Wednesday, December 07, 2011

REV UP WEDNESDAY - A weekly booster shot for inspiration... Catching up with ZEE MONODEE

Hello world,


Today's guest happens to be the sister I wish I had growing up, but I'm so glad she's a big part of my life now - mega talent and inspiration, Zee Monodee.

I'm so excited to have her here, and not only because this woman, who lives thousands of miles from my home, means the world to me, but especially because she is such a wonderful writer, such a dynamo, and such a minefield of information about writing and the publishing industry, that she has absolutely, unequivocally earned star status in my book.

Furthermore, Zee's stories and characters are imbued with a wisdom beyond her years and while I'm reading her layered plots and deep characters I keep wondering, amazed, how a woman not even 30 can even know certain things, let alone understand them. But, as I am aware, Zee has been through a lot - and I do believe that once you've looked your life (and death) straight in the face, things start to click in ways you couldn't even guess at in the past. It is this fine perception, this intuition, that I see bubbling inside Zee, a kind of oneness with her world that shines in every line she writes. But, this insight also comes with a delicate stream of vulnerability that makes her come across as uncondescending, kind, caring and above all, authentic. She is loved because she is real and yes, because life overwhelms her sometimes, just as it does all of us - but she always finds time for what (and who) is important. Zee "gets" life, a feat we often manage only at that magic age of 40, if ever. Isn't this why they say that life begins at this number?

One cannot be so "in touch" with life and others without being observant, and the greatest tool of a writer is observation, coupled with imagination. The day Zee runs out of her creative juices, I'm going to strip naked and climb the Empire State Building without restraints, wearing only two pairs of giant magnets. No one needs to ever see that - too scarring...

But, fear not. Because, it's never going to happen. I'm sure of it. If there's one question I keep asking the woman, it's, "How the heck did you come up with this?"

And, as you read her books - which I please, please urge you to do - you'll find yourselves asking the same question, too. The stuff she comes up with she can only fish from her bottomless well...

So, let me stop embarrassing my sister now, and get on with it.

Question of the day is, how does Zee do it? Here's the skinny...

But first...

A CONTEST: Those who comment on this blog post until Saturday 10th December will be entered in a draw to win a copy of either one of Zee's books, of their choosing. Please leave an email address for the drawing! Also, I would appreciate it if you "follow" this blog (see right sidebar). Thanks!


How long have you been writing?

Let me think... It seems I've been writing/imagining stories forever! And lol too – on most days, I feel much, much older than my years on paper; cannot believe I am still so much a baby year-wise. :) Sometimes I feel I've lived 2 or more lifetimes in the years I've been on earth.
So, let's see... Actively penning down mss – a little less than 7 years now. But I've been imagining stories ever since I was 8 (consciously, that I actually remember! My parents and relatives all say I had a very active imagination that blabber-mouth me didn't hesitate to ply on all and sundry when I was younger!), just not putting them down in words – I remember creating elaborate scenarios for Barbie & Ken (that I received for my 8th birthday!) and for the doll parties I had with my friends and cousins during the school vacations. And I also got a cat for that birthday, so another series of stories was about Pupuce, the cat. :)

When did you decide that you wanted to write for a living (that "aha" moment)?

I'll admit I'm a 'kept' woman – my husband and I are both old-school and traditional, so we agreed I'd stay at home and look after the house and kids while he was the breadwinner. So anything I do – like my writing – is my career but I'm not exactly doing it for a living,  And I'm lazy, I'll admit it. Getting to lounge around all day in my PJs – that's what I call bliss! Lol. Now if I get to do something I love too in the process – and without needing to check if the stubborn cowlick in my fringe is behaving or not – that's heaven!

But jokes aside, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Like I mentioned above, I can't recall a time when I wasn't imagining scenarios in my mind. As a tween/teen, I used to watch all the big soapies with my mother – Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon Crest, Neighbours, EastEnders, then we moved to Days of Our Lives, The Bold & The Beautiful, The Young and The Restless and a slew of other Indian soaps (and lol – yes, I do do something more than watching soaps! I watch Glee and Supernatural, for instance :D). So I was always thinking up alternate storylines for these characters (didn't know at the time that what I was conjuring was essentially fan fic). I never knew one could write as a profession – yes, there were the big names like Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts, Barbara Cartland, etc, but they were not 'real people' in my mind, not you and me, so it never crossed my mind that I could be an author and make that my career.

