. Her parents died in the Blood War and she is without a coven. Or so she thinks. When the mysterious and sexy god, Chaos shows up, she is thrust into an ancient feud between witches and is swept away on a grand adventure as she races to awaken all of her magic and claim her place as the Aether, a witch who can control all four elements. Fans of my Blood and Darkness series will be happy to know that I do have some returning characters that crossover to Smoke and Ritual.
What drew you to the idea for Smoke and Ritual and how close is the end product to that seed of an idea?
As I was writing the last chapter of Gods and Demons, in which Gray turns Sanctum into this supernatural haven, I realized that there were more stories to tell there. I love the idea that there are so many possibilities for new characters with rich histories and storylines. Arya came to me first. She begins her journey an orphan with just a couple friends, but she is very insecure and unsure of her purpose in life. She has no idea of the great destiny ahead of her. Without giving any spoilers away, by the end, we see a vastly different side to her.
When I first started plotting and outlining Smoke and Ritual, I new exactly how it would end. I tend to know the endings of all of my books before I write a single word. So, the end product is almost identical to the seed idea.
What attracts you to the urban fantasy/paranormal genre? Any favorite or influential authors?
I’ve been fascinated with this genre ever since I was a teenager. I discovered Anne Rice books and just fell in love with all of it—vampires, witches, ghosts, werewolves, etc… The way she writes is so dark and haunting, you can’t put her books down. She has been a huge inspiration for me and my writing. I also loved reading books by V.C. Andrews, Charles de Lint, and Stephen King. My current favorite fantasy authors are Grady Hendrix, Sarah J. Maas, V.E. Schwab, and Erin Morgenstern.
In what ways do you think you’ve evolved as an author since your first book came out?
Wow great question! I’m definitely a better writer just in general. I think that is true of all writers. You just get better with each book you write. I’ve learned how to express myself on the page in craftier ways. I edit as I go, which I didn’t do before. I thought that I had to wait until the end of the first draft but now I edit throughout, and it works much better for me. I’ve also learned so much about the publishing industry and that helps me to keep realistic goals.
What’s your favorite part about being an author? What do you find challenging?
My favorite part about being an author is all the wonderful authors, publishers, agents, bloggers, podcasters, and readers I’ve been able to connect with. I have forged some amazing friendships in the past three years that I will have for life. I also love being able to write for a living. Getting to share my stories with the world is an amazing feeling.
Challenges? Achieving visibility in a sea of millions of books. Authors do a lot of marketing and social media stuff themselves so finding the time to write and market my books can be challenging. But I love a good challenge and don’t shy away easily. I’m incredibly determined, ambitious, and focused on having a lifelong career as an author.
Do you consider yourself a “planner” or a “pantser?”
I’m most definitely a planner. I write detailed outlines and in-depth character sketches. I use a writing software program called Scrivener to plot and keep all my ideas organized. I’m also addicted to craft books. I’m currently reading Story Genius by Lisa Cron and it is fantastic. I highly recommend to all writers no matter what stage they are at in their writing journey.
How are you dealing with quarantine as an author right now? Have you found it easy or difficult to focus on your writing?
It’s ironic actually or even a catch-22 if you will. I used to say I never had enough time to write when I was working full time. Now that we are all sheltering in place, I have all the free time I could have dreamed of, but the weight of the situation and the anxiety makes it difficult to keep the focus at times. I’m trying to stick to a daily routine and as I’m adapting to this new normal, my creativity is slowly starting to come back. But it’s hard. I try to keep productive on some level. If the actual words aren’t flowing on a particular day, I’ll plot and outline a future project. It helps to fill the creative well and gets me writing again.
What are you working on now?
I’m almost done writing the second book in the Beautiful Dark Beasts series. It’s called Spark and Ember. Once that is complete, I will begin drafting the third and final book, Starlight and Dust. Down the road, I have plans for prequels, spinoffs, and side stories that will all take place in the same world of Blood and Darkness and Beautiful Dark Beasts.
