We’re all familiar with Bollywood movies; it is after all multi-million dollar industry with blockbusters that enthral millions. Many of them are romances of a kind. Yet when it comes to fiction, contemporary literature, diversity in romance is still a bit grey around the edges.
Don’t get me wrong, Mills and Boon-Harlequin by another name-has an armada of different nationalities. Many of the characters are Greeks, Italians, there might a few Russian Oligarchs, British Aristocrats and a few American Lieutenants and Medics in the mix. I don’t remember seeing many-if any-characters of Indian ascent; perhaps I missed that part of the library shelf, I don’t know. I dovknow that I saw a gap, especially having written Retreating to Peace: A Peace Series novella. The main protagonist, Devan Coultrie, is of a mixed heritage, but without him, I wouldn’t have even contemplated writing Kangana.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to books with characters from BAME backgrounds. There are authors from BAME groups. I remember seeing Bali Rai’s (Un)Arranged Marriage in the library as a teenager. I grabbed it, read it, and was overjoyed that it existed. I was amazed, that an author from BAME background existed. I’ve also experienced reading Meera Syal’s work; she is a national treasure, I tell you. Meera Syal and Nina Wadia are probably the most recognisable women of South-Asian ascent in the British Media and should be celebrated for their contributions; they certainly motivate me.
The pool of diverse authors is small, but does exist. I guess, that is the pool that I have inadvertently fallen into. Be it by background, be it by what I have chosen to write.
I don’t class Kangana to be the same as Bollywood movie, I’m loathe to even call it a bollywood romance. It’s difficult to put a label on it, but I would say it is diverse. It contains characters, narrative and experiences that are had by characters that we don’t necessarily see on the typical library, book shop, shelf. The setting isn’t exactly New Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore either. The book opens in Midlands, there are references to the BMAG, Sarehole Mill and also the Sea life centre. After all, I am a Brummie Born and bred. There had to be a strand of Birmingham in there.
So, there are some teasers below, the blurb too.
Why not try and read something different today? Kangana is available in both paperback and ebook. Links are on the sidebar.
His whole world changes when he meets Padmi. Life gets more interesting as she changes Gorbind’s universe completely. Romance with Padmi is anything but straightforward.
The rainbow cover is very important to me, and really does reflect the colours on the wind. This is a book that attempts to address different aspects of diversity and the cover had to underline that.
Picking up where Retreating To Peace left off, Postcards from Peace sees Devan Coultrie settle further into town.
We get to see his family, a few more of his friends about town and also the perils and pitfalls of his relationship with Aditi Rao.
Devan Coultrie is settling into Peace. Life as he knows it, is becoming really quite interesting.
Devan was being chased by a horde of wild-haired, completely psychotic, marauding banshees. They wanted him.
Every inch of him.
Resistance was futile, he was fair game. The Banshees were out to get him.
Waking with a jolt, Devan cursed loudly as both his elbows hit the curved sides of a very cold bath. He looked down toward his feet to see his ever-present Oxblood Dr. Marten’s thump against metal.
He was in the bath.
How the hell did he end up in the bath? Devan tightly closed his eyes to rack his brains. The last few days were incredibly blurry around the edges.
Don”t forget where it all started. Retreating to Peace: A Peace Series Novella saw Devan Coultrie head off to Peace, Montana. You might want to read that too!
It’s been nearly nine months since Retreating to Peace was published. It seems at though barely any time has passed since I first opened a notebook and tried to think of who I might write about. Devan Coultrie started life as blue and black ink scrawl and was literally a day-dream as I tried to exercise my imagination. He has a love interest, Aditi Rao, who was also plucked from thin air.
Only this man has a story; why on earth would he want to up sticks and fly half way across the world to start again.
Retreating to Peace is by no means a sad story. It’s a hopeful one; the sort of story that might make you smile. It is also one of many, with nineteen stories written by different authors converging on the fictional town of Peace, Montana.
Nine months on, I am reflective I guess, of how RTP (as I have lovingly christened it) grew from the seeds of an idea to blossom and bloom. I like Devan, he’s the sort of dude you might want as your ‘yeah, all right,’ wing-man. He was also borne out of frustration; there are not many romance books out there who have characters of Indian-ascent. Devan’s dual heritage was something I reflected upon a great deal. With Aditi as his foil, there was a huge opportunity to craft and combine culture when this doesn’t normally happen.
Since then, I’ve gone onto explore that further with Kangana, but only as I was able to nurture Devan and Aditi. These two gave me a great deal of courage to pick up an idea and run with it.
I think Devan is happy in Peace, Montana. He’s made an interesting new start for himself.
I don’t think he’s done, either.
Devan Coultrie was at a loss. His world had been shaken, his heart fractured and emptied by death. In search of a way to heal and shake of the damage, Devan sticks a pin a map with the intention of going wherever it lands. Leaving the shores of the United Kingdom, he ends up Stateside, deep in the heart of Montana. With all of his worldly possessions, Devan drives into Peace and onto a plot to land to start life over.