This led me into a detour through the corporate world – that I absolutely abhorred! – and at around the same time I quit my corporate job as a department coordinator, I got married and my son was born less than a year later. My husband and I had decided I'd stay home, at least until the kids were into school (and I admit I got totally used to the 'lounging in PJs' part of what was essentially my maternity leave – couldn't conceive of prepping for work when I'd hardly slept a wink the night before!) so that part of my life was a no-brainer (told you, laziness won :)).

Then my son became a toddler, and during the 'free' time that suddenly popped up when I could leave him to play by himself in the nursery, I read the epic novel "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth. The story stayed with me, and kindled my desire to write my own epic but with a cultural/Mauritian slant. I pulled an old notebook and started penning the story down long-hand, during my 'alone' time, thinking 'one day' I'd have a story to try and get published.

'One day' came sooner than I expected though – a few months later, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. I know it's dramatic to say this, but I really saw death in the face and it made me think of all the things I wanted to do, all I wanted to be, but that I had deferred for 'one day'(and no, that dramatization has not been brought about by watching too many soap operas :D). During one of those emotional meltdown moments following the diagnosis, I told my husband I had started a book, hoping to be published someday. He took me by the shoulders and told me 'One day is right now – it's what you make it to be.'

That's how I actively started writing, started to become who I wanted to be, namely, an author. Haven't looked back ever since. :) And I also found I 'worked' much, much better in my Victoria's Secrets pajamas – so there was no competition between being a writer and going back for a day job.

What did your family say when you told them you wanted to be a writer?

At first, only my husband knew of my desire to write. He was behind me 150%, told me to go for my dream. I think he believed I'll write fluff – in his defense, I must say I'm a hyperactive super-romantic who sighs and cries all through rom-coms.  He had no doubt I'd be writing that kind of story too. But seriously, he's a good sort – do you know of many men who'd sit down with you through each and every rerun you do of the Love Actually DVD? (though he does sleep through 2/3rds of it, but it's the intention that counts :))

My parents, sibling, in-laws, and other relatives, found out about my writing when my first book came out here in Mauritius. That book I had written during my cancer treatments was published in print by a local publisher. I handed my parents a copy of the book, and they were awed. Everyone knew I 'stayed home' but no one had a clue I could be doing something other than watching soaps (I know, could've fooled everyone, innit? LOL).

On the whole, everyone was surprised, but they got over the stun factor and are totally used to me checking into my writing and/or editing cave now. :) I ramble about ongoing plots and characterization only to my husband though (the poor soul!), so the people around me know I'm writing, but not what.

What is your preferred genre both for reading and writing?

Reading is escapism for me – my trips to happy Land. So anything light or fluffy, light and fluffy, or romantic with an HEA, I'll read. I admit I have a preference for light contemporary reads, like books of Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Susan Mallery, Robyn Carr, Susan Andersen, Victoria Dahl.

I'm a huge, huge fan of chick-lit, especially British chick-lit, and I love good, strong historicals, such as Nicola Cornick's books. I'm also a big fan of Megan Hart, both her erotica and sci-fi-slant books – that woman does characterization and character depth like no other!
All of these authors I mention here are auto-buys for me – each and every one of them delivers a good, feel-good, escapist read in every one of their books. I can't ask for more (maybe a hunky hero, but that's par for the course in every romance, innit? :))

I try to write light too, because I love a good, breezy read. Unfortunately for me, all my stories find some layer of darkness creeping in, and so they never end up breezy. So in a way, my writing is quite far removed from my reading taste. I don't seem to have a knack for humour either, so I rely on other authors to bring me that kind of feel-good thrills as my writing is darker in execution.

Did you start by writing full time or did you have a day job?

As I mentioned above, I'm a 'kept woman' :) so I don't have a day job, nor do I need to write full-time to pay my bills. But all things considered, though in my life my roles as wife and mother come first, I am pretty much a full-time writer. I give as many hours as I would a flexi day job to my writing during the work week. I might've been writing for 7 years, but it's only this year that I've been able to write full-time, as the years before that were taken with my studies, for a degree in communications science that I did part-time, through distance learning. I don't have anything but writing vying for my attention now, so writing is my main focus during the week.

Did you take any writing courses or did you just sit and write a book?

Formal writing courses/degree per se? No. I did, however, major in English and French (plus English Literature) in high school, so languages and story-writing were things I'd dabbled with throughout the years.

I read a lot of books and then I sat down and started writing. Bad mistake – because though I wrote romance, I wrote in omniscient POV (like I had seen in all those books I read!) and that, apparently, wasn't compatible with light/feel-good/popular fiction.