I’ve also begun plotting a separate series that is yet to be titled. It’s a dark small-town paranormal romance with horror elements. I’m excited about all of my upcoming projects and can’t wait to share them with everyone!
And again, where can readers find you?
Thank you so much for having me on your blog today! It was so much fun!
Here is where you can find me:
Thank you, Melissa! Smoke and Ritual is out now.
Thrilled to welcome debut author, Catherine Adel West to the blog this week. Her eagerly-anticipated novel, Saving Ruby King, releases today.
Author Name: Catherine Adel West
Book Title: Saving Ruby King
Book Genre: Literary Fiction
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Publisher: Park Row/HarperCollins
Hello, Catherine! Please tell us about Saving Ruby King.
Set in the South Side of Chicago, Saving Ruby King is an intimate portrait of two families, as well as an epic tale of courage, faith, race and redemption, and the lengths one girl will go to protect her friend when a murder upends their tight-knit church community.
What sparked the idea for your book?
I’d been writing short stories and told a college friend at a wedding about an idea for another short story and she said, “You should write a book!”. And yeah, I fell for that, thinking, “How hard could it be to write a book?” Turns out it’s super freakin’ hard.
How long did it take for you to write the book? Did you do have to do any research?
It took me five years (on and off) to write the rough draft and multiple developmental rewrites which took an additional nine or so months so about six years from the beginning to finding my literary agent.
There wasn’t a ton of research that went into learning about the black church or what life is like for black people in Chicago as I grew up in the black church and live my life in Chicago, so I used a lot of my experiences and those I’ve observed for a great deal of the inspiration for this book. In terms of other research, I conducted interviews and read books such as “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson.
How does your day job inform your novel writing?
I’m an editor so what I do is extremely helpful in how I write, craft prose and find silly little typos. Also, many of my coworkers are also writers so it was so easy to find beta readers and people to passionately critique my work.
For you, what’s the hardest thing about writing?
Getting started is the hardest thing for me. Going past those first four or so chapters and keeping a positive mental balance while doing it. I think many writers have a hard time believing they’re good at their craft so there’s so much inward negative self-talk it can be difficult to see what your story and what you as a creative have to offer.
And what do you love most about it?
I love moving past those negative self-thoughts, defeating those demons and being able to create something lasting and memorable for so many people. I love creating characters and writing scenes that emotionally move me. I love being part of something unforgettable!
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love to travel and came back from Rome a little over a year ago. That was fantastic! In the current climate, I haven’t had a chance to travel, but when appropriate I plan on going back to L.A. Also, I love listening to music. I don’t go to many concerts, but the ones I’ve gone to (Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons and Passenger, etc.) were unforgettable experiences!
Are you working on a new project?
I am working on the next book in the Saving Ruby King series. It fully rounds out two major characters in the book and I’m so excited to get this book to my readers!
Where can readers find you?
I’m very active on social media:
Thank you, Catherine! Saving Ruby King launches TODAY!
Family. Faith. Secrets. Everything in this world comes full circle.
When Ruby King’s mother is found murdered in their home in Chicago’s South Side, the police dismiss it as another act of violence in a black neighborhood. But for Ruby, it’s a devastating loss that leaves her on her own with her violent father. While she receives many condolences, her best friend, Layla, is the only one who understands how this puts Ruby in jeopardy.
Their closeness is tested when Layla’s father, the pastor of their church, demands that Layla stay away. But what is the price for turning a blind eye? In a relentless quest to save Ruby, Layla uncovers the murky loyalties and dangerous secrets that have bound their families together for generations. Only by facing this legacy of trauma head-on will Ruby be able to break free.
An unforgettable debut novel, Saving Ruby King is a powerful testament that history doesn’t determine the present and the bonds of friendship can forever shape the future.
Catherine Adel West is an editor living and working in Chicago. She graduated with both her Bachelors and Masters of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana. Her work is published in Black Fox, Five2One, Better than Starbucks, Doors Ajar, 805 Lit + Art, The Helix Magazine, Lunch Ticket and Gay Magazine. Saving Ruby King is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @cawest329.