It was my absolute pleasure to interview the inspirational and delightful Ritu, who is already known to many of you. Whether she is or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading more about her, her books, writing and all sorts of other things!
Q. Your first novel, Marriage Unarranged, came out earlier this year. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A. Yes, of course! Marriage Unarranged was a true labour of love. A story started to peck away at my mind nearly twenty years ago, as I was preparing for my own wedding. What if a girl, unlike me, had a different situation to deal with, when getting ready to marry her Prince? It took me a while to finish the first draft because, well, life, but finish it, I did!
Aashi’s story takes us down the route of a young girl who finds out her fiancé has been cheating on her, before their big day. She is an innocent young woman, quite sheltered from reality, and this situation gives her a reason to become a much stronger person. Aashi goes on a life changing trip to India with her two brothers and best friend, and she discovers more about herself as well as meeting someone who might just be the one to change her world completely.
The characters of Bali and Sunny, her brothers, bring different colour to the story, and Kiran, her best friend, well, she’s a firecracker and a half!
I tried to look at situations which are often shied away from within our British Indian culture, such as broken engagements, infidelity, children born out of wedlock and even a little bit about exploring sexuality.
Q. What are you currently working on?
A. Well, you’ll be glad to know I am in the middle of writing book two. It will be a story that continues from the end of Marriage Unarranged, but from the viewpoint and situation of two different characters. Again, I’ll be dealing with some possible taboo situations, hopefully in a sensitive manner.
And there is book three in the works too. Check me out. I was only going to write a book, and now I have a series of three planned!
I am also trying to write a short novella which may become a free reader magnet, if I ever get my mailing list sorted!
Q. You’ve also written a book of verse, Poetic RITUals. Can you give us an insight into the book?
A. Poetic RITUals came as a bit of a surprise to me.
I had been blogging for a while, and as I began to build my own community, or Blogily, as I like to lovingly call them, I found myself getting involved in more and more poetry challenges. I have always enjoyed writing rhymes and longer poems but taking part in these challenges meant that my poetic juices began to flow fast.
One day I realised there were a lot of poems, and that they could be collated into a book. I have always had a dream to have a book with my name as the author.
At this stage the novel was nowhere near ready, so I focussed my mind on putting together my anthology.
After working out how to format the book all by myself, and getting a cover designed, I uploaded it all to what was then Createspace, and BOOM! I had my first book.
Many of my poems are based around real life. My experiences as a woman, a wife, a mother, and general-life situations, such as going shopping with kids, or the hell of holiday homework. Readers have commented on how relatable the verses are to real life.
Q. Which do you prefer writing – prose or poetry, and why?
A. Ooh, that’s a tough question! I enjoy writing both, to be honest. There isn’t a preference.
Poetry flows quite easily for me, and I find it to be a great way to get my creative juices flowing, if I am struggling.
With prose, I enjoy creating stories from scratch, or from prompts. The thought that I can build my own little fictional world, complete with rounded characters and engaging storylines, excites me.
I also enjoy writing stream of consciousness pieces, which often get an airing on my blog. I think this is because I talk too much. I have a lot to say (can you not tell?), and those in my house don’t always want to listen, so writing about it, then posting it gives me the satisfaction of having had my say!
Q. Where do you get your ideas from?
A. Life. Pure and simple.
I am not a world builder, in that I cannot create a fantasy world, then write novels based upon that world. I take inspiration from my own life experiences and then allow the ideas to grow.
A lot of my fiction ideas are based within the British Indian community, or with a cultural twist, because that is what I grew up with, and these experiences colour my thoughts. Having a background that includes the fact that I am a British born Indian, Sikh woman, born to Kenyan born, Indian parents, adds quite a lot of spice to my memories of growing up, and gives plenty of fodder for stories.
Q. Both of your book covers are beautiful. How did you come up with your ideas for them?
A. With Poetic RITUals, I wanted to have a cover that was bursting with colour, as I am a colourful person. The image looks like powder colours being thrown in the air during the festival of Holi, which hints at my own Indian heritage too.