Like him, the farm and its acreage is downbeat, derelict and defeated. When Aditi Rao arrives in Peace, Devan’s plans for himself and his home are disrupted. He has history with Aditi and she’d quite like to write another chapter. Can he show Aditi that his retreat to Peace is more than just a plot of land and on a different continent? Can he find a way to share his home, his heart and a new beginning?
It is live, and has been for two days.
I spent the week leading up to release day, pacing up and down, trying to keep sane. This is the fourth book that I have self-published in four years, but the anxiety doesn’t get any less with each one. There are two other occasions I have felt this nervous. The first, when I paced up and down the night before my A-level Philosophy and Ethics exams. The second, when in 2012, Mama had emergency surgery. Previously, I have stated how this book is different compared to what I have written before, and it felt different writing it.
With that process, I am embracing the different. You wouldn’t believe it, but even Alan Titchmarh et al don’t write exclusively about gardening.
If we all had the same book list, shelf or idea, there’d be nothing to make us sit up and pay attention. There would be a monotonous sense of status quo, that didn’t offer development, growth and rather inhibited any sense of adventure.
There will be no spoilers about the book, we have had teasers. If you want to know about Devan Coultrie, how he ends up in Peace, you will have to go find him. In Great Britain, that will cost you less than a pound. Across the globe, it is in equivalent currencies.
Devan Coultrie is one of Peace, Montana’s newest residents. He lives, slap bang, in the middle someplace.
So, after much anticipation, Devan Coultrie exists as a proper fictional character and not just as a figment of my imagination. He is no longer a series of inky, black, purple and green paragraphs; the back to back cups of tea and assorted versions of ‘Jolene’ have done their thing. Honestly, ‘Jolene’ is the de-facto theme tune to this book. I had Dolly and Pentatonix on loop for every single step. Right now, Cyndi Lauper and ‘At last’ is bouncing across the kitchen tiles and feels rather apt.
You can now await with eagerness, the next two titles. They are both fabulous, and allow Peace to blossom even more.
As you can see, the town of Peace is growing with a very interesting set of denizens milling about it’s boardwalk. I guess that in the same way you have Pokemon, you might want to catch them all. These series will continue to swell until the late summer; there is still lots in store for readers. Something for everyone, would describe this series really well.
So what does this mean for my future writing endeavours?
I do have things to write, two things have my focus and will occupy my for the rest of 2018. There will also be a return to gardening, I have three baby chillies on the window sill.
In three days time, Retreating to Peace goes live. My contribution to the Peace Series of Novellas will finally be out there, and available to be read. Over the last few weeks, I have been reflecting on the whys, wherefores, whathaveyou’s of having written it.
When first undertaking this writing project, it was a case of why not, what have I possibly got to lose? This could be a really useful learning experience, you might actually get something out of this. I had finished Fragments, and I felt a little listless; I needed to write something else to fill the void left behind.
Having never written a romance before, this was taking a plunge and then some.
In being accepted to participate, I had to then come up with something; I needed an idea! There had be something, that would be plausible with the premise of a fictional town called Peace in Montana.
I had to think about my own perceptions, experiences, my understanding of fiction, and also the genre of contemporary fiction.What immediately struck me, was how about writing a character that had an Indian background, or a part Indian background. I don’t recall reading a romance, where there was character from a BAME background.
There is BAME literature; it is rich, vibrant and under-rated. It can be found, and it offers a really good insight into realms within literature that are otherwise undiscovered. I dare you to read something by Meera Syal, by Satnam Sanghera, go find Benjamin Zephaniah; read something you perhaps otherwise wouldn’t.
Writing this novella, was about extending horizons, creating awareness and sharing. Sharing and also celebrating diversity. There was also some rebellion in there, in not wanting to write something of a Bollywood drama.
With Retreating to Peace, I have resisted the urge to call it a Bollywood drama. This book is nothing like the telenovellas with all of the Levi Strauss token characters, interesting camera angles and doof doof soundtrack. It does, however, borrow cultural elements that I am aware, that I have experienced within my universe. Even the short-stories that have been Seasonal Peace Spin offs, have had some Indian cultural element in them. I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwali story, and sharing what Diwali means to me, to the characters that I have developed.
What I didn’t want, was to write a novella that echoed what is expected, thought of as being in a Bollywood movie. Whilst writing, I read ‘Devdas’, and recall wanting to throttle the characters whilst trying to process the social, historical and cultural issues raised. I have seen the film, the one with Shah Rukh Khan and not one of the other 13 versions made by Bollywood. I had wanted to read this for years, and it was a real eye opener to eventually do so.
I convinced myself, and felt quite vehement; I didn’t want to write a Bollywood movie in a book. There are no dance numbers or sparkles in this book, sorry, but but no.
When looking at the cover, I remember trawling through images trying to find something, trying to find someone that corresponded to the description and presence of Devan Coultrie and Aditi Rao. (This really was a challenge, and already strained my view of not putting people on the cover.) I found myself re-thinking, questioning what my perception and understanding was of diversity. A process that I had already gone through to some extent when developing Fragments, only it was a bit more focused this time. Diversity in writing, reflecting real life and the society that I live in, matters to me and in turn impacts upon what I produce.
