Today I have the pleasure of hosting one of my favourite authors, Zee Monodee on my blog and have asked her a few questions as well. If you have any questions for her please feel free to leave a comment and maybe she’ll answer!
Onto the questions!
You are a published author! What made you succeed where others fail?
I didn’t get published – as in ‘sell’ my work – until I found my niche and also wrote the stuff I wanted to write/wanted to see in writing. That, for me, was multicultural romance involving heroines of Indian origin, like me, and also set on my beautiful island and home base, Mauritius. Think toned-down Bollywood in an island setting. That’s what I set out to show when I decided to become a writer, but as a green newbie, I was misguided by people I trusted and also so insecure in my own capacities that I gave that goal up to write fiction that just wasn’t “me”.
When the roof came down on that part of my life, I was like, “screw it all! I’m doing what I want to do.” So I wrote the story I wanted to see…a heroine of Indian and French-Mauritian origins who fails to find her place in Mauritian society, and a Swedish-British hero doing everything to stop society mamas from shacking him up with their eligible daughters. Madame Evangeline, of Decadent’s 1NightStand agency, pairs them together for a blind date, for just one night. It all takes place in Mauritius…and that story became Once Upon A Stormy Night, my first published story as Zee Monodee that literally got snapped up by Decadent.
I like to think I made it because I stayed true to myself….I think that’s the key to success as I define it.
What advice would you have for someone who is just starting out?
Trust your gut – it will never let you down. If you want to write something and not the other despite what everyone might be telling you, then write the something you want. If you want fulfillment in this line of work, then you gotta remain true to yourself – it’s just too easy to become what you’re not and one day wake up and ask yourself, what the hell & how did I get here?
Great advice indeed!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I used to be a huge plotter – down to the last detail of every book. But I’ve eased up in recent years, loosened up so to speak J and now it’s a mix of both. Like, I know where I need to go (plotter) but the road to get there happens when I’m actually writing (pantser). Makes for some hysterical panic attacks at times, but well worth it when I see the final product because I let the characters guide the story instead of me being the all-knowing pain in the arse, lol.
What do we have to look forward to in the future?
Ooooh, tricky one… Well, there will be more small-town romances. I’ve found I love working in a soap opera-style environment, where all the characters are connected in some way. I just finished Book 2 of The Daimsbury Chronicles (at the time this is going up, it will be in the submissions inbox at Decadent Publishing) and I am now working towards Books 3, 4, & 5 in that line up for this year.
The Grimm fairytale retelling of The Nix of the Mill Pond, titled You Belong To Me, will be coming out soon, and it’s a “return” to my espionage phase. Speaking of which, I hope to get the Corpus Brides espionage series contracted somewhere this year; the first 2 books in the trilogy have reverted to me.
Then there will be a couple of romantic comedies in the cards – Storms in a Shot Glass and Transient Hearts.
And yes, Natalie G. Owens and I will be going into a writing spree come July to bring out the next 7 books in the Eternelles series out between September 2014 and December 2015. So we’ll be busy bees.
Wow! You do sound busy, I don’t know how you can juggle all of that!
Considering all you have in the works, where does your inspiration come from?
I have absolutely no clue! I just know that the ideas come to me when I need them. A lot of times, though, I’ll see someone (usually on the screen, like an actor or model) and this person will strike me as the perfect physical embodiment of this or that character, and from here, when I have this ‘template’ in mind, the story just develops like a movie in my head.
But I guess a lot of it comes from observation, from life experiences… I don’t tend to over-think things too much (unless it’s a book plot! Then I turn into a basket case, lol!) so I just usually go with the flow. Again, I think this might be me trusting my gut. There are days when I know I just won’t get anything done, so I don’t fight it and take it easy. My system usually tells me when I am up for doing something, like writing, if that makes sense.
With all those books and ideas floating around I have to ask what does your desk look like?
Very much not what you’d expect from me! Like, I’m a girlie girl who loves pink and glitter and sparkly things…and my desk has none of that! You’ll find my laptop, the broadband modem, a few USB sticks I keep for backup, a notebook and pens, and the home phone. Very functional! The only touch of ‘fantasy’ comes from the Yankee Candle pot I always have burning when I’m working. I don’t keep mementos or personal knick knacks, and I know where everything is supposed to be because I’m rather anal about respecting the display layout all the time.
