AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – C.W. LOVATT

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Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m please to introduce you to C.W. Lovett, the creator of the humorous Charlie Smithers Collection. The first two books in the series The Adventures of Charlie Smithers and Charlie Smithers: Adventures in India are available now, and the next book in the series, Adventures Downunder, will be released in time for the holidays.Cover Art #3 Adventures in India - Original

Hello and welcome, C.W. Let’s start with one of my favorite questions for my fellow authors. When were you first able to call yourself either a “writer” or an “author?”

About ten years ago. I’d been writing off and on since the early ’80s but never really took it very seriously. The very idea was so close to pure fantasy that it seemed pointless to pursue it. Aside from that, there was never any encouragement; in fact, quite the opposite. In a small community like the one I live in, there aren’t all that many social circles, and those that we do have consider writing (if they ever consider it at all) as beyond the pale, so it was something I felt that I had to keep a lid on. Then one day I made a new friend, and all that changed. Suddenly, I found myself in a situation where my writing was valued and encouraged, and by someone I respected at that! All that I had to do was apply myself, and boy, did I ever! It was sometime between the time my first short story was published in 2008 and 2013 that I began to whisper ‘writer?’ cautiously in my own ear, and wondered if it might not be too grandiose a word? Then, when my first and second novels were published, and I found that I no longer had to wait an entire year, only to get the inevitable rejection slip in the mail – that my work, in fact, was being accepted, virtually out of hand – that I’m beginning to become more comfortable with the idea.

It’s amazing what a little bit of encouragement can do. Something similar happened to me with my first writer’s group that I attended under the cloak of darkness. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

This wasn’t a review, exactly, but one day I received a message from a gentleman who wanted me to know that he considered my writing to be the best in genre since my idol, George MacDonald Fraser.

Wow! That must have made you feel like you were doing something right. Now we all get them, if we put our work out in the public domain, and that’s the poor review. What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

Suck it up, I’m afraid, and on NO ACCOUNT do you respond. There’s a school of thought that says you should learn from them and, if you can, then all well and good, but personally, I’m skeptical. If you consider yourself to be a serious writer, then you should be writing for yourself, not worrying about what others think. If a reader likes it, fantastic – if they don’t, shrug it off and push on. You can’t please everyone.

Excellent advice. I tend to agree. I do consider what someone has written in a review, but if it doesn’t fit with what I’m intending, then I move on. What’s your one sentence pitch for your Charlie Smithers Collection?

Buy them; they’re fantastic!

You have a superb attitude. What kind of research was required in creating the character of Charlie Smithers and his adventures throughout the collection?

For those of your readers who haven’t read any of the books, Charlie Smithers is the manservant to the nineteenth century adventurer and dunderhead, Lord Brampton, but the books deal with Charlie’s own adventures, in all of the different parts of the old Empire that they travel to, using history, humor and romance as vehicles. Downunder, of course, refers to the Australias, and may well be the most powerful book of the collection.

Now, as to research, there’s usually a healthy mix of pouring over volume after volume of books accompanied by a healthy dollop of Google. However, in the case of Downunder, after sending it off to some Australian friends to check for accuracy in geography, and their rich vernacular, they pretty much all came up with one glaring inconsistency, to whit, ‘Had I never heard of The Great Australian Bight?’ and after a bit more to-ing and fro-ing in our correspondence, an invitation was issued to come see for myself, so I did. For a month, I walked the very ground that Charlie walked, saw the spot were he washed ashore, more dead than alive, felt the same sun that he felt, heard the same birds, saw the same wondrous creatures, and stood in the exact same rooms as he did during his audience with the governor of New South Wales. Having gleaned all the information that I could, I was soon not only able to put right any inaccuracies, but also give the manuscript more depth and color – make it even more three-dimensional than ever.

I’m sure that added to the novel immensely. Is there one book or author with whom you identify or hold up as your standard-bearer?

That would be George MacDonald Fraser, who I briefly referred to earlier – the creator of the Flashman books. I admired his style: his attention to detail, and his insistence on making the historical aspect of his books as accurate as possible. I applaud the way he refused to don kid gloves when dealing with sensitive issues that his contemporaries wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, and the way he did it with such humour, and irreverence had my sides aching from laughter. Agree with his views, or disagree, you couldn’t fault him for his courage, and I suppose that’s what I admire most of all, and learned that, when faced with a prickly issue in a plot, don’t try to avoid it, but face it head-on. The story demands that you give of your best to do it justice; and if you have the courage to see that through, you just might learn something about yourself along the way.

Excellent. I haven’t read him, but now you’ve got me interested. Where do you write?

