Friday, 26 October 2012

Interview with Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

It's Friday again! And that means, only 7 more days to The Dating Game launch! There is going to be so much going on between then and now, so stay tuned. Plus, each day from 2nd to 9th November, there will be a new post, competitions, where you can win Amazon vouchers, and a raffle with Kindle copies of 50 ebooks!

But let's get today underway first. Last week saw my review of Love Comes Later by Mohana Rajakumar. This week she spills the beans!

What sparked the idea for your cover design? It’s rather unusual.  Can you explain exactly what it’s meant to convey?

The cover was designed by students in my Fiction summer course. We had read a novel in three weeks and the final assignment was to think of how covers convey content to potential readers. She captured the traditional dress an abaya for Qatari women and a bisht for men. The cover captures the moment that the couple meets, often for the first time, during their engagement.

What prompted you to have the counterpart to the protagonist, Hind, as an Indian girl? Did you also look at other cultures?

My South Indian background influenced the choice of Sangita. As an Indian person living in Qatar, the similarities between our cultures strike me often.

How much research did you do into Indian culture/religion/beliefs before, or as, you wrote the novel? How did you go about your research? Do you have any personal experience of Indian culture?

(I think I answered this above…)

Hind is very much a rule-breaker.  How realistic do you find this to be in current Qatari culture?  Is this an increasing trend? Are there more freedoms now, to do what Hind did?

Young people are juggling the choices that confront Hind and Abdulla in real life in everyday life in Qatar. Both women and men still have the expectation that they will marry and produce children but increasingly people are trying to make their own choices within their personal contexts.

There is a lot of sexual tension in the book, although not in an overt way, more in a ‘he fancies her/she fancies him’ kind of way.  Do you tend to generally write your romantic involvements in this alluded to way? (in your other books for example)

This is my first romance, and the first book with overt romantic content. Part of the restraint in the love scene area is due to the fact that many of my readers are based in Qatar or the Middle East in general and the sensibility here is much more conservative. These particular characters behave this way because of their social context; but a reader wrote a very steamy fan fiction epilogue to the story!

Do you intend to write future books about Qatari and other cultures?  If so, can you share with us which cultures?

I am fascinated and inspired by Qatar both as lived by expats and Qataris. The intersection in particular is what I live everyday. I would love to keep writing a few more books in this series with these characters as there are more stories to tell. I

You have written several other novels and a non-fiction work. What can you tell us about the genres and the books themselves?

I write what interests me whether it’s memoir about having a baby, living abroad, advice for aspiring writer, or short fiction or novels. For me a central question is at the heart of any project and women always play a strong role in the stories. Immigration, race, or identity are strong secondary themes in all my work.

You are originally from the US I believe. Part of the book was set in the UK. Have you also lived in the UK? Why did you decide to set your book in the UK and not at one of the Ivy League universities?

I worked at a British company for several years and went back and forth to London often. London is also plays a large role in the lives of Qataris since Qatar was once a British Protectorate. People vacation, study, and own homes there so it felt very realistic for SOAS to be the second setting.

Sangita, the Indian girl, is much more modern in many ways than Hind. Do you find this true of Indian society v Qatari society with respect to women?

Both sets of women deal with similar expectations for female behaviour. In Sangita’s case, her modernism or independence stems from her American upbringing and extroverted personality. If she had been raised in India, she likely would behave in a more traditional way.

How realistic is the portrayal of Hind, as a young girl in a modern day Qatari family? Would she be allowed to stipulate these conditions to her husband, before marrying? (ie going to university in England). What can you tell us about the framework and boundaries of Qatari arranged marriage?

All Muslim women have the right to stipulations in their marriage contracts. Many people do ask for the opportunity to study before or after marriage. Other common items include a dowry or a stipulation of terms in case of a divorce.

Fun stuff

Would you rather have been Hind or Sangita? Hmm…. I could see being glamorous like Hind. But being a free spirit like Sangita is also appealing. I think there are parts of both characters in every woman.

Favourite TV show Downton Abbey

Favourite country in the world I can’t pick!

Country you would most like to visit Australia

Culture which most fascinates you Right now it’s the world of stand up comedy.

Actor/musician who you find attractive and who would be your Abdulla, if you weren’t already taken! Hmmmm. There aren’t many English speaking male Arab actors coming to mind…

Classical or pop music? Either, depending on the mood.

Favourite food Mexican. A good burrito can make my day.

Author whose books you have to have the minute they are released Alice Munroe

Most notable achievement to date (can’t be getting married or having a child, although we recognise these are massive achievments!) When my first novel Saving Peace was a semi-finalist for the Kindle Reads list.
Well, thanks, Mohana for joining me today.
You can keep track of Mohana via the following links:-

Tune in tomorrow for a special The Dating Game exclusive preview!
have a great Friday


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