Where do you like to do your writing?
At my desk. This is where I do my best work, in the ergonomic chair that supports my back (I have a bad back since a car accident many years ago crushed two vertebrae in my spine).
But I can work anywhere – I’ve even written Calling Home, my latest release, on my trusty qwerty phone when I was undergoing cancer treatments a few years back. All that time spent in waiting rooms every day for daily radiotherapy treatments were put to good use as I wrote in that ‘spare’ time.
I do prefer my laptop keyboard, though. J
Which one of your characters do you most identify with? Why?
Diya Hemant, from Light My World. When I wrote her, I had just started writing and so a lot of myself went into her, unconsciously. Like me, she is optimistic, bright, a cheerful butterfly; most would say airhead-y at first glance (yes, I get that a lot!). She’s trusting, like me, and maybe we’re both a tad naive, too – like, I keep wanting to see the good in people even though I’ve been burned many times by unscrupulous persons in the past.
Her vision of life – as well as love & marriage being a lifelong commitment and family being more important than anything – are totally me, and I also have the slightly hyperactive bent that can drive my man batty (just like she does Trent!). We’re not afraid to speak our minds and stand for what we believe in, but at the heart of us, we’re both just women looking for love and belonging.
How do you come up with your titles?
It’s always got something to do with the story. And I like to play with words; always loved that since I was a child. For example, all the books in the Island Girls Trilogy (The Other Side; Light My World; Winds of Change) have 3 words because it’s a trilogy. For The Daimsbury Chronicles which have a more soapie vibe and which is an ongoing series, I am using four word titles reminiscent of category-style covers (Book 1 was Bad Luck With Besties; Book 2 is Her Name Is Trouble; and Book 3 will be Against All The Odds while Book 4 has the title of Hot Flash Of Love).
My titles mostly relate to the conflict/struggle the heroine and hero will have to overcome during the story.
What attracts you to your genre?
I grew up on drama! Think Bollywood movies and soaps are overrated? Wrong! They’re not even close to reality! The drama my mother and my aunts can cook up (throw in some cousins, too) – OMG! How could I not write about this world of double standards, of tradition that sometimes makes no sense that is still clung to, how much of it looks like fantastical musings to us modern girls (example, the evil eye!).
And basically, the genre I write the most – aka multicultural romance with an Indian/Indo-Mauritian slant – is the life I live; it’s a world I know inherently, and something I want to share with the world.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I think of myself as being rather descriptive in my writing…but I’ve been told I almost always weave in a family dynamic into my stories. I dunno…I seem to do this unconsciously…. Like, in Eternelles which features an immortal mother-daughter duo, I had the most fun during the scenes where Adrasteia ‘Adri’ Dionysos has to pit herself against her formidable foster father, Zeus, and her beloved foster brother, Ares, the Greek god of War.
Is there a message in your novel you want your readers to grasp?
I think we all read something different in any story…. I’d be curious to know what my readers pick up from my tales. J
What book are you reading now?
As at the time of replying this – The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller (western romance from HQN), In The Land of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed (a memoir of a Pakistani-British medical doctor and her two years of working in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia), and Hollywood In Heels by Charity Gaye Finnestad (a memoir/chick-lit about how she discovered the world of Hollywood from the perspective of a ‘normal’ small-town girl).
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My bestie and the sister I never had – Natalie G. Owens. She’s been there for me through thick and thin, and I don’t think there’s someone in this world who knows me as well as she does. We’ve never met face to face, only got to know each other some seven years ago, but it feels like we’ve known each other forever and have had each other’s backs. Not one day goes by without us emailing and talking. She’s my sounding board, my sanity, my rock during times of crisis, and the person I can trust to keep me reeled in with reality when, say, I might start overtaxing myself with work. Aside from my husband, she’s the first to know everything going on in my life. J
Do you see writing as a career?
