21 May, 2020

#Interview with Jeevani Charika, #Author of A Convenient Marriage - @RhodaBaxter

About the Book:
Check out the Book on Amazon
It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything - friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow their heart?

Interview with Jeevani Charika

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?

I think my realisation that I wanted to be a writer coincided with the realisation that Enid Blyton was dead. I remember thinking that although she wasn’t there anymore, the stories she imagined carried on going. I wanted to write stories that lived on in other people’s heads. I was about nine or ten years old. I’d been a book worm for years, so I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.

What inspires you to write?

Inspiration is everywhere. Conversations, newspaper articles, TV programs … anything can spark an idea. The tricky bit is to spin it into something that makes a good story. For example, if I’m watching a film and something interesting happens to a secondary character (who is the hero in their own story), I’ll start thinking about that. ‘How does this feel to that person?’ is often a jumping off point. I sometimes have to write a scene or two (that won’t go in the book, because it’s just an irrelevant slice of life) before I can ‘hear’ the characters properly. Once I have a character, the story evolves from there.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?

A Convenient Marriage came from a conflation of two things. A friend of mine met a stranger who was crying. When she stopped to ask what was wrong, he told her about how he was married and cared about his wife, but he was in love with another man. I was in my twenties at that time, which is a stage of life when you seem to go to a lot of weddings. The two ideas coalesced and the story of Chaya and Gimhana who marry each other to keep their parents happy came about. The characters came first and they surprised me with how strong their friendship was. So I wrote the story of the rise and fall of their marriage. I love both those characters very much, so I’m glad they both ended up with happy endings.

I finished writing that book back in 2006.  I sent it off to agents and got a lot of ‘nice’ rejections (one which said, very bluntly, ‘you write well, but I don’t know which publishers would consider a book like this’). So I put it away and wrote a rom com, with white protagonists. I found a publisher for that book within a year. There followed several more books featuring white protagonists, published under my pen name Rhoda Baxter. In the meantime, I wrote another book with Sri Lankan protagonists. Once I was more established (as Rhoda Baxter), I tried again with my ‘Sri Lankan’ books and, after a lot of work from my agent, finally found a publisher. So, A Convenient Marriage is my 8th traditionally published book, but it’s also the first book I ever wrote.

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?

Oh yes! When I was at school, I used to type up stories (mostly terrible Dempsey and Makepeace derived stories) on my mum’s old typewriter. These typescripts used to get passed round my classmates and come back all dog-eared. I found a box of them a few years ago. They will never be read by anyone else now. Ever.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?

All my characters come from inside my head, so I guess they all inherit something from me. Gimhana in this A Convenient Marriage gets my love of cooking (and feeding people!). Chaya gets my anxiety issues. 

Do you read? Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?

Before I had kids, I read a lot. I still always have a book on the go, but I don’t read as fast now. The author that probably had the biggest effect on me was probably Terry Pratchett. I don’t write fantasy, I write women’s fiction, but I still learned a lot about description and precision of language from reading his books. Whenever I re-read one of his books, I spot something new that I hadn’t noticed before. He also taught me that funny is not the opposite of serious. I try to have a mix of humour and deeper themes in my books.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, till date?

Writers write. Don’t think you’ll write the book ‘one day’. Just get on and write. Learn as you go. You’ll only improve with practise.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?

Read a lot. In all seriousness, I’ve seen manuscripts written by people who clearly haven’t read much in the genre they’re trying to write and it shows. Read, read, read, until the structures and shapes of the stories sink into your bones. It’s the best way to learn the rules. Once you know the rules, then you can go about bending them and making them your own.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?

I write women’s fiction as Jeevani Charika, but I also write rom coms under the pen name Rhoda Baxter. If you want to try one of my stories, you can sign up to my newsletter and get a free novella. For multicultural women’s fiction check out www.jeevanicharika.com
For romantic comedy check out www.rhodabaxter.com

About the Author:
Author's Amazon Page
Jeevani Charika writes multicultural women’s fiction. She was born in England, but spent much of her childhood in Sri Lanka, with short forays to Nigeria and Micronesia, before returning to settle in Yorkshire. She studied Biochemistry and Microbiology at Oxford and ended up working in university technology transfer. All of this, it turned out, was excellent preparation for becoming a novelist.

Her books have been shortlisted for the RoNA awards, the Love Stories awards and the Joan Hessayon award. She is a member of the UK Romantic Novelists' Association and the Society of Authors.

She also writes romantic comedies under the name Rhoda Baxter.

Jeevani loves all things science geeky. She also loves cake, crochet and playing with Lego. You can find out more about her (and get a free story by signing up to her newsletter) on her website.

Jeevani on the Web:

Website * Twitter * Facebook