My earlier stories were written using a desktop computer, so there weren’t many options available, insofar as location was concerned. After a while, I began to feel that staring at the same walls, day after day, wasn’t conducive to a fresh outlook, so I bought a laptop in 2009, and have been writing everywhere you can imagine since. Sometimes I write during commercials when watching the news, under the cottonwoods in my yard in the summer, in the living room by a window, or out on the deck in late November, bundled up to try to stay warm. Every book has a ritual at any given time, but no two are the same.

I’m the same way. This morning I wrote a chapter of my new romance at Barnes & Noble’s cafe. But since they don’t provide outlets for patrons, I moved to the library where I’m facing the Ohio River and the fading colors of autumn. Tomorrow I’ll write somewhere else. Thank you for stopping by today. I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know you a bit better and learning about your writing process. I wish you well with the new release. You’ll have to come back next year and let us know where you’re headed next!

Thank you for having me as your guest. I quite enjoyed myself, and very much appreciate the opportunity to reach out to your readers.

My pleasure. I look forward to reading your books, C.W.

downunder author's photoAbout C.W. Lovatt: Award-winning author, C. W. Lovatt, is the creator of the critically acclaimed Josiah Stubb, along with the bestselling, Charlie Smithers collection. The third book in this series, Adventures Downunder is set to be released before Christmas.

 Links:

The Adventures of Charlie Smithers (Amazon US)

The Adventures of Charlie Smithers (Amazon UK)

Charlie Smithers: Adventures in India (Amazon US)

Charlie Smithers: Adventures in India (Amazon UK)

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Amazon Author Page 

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – SIMI K. RAO

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Author Wednesday day once again, and I welcome Simi K. Rao, who writes novels about the cultural transitions and assimilation from her native India to the place she’s chosen as an adult in the United States. She’s just published her second novel, The Accidental WifeThe Accidental Wife book covera contemporary romance with a multicultural twist that provides an insight into the Indian society as it stands today.

From the author: Some accidents are meant to happen…
Dr. Rihaan Mehta is a brilliant young neurosurgeon who has no inclination for love or marriage. According to him, wives and girlfriends are annoying accessories that one can do without. But when his mother dangles the sword over his head in classic Bollywood style, he succumbs, and sets out in search of a bride who would fit his “requirements.” But can Rihaan deal with what he gets instead?

The premise of the book sounds very intriguing. I love the Bollywood style that you are perfecting. I know you have a whole other career in medicine, so tell me, when did you first discover your voice as a writer?

I think there’s been a writer concealed within me ever since I was little. I remember penning stories and essays in school with exceptional relish. Friends were drawn to my storytelling abilities, and I enjoyed improvising my lines in school plays. But unfortunately this part of me went into a state of suspended animation during medical school and subsequent years of building a career as a physician. It was only in the past few years that it resurfaced again, and I began to nurture it seriously.

I’m glad you recognized that instinct and followed it with such relish. One of my heroes, Rachel Carson (Silent Spring), said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Has this ever happened to you?

Yes, this is true for most of my projects as well. The idea for my first novel Inconvenient Relations was born when I came across certain shocking incidences in my community, which young Indian women arriving in the United States as newlywed brides only to discover their husbands already married and with families. These women found themselves not only betrayed but also alone and helpless in a strange land and often without resources. I felt almost compelled to give this state of affairs a twist and write a story where the young woman takes matters into her own hands and redirects her destiny.

That’s the beauty of fiction. We can rewrite it so there’s a lesson and perhaps hope for deplorable situations. Are there any commonalities between your two novels, besides the cultural one?

My stories are generally woman-centric, and my heroines are usually strong, bold, and independent. Hence, you could say I aim to present positive role models to women.

Perfect. Do all your books have a common theme? 

So far, my work has the common theme of romance after marriage, arranged or accidental. But in the future, I plan to write on more varied themes including serious topics, such as drug addiction.

Good. That needs to be addressed in this country and elsewhere. You can present a strong voice on that topic. What made you choose your original theme of “romance after marriage,” which is an intriguing concept and seems quite upside down to traditional marriages in the United States?

I’ve chosen these particular themes because they interest me, and I believe I have some expertise in them. I also like to believe that my readers will relate with and take away something from my stories as the subjects I chose are very real and topical.

How does setting play a role in your books?

The setting is very important because it provides a background for my characters and affects the way they act and behave.

Are you planning to continue writing romances?

Maybe a couple of books, not more. I don’t want to get predictable and boring.

That’s important. I like to challenge myself in every book I write. If you had two seconds to describe The Accidental Wife, what you you say? 

Some accidents are meant to happen.

How did you choose the title for your latest work and was it your first choice? 

I chose the title The Accidental Wife because the premise of the story is based on accidents, therefore it seemed perfect to me. Yes, it has been the title from the very beginning.