Most definitely! Once I got over the shock that I had more than one book in me, I set out to write and bring all these stories out.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
That’s easy – it all started with reading! My father always encouraged me to read – we can say he totally fed my ‘head in the clouds’ bent, lol! So all the books I read, I kept thinking how I could’ve changed the outcome. Same happened with all the soaps my mum and I watched together when I was growing up (Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon Crest, Coronation Street, Eastenders – you name it and we’ve watched it together!). I was always re-imagining endings, throwing in new characters, going “what if?” with every scenario.
It’s only logical, I think, that I became a writer! J
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Getting over my self-doubt. I don’t write every day; I have projects spread out throughout the year and pick them one at a time, sometimes with a break of months in between (thanks to my ‘other’ job of editor. And frankly, I just cannot write every day!).
So there’s always this nagging voice at the back of my head that’s poking me and going, “will you ever be able to do something as good as your last project?”
When I’m writing, I have no idea how the story all comes together, so much so that when I look at the finished product, I remember writing it but I also have no idea how it came to be the way it turned out. You can say some part of me blanks out when I write and that’s like some sort of amnesia after the fact.
So I have to push myself every time to get over this and trust that whatever was working in the background during the ‘amnesia’ stage will click into place again and provide me with a workable finished product.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Jill Mansell, hands down! Her books are hefty, and the back cover blurb will often only cover what happens in Chapter 1. After that, it will sure be a hell of a ride with twists and turns and snags and pot holes and bumps. You’ll meet more than the hero and heroine; sometimes about a dozen characters, and they’ll be all over the place! You just never know what to expect next in the story, and I love this feeling of discovery, and how she makes it all come together when in the middle, it looks like a hodge-podge of plot lines and characters going absolutely nuts. She pulls it all off, no clue how, and that is utterly striking!
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your books to life?
I like to think I don’t shy from issues when I write. For example, Her Name Is Trouble, the book I just finished, has a heroine who has dealt with self-mutilation in her recent past. In The Other Side, Lara is a former anorexic.
I don’t know why I can’t write ‘simple’ characters just going about their lives; I thrive on the conflict and drama (must be my Indian roots!). But as an author, you also have a responsibility to your reader, and also to everyone who’s been through whatever condition you are utilizing in your characterization.
So it all takes a lot of research (I read tons of books about each condition, troll the Net, contact doctors and people who have experienced the situation, that sort of thing). I want/need it to ring true…. But that’s not all there is to it. You can know about a condition, yet you have to portray that condition in the story. So that, too, has to read genuine, so it also becomes a character study to portray this person as realistically as possible, to be in her shoes so much you become her when you are writing.
What were your expectations for your novels before you were published?
To reach even just one reader and making a difference in the moment/day/life of that person. That expectation still hasn’t changed even now.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you get through it?
My version of writer’s block is the self-doubt I talk about a few questions above.
How I get through it? A lot of self-beating and telling myself I have got the guts to do this…or at least, to try and see where that effort takes me.
Do you ever find yourself jealous of other authors? Who? Why?
Lol, of course! I wouldn’t say ‘jealous’ per say, but envious? You bet! Like, you see E.L. James laughing all the way to the bank after Fifty Shades hit it big – who wouldn’t want that kind of destiny for their own book?
But it’s not a green envy, if that makes sense. I wish these other authors all the best, and I’m genuinely happy for them. Like, recently, my CP and very good friend, Jessica E. Subject, made the No1 list on Amazon UK for one of her book categories. Did I wish that were me? Yes. Did I believe Jessica didn’t deserve it (and I did)? Absolutely not! I was happy for her, because she’s worked hard to get there and it’s awesome to see hard work rewarded that way.
How do you react to a bad review?
I choke up. No other way to say it. Then I might get angry, especially if I see that the reviewer did not even read the book yet felt he/she had to bring it down for whatever reason.
But I’ll get over myself within a few moments, then read it again to glean where my mistake could’ve been and how I can remedy that in my next story. After that, I really don’t give another thought to it.
Are the names of your characters in your novels important?
Almost always, yes. Many of these names carry symbolism that’s inherent to the story.