I was keen for the cover of my novel, Marriage Unarranged, to be something that was appealing to all readers, not just to readers of an Indian background. I went for a contemporary, chick-lit style cover, that showed the cultural aspect, as well as the contemporary.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you find about being a writer?
A. Finding time. Don’t we all?
I’ll be the first to say that yes, I do manage to do an awful lot in my life, as a teacher as well as wife and mother, and an author too, but there is still never enough time!
There are times I am bursting with ideas but getting to sit and write is nigh on impossible. This is why I have notebooks and the notes function on my phone available pretty much all the time.
Q. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?
A. I mentioned earlier that my novel took rather a long time to write, nearly twenty years from that first word to finally holding the finished product in my hands.
The biggest hurdle for me was, again, time, and life, in general. I started the novel, then got married. This was a huge change in itself for me, shifting to a different part of the country, and moving in with the in-laws!
After my Hubby Dearest found out I had started writing a book, he bought me my first laptop, and I started up again.
Then life got in the way again. This time we were trying for a family, and the twists and turns my life took at that time left little time for writing, or the headspace needed to create.
I got back into the story, quite a long time later, when some of my blogily read a few of my early chapters and expressed an interest in reading more.
This was great, but with my job, I found I had little time to regularly write, when I wasn’t exhausted, mentally and physically. I heard others taking part in NaNoWriMo, but November wasn’t good for me.
So, I decided to create my own writing challenge in August, when I was off school and named it RiNoWriMo – Ritu’s Novel Writing Month. It made a huge difference and I added over fifty thousand words to my story.
To cut a long story a little shorter, within six months the first draft was finished and I got feedback from some trusted friends, who were as excited about the story as me.
I did submit to agents and some smaller publishing houses, but after a few positive rejections, and encouragement from other Indie authors, I decided to go it alone.
Having the support of other authors and bloggers – people who believed in me – really helped.
Finding an editor, cover designer, etc. was another learning curve, as well as investing in software to format a book, and learning about promotions.
Then, nearly twenty years after that first word, I hit publish!
Q. Do you get time to read yourself and if you do, what books do you read?
A. Do I get time to read?
Er, yes indeedy, do I! I find time to read daily, no matter what as that is part of my self-care. I have been an avid read since a child, thanks to my mum’s love of reading, and as an adult am no different.
I have quite an eclectic taste in books, from your standard chick-lit, romance and humour, to contemporary fiction, family sagas and wartime stories. I thought that was the extent of my interests, but then I discovered that I enjoyed some YA fiction, and even thrillers! I love to read cultural stories and I am an avid reader of children’s picture books, always on the lookout for the next read for my class!
No horror or gore, or Sci-Fi though. They are not for me at all.
Q. Finally, what advice can you give to writers who haven’t yet had the break they’re looking for?
A. Whenever someone asks this, I have to stop myself from looking behind me to see if they are referring to someone else!
There was a time I didn’t believe my dream of becoming an author would ever come true but look at me now!
My biggest piece of advice would be to not lose faith and keep writing.
There is a time for us all to shine, and some of us get that break sooner, some later. Sometimes you have to make the break yourself, like I did.
Don’t lose your belief in yourself and surround yourself with the kids of people who will be honest and encouraging about your writing.
Honest, because sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees, especially with your own words, and encouraging, because when you think you are hopeless, those who truly believe in you, will be the ones who keep you from sinking and eventually help you to soar.
One of my favourite quotes is “Aim for the Moon. Even if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.”
So, dream big, and you’ll achieve big. But along with dreaming, keep writing, because dreams won’t write that book – You will!
Thank you so much for having me, Esther, I have really enjoyed our little chat! ❤
Blog Website: http://www.butismileanyway.com
And by clicking the following link, you get to Ritu’s author profile on Amazon: