Rasana, welcome to Lavender Lass Books, and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
Rasana Atreya had the option to be traditionally published, but declined that offer in order to self-publish (no, really!). Like her late father always said, there’s the easy way, and there’s the Rasana way. Ten years after the fact, she’s startled to note that she’ll be forever known as one of India’s self-publishing pioneers.
A few fun things happened along the way. Her debut novel was:
* Shortlisted for a prize (the now-defunct Tibor Jones South Asia Prize).
* Was taught at a reputable American university (thankfully, still going strong).
* She (the author, not the novel) was interviewed by international podcasters.
* Amazon flew her to New Delhi for the launch of the Kindle in India.
Rasana’s heroines (and, very occasionally, heroes) are gritty individuals who, despite their frequently uncomfortable beginnings, follow rocky paths of self-discovery before arriving at their desired destination.
Rasana’s two homes are India (country of origin) and the United States (country of adoption). For that reason, her books are set India (and, sometimes, the United States). She writes literary/women’s fiction.
Your husband may die, but your marriage must live on.
Jaya is bound by tradition to take care of her late husband’s family, and she takes this responsibility seriously. An engineer and a businesswoman in contemporary India, she is also the mother of a ten-year-old girl. To Jaya’s sorrow, no one in her family has room in their lives for her shy daughter, who has cocooned herself in her grief.
A series of events shakes up not only their lives but also Jaya’s long-held assumption that when a woman marries a man, she also marries his family. And that this marriage doesn’t end when the husband dies.
In a moment of truth, she realises that she’s spent so much time focussed on being the Perfect Indian Woman, she’s lost her voice. She fears that if she doesn’t learn to speak up—even at the risk of being ostracized by the community—silence will be her daughter’s inheritance as well.
From the author of Tell A Thousand Lies.
A B.R.A.G. (Book Readers Appreciation Group) Medallion honouree.
◆ Spellings used in this book are British/Indian.
◆ All books in this series may be read independently.
And now to the interview:
1. What do you want to share with us about this story? What really stands out about it and made you want to write it?
My latest book is called Daughters Inherit Silence. The protagonist in this book is a 38-year-old Jaya, who first appeared in Talking Is Wasted Breath. The tagline for her book is: Your husband may die, but your marriage must live on. This alludes to the fact that once you (this applies to women only) are married off, you owe your parents-in-law your continued devotion, even if your husband dies. Though widow-remarriage is legal in India, it is very rare to find such instances—both because of ingrained prejudices, and also because men, even widowers, prefer to marry unmarried women (in cruder words, virgins).
Another thing that is different about India is that once married, you can’t ever claim the “unmarried” status again. A marriage is for life, and a woman’s bond to her marital family is for life. (India has the absolutely lowest divorce rate in the world, mainly because of a lack of structural support for divorced women). This means that divorced or widowed, a person is always “married”.
This book came about as I was thinking about India and all its contradictions. Public safety is a huge problem for women traveling alone. And yet, women’s education, in India’s huge middle class, isn’t neglected. They are expected to study well, get a professional degree like engineering or medicine—only to give it all up when they get married. Many women do work after marriage, but many are also forced to give it up for the “good of the family.” It was only a few years ago that it occurred to me: when they talk about the good of the family, they mean “for the good of the husband and the children”. The wife/mother must always put herself last.
2. Why do you write in this genre? What makes this genre particularly appealing to you?
I write Women’s Fiction set in India. My books deal with the empowerment of women. As a feminist and as an educated woman (I have a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering), this flows naturally.
3. What made you decide to become an author? Can you tell us a little about that journey?
I worked as a computer systems administration for many years before having kids. Sadly, pagers are incompatible with babies (if the network/server goes down at 3 am, that’s when you head to work), so I was forced to quit. I was always passionate about writing, so writing fiction seemed a natural progression.
4. Why did you choose to self-publish? Are there advantages to self-publishing? What about the challenges?
My story is rather convoluted. I live in the United States but moved back to India for 12 years. That was the time I started writing. The unpublished manuscript of my debut novel, Tell A Thousand Lies, was shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia prize. I also had a publishing contract in hand. This was about the time that self-publishers were doing phenomenally well in the US and the UK. But no one had heard of self-publishing in India. So, I declined my publishing contract, self-published, and wrote about this for India’s largest English-language newspaper. This resulted in a crazy amount of media attention for me. Because I was one of India’s self-publishing pioneers, Amazon flew me to New Delhi for the launch of the Kindle.
5. Where do you get ideas for your stories? Do they come to you over time, or do you suddenly think of an idea and realize it would make a great story?
I rarely think through the story before I start to write (plotting has been a challenge J). I often start off with a premise, then go where the story takes me. The Temple Is Not My Father came about because I was intrigued by the connection between the dedication of daughters to Goddess Yellamma, and prostitution (which was never the intended consequence). I started writing Tell A Thousand Lies because of the rampant colorism (in other words, discrimination again the dark-skinned) that exists in India.
6. Do you write (or plan to write) in any other genres?
I mentioned above that plotting is a challenge. I hope to take that on by writing cozy mysteries set in India.
7. What do you look for in a story? Especially in your genre? (Original ideas, plot lines, character development, world building, research, etc.?)
I don’t think there are too many original ideas or plot lines. It is all in the treatment. If a story holds my attention, I’ll read it. I’ll also read literary fiction (many of which aren’t focused on plot/character development) if the language is beautiful.
8. What is one thing you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
I didn’t believe in myself. I doubted myself constantly. I wish I’d known that there’s space for writers of all calibers. I still struggle with the imposter syndrome despite the love my books have received. In fact, Tell A Thousand Lies was part of the course curriculum at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque in Spring of 2017. Reminding myself of that helps. Sometimes.
9. Are you working on a new book? Can you share any details?
The Water Wives is my work in progress. It is about a 15-year-old girl who’s grown up seeing her grandfather beat up her grandmother, and she’ll never be that woman. She’ll study to be a doctor, and support women like her grandmother. Except, her grandfather has other plans for her.
The Water Wives is on pre-order. I hope to have it out soon.
10. Do you have any advice you would offer to writers who plan to self-publish?
- Read a lot.
- Write a lot.
- Join a critique group. You’ll learn as much from critiquing, as from having your work critiqued.
- Develop a thick skin. Learn to separate the criticism of your work from criticism about you. It you find it hard to do so, stop reading reviews.
- Keep writing.
You can find Rasana Atreya’s book at Amazon and many other retailers! https://www.amazon.com/Daughters-Inherit-Silence-Deccan-Plateau-ebook/dp/B08LQW3K1Q
Thank you so much for sharing all this with us today, Rasana! The next book in the series will be available December 31st…but you can preorder it right now.
You can find out more about Rasana and her books here:
Website – https://rasanaatreya.com
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