For example, Diya in Light My World. A diya in real life is a small earthen lamp that’s filled with oil then a wick is inserted in the oil and the lamp lit to symbolize warding off evil and all things bad from its vicinity. It’s light and protection…which is exactly what Diya as a person brings into Trent’s world. His life is dark and dismal and there’s no hope, but once he meets her, she begins to light his world first from the outside, then from within.
And more often than not, since I write multicultural romances, the names I use throw back to the character’s origins. Jemima, Megha, Shayne, Simmi – these are all Indian names that somehow also convey modernity, as in, characters born from Indian origin parents but who will be expected to ‘blend’ into modern society. Some of my heroes – Stellan, Magnus, Lars – are of Swedish origin, and their names reflect that. Iris Ann, Mary Beth, Carol Ann, Gracie Lou – these are Southern girls with very lyrical-sounding names.
How many people have you murdered over the course of your career?
Three. All in my Corpus Brides espionage books. They were assassin hits, btw. J
How many hearts have you broken?
Personally? Not many. I was a late bloomer – read that as ‘severely unpopular nerd girl coz she was overweight until she turned 15’ – and soon after I started dating, I met my first husband and got married at 17…only for it to end up in divorce a few months later. Then less than two years later, I met the man who is still my husband of 12 years. So no, not much of a heartbreaker. J
Ever knocked someone off only to regret it?
No. Life’s too short for regrets…and I believe everything happens as it does for a reason; we just don’t know it at the time.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
I see Glee’s Lea Michelle or Bollywood’s Sonam Kapoor or Aliyah Bhatt. Cheeky, mischievous girls, all three of them, yet they can also do gravitas when needed.
Any topic you want to write about but don’t have the nerve to try?
Science fiction. Science idiot here, so that says all, I guess. J
Any topic you will never write about?
I’d say religion. Too much of a hornet’s nest that can be sorely misinterpreted by zealots and bigots out there….
What are the most important attributes to staying sane as a writer?
Define what success means to you and then remind yourself of that every single moment of your career.
And yeah, a thick skin helps.
What do you consider your biggest failure?
That there was a time when I allowed people I trusted back then and who were only manipulating me, to make me into something I wasn’t…something I look back upon with loathing today. I didn’t see the truth even if it was slapping me in the face. Thank God I woke up before it was too late and I lost everything that really mattered, like my husband and my true friends.
Has your dog ever eaten your manuscript?
Nope, never had a dog. I’m a cat person. J
How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
An immense impact, I’d say, because it’s my childhood and adolescence and young adult life in an Indo-Mauritian household with throwbacks to tradition and customs, all of it steeped in Bollywood drama, that made me into who I am, and allows me to write these modern heroines of Indian origin who just want to find their place in today’s world.
What are books for?
Why do you think what you do matters?
Because I have escaped my life in the pages of a book written by others…and today, I can be one of these ‘others’ for even one reader out there. I want to make a difference for people, and the way I can do this is through my writing and my books. A smile, a laugh, a nod of understanding – doesn’t take more than this from a reader to make me happy and proud and fulfilled.
How many hours a day do you devote to writing?
When I am actually on a writing sprint? About 3-4 hours minimum, nonstop. I can’t work well in small bursts.
Do you write every single day?
Nope! I’ve gotten to the point where I just know when I will have something inside me to bring out, and this feeling doesn’t happen every day. Not even every week, to be honest.
But when I am on a project, then yes, I write every day of the week. Weekends are sacred family time. J
Do you have any writing rituals?
Light the Yankee Candle and let the scent submerge the air around me. Then I say a little prayer before putting fingers to keyboard. J
What kind of pen do you use?
It’s a gold Parker roller-ball that my father gave me when I passed my primary school final exams. Come to think of it, I’ve had it for twenty years now!
But I hardly use it because I don’t exactly ‘write’ on paper much, and consequently my handwriting resembles a doctor’s!
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
An open mind and very pointy, never-off observation skills. It’s only by watching people and figuring out how they work and what makes them tick and when, that you’ll be able to write realistic, true to life characters.
Everything else can be worked on with and by a good editor, but the initial characterization has to come from the writer himself.
Do you prefer e-books, paper backs or hard covers?