What is the most important message conveyed in The Accidental Wife?

Sometimes certain things happen that have the power to profoundly influence the way we lead our lives. They can change our behavior, our outlook, our goals, often for the better. But many among us resist this change—we create a wall around us, we close our minds and are distrustful. All I want to convey through this book is no matter how much we think we have control over our lives, the truth is we really don’t.

Isn’t that the absolute truth! We’d save a lot of energy if we could just recognize that fact. I often paraphrase John Lennon, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” So you have several threads, themes and messages running through the novel, but tell me how you conceived the idea.

It just happened. One day I was struck by the number of online marriage portals available for Indians and how they seemed to make the process of finding a life partner so easy. I thought that it’d make a great subject for a story, then one thing led to another.

That’s rather amazing–I have no idea. Who is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

One of my protagonist’s, Dr. Rihaan Mehta, is the antagonist of my book. The story is about how his character changes over time, and yes, I really enjoyed creating him.

That’s a very important distinction. Dr. Mehta was his own worst enemy. Powerful. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

There are a couple of scenes that take place in the hospital setting and are very real and emotional. They are my favorite scenes because I’ve lived them myself.

That makes for a very vivid portrait for you novel. I’m looking forward to reading The Accidental WifeThank you for stopping by today, Simi. I wish you the very best success with both of your challenging careers.

P1020168 (3)About Simi: Simi K. Rao was born and grew up in India before relocating to the U.S., where she has lived for several years. The inspiration for her books, and other projects, comes from her own experience with cross-cultural traditions, lifestyles and familial relationships, as well as stories and anecdotes collected from friends, family, and acquaintances.

Simi enjoys exploring the dynamics of contemporary American culture blended with Indian customs and heritage to reflect the challenges and opportunities many Indian-American women face in real life. Much of Simi’s down time is devoted to creative pursuits, including writing fiction, poetry, and photography. She is an avid traveler and has visited many locations around the world. A practicing physician, Rao lives in Denver with her family.

Connect with Simi K. Rao by clicking below.

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Twitter: @SimiKRao

Goodreads

Amazon – The Accidental Wife

Amazon – Inconvenient Relations

Book Review Friday – The Age of Shiva


By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri sat on my bookshelves for five years. I bought it at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, in 2008. I shipped it back to my home in Florida along with ten other books I couldn’t resist in this warehouse of a bookstore. I still have a few other books left to read. But I picked up The Age of Shiva a few weeks ago, and it’s opening page lured me in despite my uneasy feeling when I realized the very sensuous description of a woman being fondled was actually the narrator Meera describing to “you” how it felt to breastfeed “you” as a tiny baby.

Written in first person (although an argument could be made that it’s really second person), Meera is describing her life of sacrifice in India during the decades from the 1950s to the 1980s to her son Ashvin. The female narrator comes to life under the author’s careful sketch. After the first chapter, I read the biography of the author and discovered Manil Suri is a man – another off-kilter revelation. Suri pulls it off.

The book is at its best in the descriptions of India’s turmoil under the rule of Nehru and then Indira Gandhi. The racial and religious tensions is given life through the other characters close to Meera. Her brother-in-law belongs to the radical HRM, which hopes to drive out all other religions from India, leaving Hindu as the ruling majority class. Meera’s father is nonreligious and likes to flaunt his secularism in the face of his very nonsecular Hindu wife. He invites Muslims to the house for dinner and socializes with them in public. However, when Meera’s younger sister marries a Muslim, even the father has difficulty accepting it. Meera remains on the outside looking in, which gives an objective view and allows the reader to realize both sides will do anything to win.

Meera’s life is run by the men, which is most likely a true portrayal of an Indian woman, especially during the 1950s. She is passive aggressive with those men as she finds ways to defy them. The punishments inflicted on her are a steep price to pay for her momentary thrill in winning a small victory.

Suri paints a very complicated portrait of a mother and son. As Ashvin grows into a young man, the relationship becomes wholly unhealthy. Meera selfishly tries to keep him to herself and what ensues is difficult and horrifying to read. It is the son who finally has the guts to do something about the taboo broken in the sacred bond between mother and child.

I enjoyed this book most of the time, although the descriptions sometimes bogged down the reading. I thought the ending dragged on far too long. The conflicted relationships between Meera and her son, father, husband, brother-in-law, and sister took too long to resolve. And most of them were resolved unsatisfactorily.

If you love historical novels from the twentieth century set in another world from the one in which you live, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this novel. However, be forewarned that parts of it may make you uncomfortable.

The Death of Vishnu is Manil Suri’s first book, and it received much more acclaim than this one. I like the author enough to read it one of these days, but hopefully I’ll manage to do that sooner than five years from now.