I was really quite glad when the marketing team came up with a teaser that rather made me smile! Looks altogether quite glamorous really.
I enjoyed writing and developing Retreating to Peace, and truly appreciative of being accepted into the project. I did want to write something different, and this is definitely different compared to the gardening books and also Fragments.
In 2017, I made my first foray into fiction. Having written two non-fiction books about my allotment, this was something of a challenge in being very different. In all honesty, I really enjoyed writing both of the allotment books; there was a huge learning curve that really did open my eyes. I have learned lessons with each book, and hopefully continue to do so as things progress. No one book is perfect, and there is always someone who will offer you feedback to that effect. The broad plethora of writing out there, would suggest that you are never going to please everyone. Start with pleasing yourself, see what happens.
That said, seeing and hearing people enjoy the allotment books is a wonderful experience. It is validation, yes. That something I have produced is out there, that it is being engaged with, and there is value to it.
There is a wonderfully romantic notion, that writing is easy; that writers of any description, do nothing but lounge around navel-gazing, smoking cigarettes, drinking tea and occasionally put pen to paper. I can tell you now; that is not the case, that could not be further from the the truth. I don’t smoke, navel-gazing does my head in, but I do like back to back cups of tea.
Then there is the idea of why write?
Well, why not?
There is just something about a pen, a notebook, a day dream and marrying it all together. All that day dreaming is of no use in the depths of my cerebellum; if released from there, it might actually have some use, some one might benefit from it in some shape or form.
I’ve been writing since I was fourteen, and on anything I could get my hands on with rather curly handwriting. Nineteen years later I still have the loose leaves somewhere, and I look back them with lovely, rose tinted glasses. Some of the stuff is in my opinion, altogether strange; however, I wouldn’t change it, I wrote it and for reasons only known to the universe. I still write Star Trek fan fiction; it was and is an wonderful immersion experience. Anyone who tells you that fan fiction doesn’t count as literature, could do with a broader scope on their bookshelf.
In previous posts, I have explored why I wrote ‘Fragments’. I wrote it because of family bereavements, because loss(in many different forms, not just death) had become a big part of my world and I was trying to make sense of it. Compared to the allotment books, it is bigger, beefier and quite literally not so rosey. Don’t get me wrong, there are happy endings in there; I couldn’t bring myself to write abject, bleak, misery. What I wrote about was being human, or in the very least, trying to understand being a human and the relationships that we form. I’ll be honest with you. There are some parts of ‘Fragments’ that actually make me cry, and I wrote those bits! I can’t read them-I did, when crafting it, I had to force myself to do so-there are others, which make me smile, and I’m glad to have written as not many others might have.
With 2018, I am making my second foray into fiction. I have also broken my own self-imposed rule of not having human beings on the cover; so far, we’ve had insects and pastel art. This next foray, is continued diversification and into contemporary romance. It is actually rosy, unlike ‘Fragments’ so it does have some sunshine like the allotment books. Again, there has been learning; there has been further, very instrumental development and growth.
Over the last three months, I have posted bits and pieces about ‘Retreating to Peace’. I wanted to share the excitement that has been a big part of this project and how much that means to me. Hopefully, you will have seen the teasers and things.
Yes, this is different. To gardening, to grief. Proper diversification, and then some.
Yes, you read it correctly; contemporary romance.
Romance as a whole, is huge! It is a big slice of the literature pie, the indie publishing pie as well.
Here I am, a minnow-a gardening one-in a big pond, with lots of established fishes.
I couldn’t tell you why I took this plunge. Only, that I wanted to keep writing after having finished ‘Fragments’. I must have taken one week, perhaps two, before stumbling across the Peace Novella Series. This felt the right thing to do, the universe was sending me signals of some kind.
Plus, as with the other three books, what could I possibly have to lose?
There are some things, that as I was writing ‘Retreating to Peace’ were a big part of my awareness. Things, that have most likely shaped the production of it, and I haven’t really put them out there before.
First, I chose to write a male main character. He’s not that much older than me, he is taller though. Most people are to be honest. Plus, I didn’t want to write a swaggering Alpha Male who saves the universe whilst having a fragile ego broken by a heaving bosom.
Second, he’s of mixed heritage. I would not, do not wish to, label Devan Coultrie as a Person of Colour. That label sets my teeth on edge for a whole armada of reasons that I won’t go into here. I managed to shoe-horn Anglo, Indian and Scottish into development.
Third, not all romance is about rainbows and butterflies. I know, that seems an oxymoron, Thank goodness for Happy For Now.
Fourth, I spent my whole childhood watching Bollywood Movies. There are lots and lots of Bollywood/Indian cultural things mentioned in RTP. This is why, I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwal story. Oh, and I have yet to find a would be Indian inspired romance. Trust me, I know who Meera Syal is as well as Anita Desai and Arundhati Roy. I may never scale their great heights, but a girl can dream, eh?
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