Ebooks, hands down. No other way can I carry like ten books on my phone and about a hundred more on my tablet wherever I go! And yes, you can read in the dark. My husband goes off like a light bulb hours before I do, but with an ereader, I get to remain in bed and read while he’s snoring away. Quality time, as I call it, lol!
And yes, the price of ebooks doesn’t hurt. You need thirty units of my currency to make one US dollar, so price through the exchange rate does amount to something for me at the end of the day. I sometimes pay half the price of a paperback (don’t forget shipping!) for the ebook version.
Do you buy a book by the cover?
For chick-lit? Yes. For any other genre, I read the blurb, too.
Do you watch the movie and spoil the book or read the book and spoil the movie?
Watch the movie first. Then I’ll go digging deep into the books to make better sense of the world (assuming I enjoyed the movie!).
To tell the truth, this just happened this weekend as I watched Vampire Academy. Now I’m gonna go find the books and discover in all its glorious detail the world Richelle Mead created.
Thank you for taking the time to stop in and answer a few questions Zee, I loved having you!
Thanks Alisha for having me over today!!! Absolute delight!
From Mauritius with love,
About the author:
Stories about love, life, relationships… in a melting-pot of culture.
Zee is an author who grew up on a fence – on one side there was modernity and the global world, on the other there was culture and traditions. Putting up with the culture for half of her life, one day she decided she’d stand tall on her wall and dip toes every now and then into both sides of her non-conventional upbringing.
From this resolution spanned a world of adaptation and learning to live on said wall. The realization also came that many other young women of the world were on their own fence.
This particular position became her favourite when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing – her heroines all sit ‘on a fence’, whether cultural or societal, in today’s world or in times past, and face dilemmas about life and love.
Hailing from the multicultural island of Mauritius, Zee is a degree holder in Communications Science. She is a head-over-heels wife, in-over-her-head mum to a tween son, best-buddy-stepmum to a teenage lad, an incompetent domestic goddess, eternal dreamer, and an absolute, shameless bookholic. When she isn’t penning more stories or editing books for her clients from Divas At Work (freelance venture she’s half of, with Natalie G. Owens), you can bet you’ll find her with her nose in her tablet, ‘drinking in’ a good book.
FYI – freebies for you!
From the Eternelles urban fantasy series:
INESCAPABLE (Book 1)
An immortal born from an unlikely alliance…
Beautiful mythic Greek heiress Adrasteia ‘Adri’ Dionysios has roamed the world for millennia, taking her pleasure where she wanted. Until one night, when Fate drops a baby wrapped in fire into her arms. Motherhood is a formidable challenge, but so is figuring out the identity of a mystery man who makes her pulse race.
A vampyre’s obsession…
Seraphine ‘Sera’ Dionysios’ origins are shrouded in mystery. Torn between a mother whose blood saved her life, and a man who now possesses her soul, the only thing Sera can still cling to is her heart.
One rule matters above all others: Always protect the portal…
When Evil comes to Adri and Sera’s hometown of Shadow Bridge, a place where the mortal human world ends and the supernatural realm starts, it’s up to them to stop a prophecy as old as time itself…or die trying.
Free Prequels (best read after Book 1):
ADRASTEIA (Book 0)
Adrasteia ‘Adri’ Dionysios, daughter of a Greek god, has lived for twenty-eight centuries and her existence as a flighty, conniving, and wicked creature is starting to get tedious. Can a heathen like her ask for something more, and deserve it? When her prayers are answered, all plans for any future change. For the best? Time will tell.
ADRASTEIA is the first short prequel to INESCAPABLE (Eternelles: The Beginning, Book 1).
SERAPHINE (Book 0.5)
Séraphine “Sera” Dionysios has everything she could ever wish for—a nurturing mother, a privileged life, a man who loves her. But who is the mysterious stranger who keeps staring at her during dinner on the eve of her departure toward a new life? As she prepares to embark on an equally exciting and frightening journey with her husband-to-be, her world comes crashing down and leaves
SÉRAPHINE is the second short prequel to INESCAPABLE (Eternelles: The Beginning, Book 1).
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What do you as a reader look for in a story?