I’m delighted Thoughts is a stop on the WOW Virtual Blog Tour for author Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar on her outing with her latest release, LOVE COMES LATER.
A modern quest for the right to pursue love and happiness, even when it comes in an unconventional package.
LOVE COMES LATER-- Identities are tested and boundaries are questioned as the main characters, Hind, Abdulla, and Kavitha struggle for the right to establish a culture of their own despite their various conservative upbringing.
Against the shifting backdrop of Doha, Qatar where she grew up, and London, England where she pursues a graduate degree, Hind is granted a temporary reprieve from her impending marriage to Abdulla, her cousin. Little does anyone suspect that the presence of Kavitha, her Indian-American roommate, could shake the carefully constructed future for the engaged cousins.
Torn between loyalties to Hind and a growing attraction to Abdulla, Kavitha must choose between friendship and a burgeoning love.
Thanks to Mohana and Jodi at WOW, I have a PDF or mobi copy of LOVE COMES LATER to giveaway to one lucky visitor who comments on today’s post by 8 p.m. (EST) Friday, Aug. 10. In addition, Mohana is hosting a super giveaway on her website for a Kindle Fire. I’ll post the Rafflecopter Widget at the bottom of the post, but if it doesn’t work just pop over to Mohana’s website for the giveaway.
Now, Mohana has joined us today to discuss writing from a perspective that’s not your own (different gender, religion, race) - Writing From the Other Side.
This isn’t a post on writing as a psychic medium. It is about writing from the perspective of a character very different from your real life persona. This is what I unintentionally found myself doing while writing my latest novel, LOVE COMES LATER.
Writing as someone drastically different than yourself is tricky because of our inherent biases which I am all too aware of from my academic writing as Postcolonial scholar. I’m constantly ripping people apart for their Orientalist views of “the other” or people not like them.
That’s why with a book like this, which has at its heart a love triangle between Sangita, Abdulla, and Hind, the most natural starting point for me was the Indian character, Sangita. She was around my own age, ethnicity, religion, and had a fascination with Qatari culture. Easy enough.
The problem was, about six months into the first draft, I realized the start of the story was before Sangita had arrived on scene. The beginning of the book was Abdulla’s. We needed to know why he was so against marriage. And I could only find out that reason if I followed him.
Abdulla. A Muslim. A man. A Qatari.
Three things I knew something about but only a small amount of something. As my writer friend Leila put it, I had given myself the toughest assignment for a writer.
Why did I do it? Because the story of Abdulla’s first abbreviated marriage (you know this in the prologue so no spoiler here!) is the inciting incident from which the rest of the novel cascades. And to tell it from someone else’s point of view: the maid, or a sister, wouldn’t do his perspective justice.
“That’s what you’re interested in,” said my wise friend, herself a well-known novelist. “Then your instinct is right. You have to take us where your fascination is.”
I wrote scenes and started listing questions in the margins: do men take their sandals off before or after entering the majlis? Do they wear their guttra? What are the cups coffee is served in called?
As I felt his emotional distance from those around him, I filled in the details from a team of patient friends, male and female, who answered question after question about what it is like to be a male Qatari. Just before falling asleep, I would replay a scene from the story in my mind so that it would unwind in my dreams like a movie.
I did all these things to give the character the authenticity I couldn’t give from my own first hand experience. In the end the research only mattered to give realism to the emotional story I was telling. You don’t care about the sandals, or the clothing, or the cups if you don’t care about Abdulla’s quest for happiness. In the end, people are people. And the universal quality about a story reaches out to us across setting, time, and point of view.
“I've lived here for 13 years, and know only the most basic stuff about Qatari social structure. This book was an eye-opener,” an early reviewer has said of the book.
I hope you feel the same way about the journey that the novel takes you on. Not only into a country you may not know about but the unchartered landscape of modern love.
Drop me a line and let me know what you thought!
Mohana, thanks so much for sharing this insight into writing from a different perspective. As readers we sometimes take for granted the difficult task authors have giving books their authenticity.
LOVE COMES LATER is an intriguing look into the lives of three people and how their actions effect each other and those around them. The author’s writing is smooth, easy-flowing drawing you in. Her characters are well developed and likeable. The detailed descriptions of the setting and culture place the reader there. In addition, a glossary of cultural terms and Arabic phrases is included to further help the reader and give more understanding. Love, no matter the setting, makes for an intriguing plotline and LOVE COMES LATER is no exception. The story gives insight into another culture but also shows how similar everyone is. This is a poignant and thought provoking read.*
Time now to find out a bit more about Mohana. She is a writer who has lived in Qatar since 2005. She has a PhD from the University of Florida with a focus on gender and postcolonial theory. Her dissertation project was published as Haram in the Harem (Peter Lang, 2009) a literary analysis of the works of three Muslim women authors in India, Algeria, and Pakistan.
She is the creator and co-editor of five books in the Qatar Narratives series, as well as the Qatari Voices anthology which features essays by Qataris on modern life in Doha (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2010). Her research has been published in numerous journals and anthologies.
Mohana was the Associate Editor of Vox, a fashion and lifestyle magazine based in Doha and a winner of the She Writes We Love New Novelists competition. She has been a regular contributor for Variety Arabia, AudioFile Magazine, Explore Qatar, Woman Today, The Woman, Writers and Artists Yearbook, QatarClick, Expat Arrivals, Speak Without Interruption and Qatar Explorer. She hosted two seasons of the Cover to Cover book show on Qatar Foundation Radio.
Currently Mohana is working on a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf and a novel based in Qatar. She believes words can help us understand ourselves and others.
You can catch up on her latest via her blog or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.
Here’s a book trailer on LOVE COMES LATER for your enjoyment.
I’m placing the Rafflecopter Widget below (hopefully it will work) for the Kindle Fire giveaway. Remember, if it doesn’t work just pop over to Mohana’s website. Thanks so much for stopping by today. Don’t forget to leave your email address with your comment if it’s not included in your profile for a chance to win a copy of LOVE COME LATER.
*FTC Full Disclosure - This book was sent to me by the tour promoter in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.