That's when I went online and read everything I could find about writing commercial fiction, and especially romance. Charlotte Dillon's site was a treasure trove of links and articles, and Holly Lisle's site was another goldmine of advice. I gobbled everything they put up, and applied those techniques/advice snippets to my writing, learning and adjusting as I went along. Through the years, I've honed my style and voice, found which genres/niches/story slants appealed to me, and tried –still trying! – to make these my strengths.

Did/do you have a crit group or mentor to guide you?

I found an amazing crit group a few months after I started writing. In fact, it was these writers who pointed out to me that I wrote in omniscient! Through the years, we've all drifted and gone our separate ways, but some of us have kept in touch, and become fast friends. We crit each other's work, talk about life and writing, support one another through the good and the bad. You and I met on that group too, Angela – do you remember? Your name sounded familiar to me, and then I realized we'd both just joined the crew of a pop culture blog. :)

The other women I met this way had all pretty much started the journey along with me, and we went down that road together throughout the years. Today, most of them are published, and I also love to meet budding writers and help/be helped by them too. No writer can ever say she is experienced enough to not need others, so I use all the help and support I can get.  Plus I love to meet new people, especially like-minded folks.

MS-wise, today I'm more involved with CPs and beta readers than a whole crit group. I do belong to a few loops, where I have made amazing friends who help me tremendously, especially to brainstorm a plot and its twists and turns, but when I'm putting a project together, I know by now whose taste the story will fit, so I arrange with that person to crit/beta my work.

For a while, I had a mentor, but that person and I had a falling off when we allowed business to mingle with friendship. I regret losing her in her my life, but I also know I have to move forward and become my own person. So I plodded on, helped by some amazingly wonderful people from the writing world whom I got to meet online (believe me when I tell you I was literally an island without the Internet! I don't know any other writer in my own country, and my CPs and writing friends are scattered all over the globe.)

Do you use a/several pseudonym(s) and if so, why did you choose to have one/them?

I don't use a pseudonym, not anymore. Zee is a shortened form of my birth name – that's how all my friends call me  Monodee is my husband's name that I took when we got married. Both my names throw back to my and my husband's connections with India, from where our ancestors came circa late 1800s to settle on the island of Mauritius. My husband's family is from the Indian state of Gujarat, where family names end in the typical –ee fashion. No such identifying suffixes in my maiden name though. :)

I realized I wanted to be known for who I was, literally for me, so went along with my given name when I started querying publishers again late last year, after picking myself up following a setback in my personal life that affected every aspect of my existence, especially the professional side. I won't dwell on that because what's past is past, but my very foundation and trust in people were shaken to the core, and it took me some time to come to grips with this fact.

In the past, I have used 2 pen names – Aasiyah Qamar, & Nolwynn Ardennes. The decision was more about branding than 'hiding' who I was. I was advised that I should have different personas for each kind of writing I did – Aasiyah wrote Indian-Mauritian culture-based romance, so she had a name reminiscent of the culture ties. Nolwynn was in mainstream romance, so she had a more 'common' name. There were prods for me to branch into erotica as well, which would've needed another name.

I admit I got tired of the split/multiple personalities, and having to maintain a full presence for each one of them. I also didn't want to 'delude' (for lack of a better term!) people as to who I really was behind the pen names. When you imagine Nolwynn Ardennes, you expect a white French chick, which I'm not.  I'm a golden-skinned Muslim woman from Mauritius and whose ancestors hail from India. My name shouldn't mean that I'm stuck writing a specific genre, and that alone. Look at Nalini Singh – that's a totally Indian name, for an author who was born in Fiji, grew up in New Zealand, with origins in India. Yet she writes paranormal fiction/romance. No one looks at her name and imagines she should be writing the same kind of story as Vikram Seth. I wanted that for me too – be who I am, show the real me.

I know a lot of writers have pen names, and I'm not saying they're doing the wrong thing to not use their given names – we know not everyone can afford to do that. What I mean is – I was tired of hiding behind facades, of not showing the reader who trusted me and my work, who I really was beneath it all. I wanted to 'come out', so to speak, and for that, I had to be me, and me alone. Hence why I left the pseudonyms behind and started shopping my work around under my very own given name.

How long did it take you to make your first sale? What was your first thought when you did?

To the point of annoying the writers reading this, I sold my first novel on a telephone elevator-style pitch before the book was even completed! I started the book in April 2005; October that year, I was halfway through and looking at my options. I called the biggest publisher here and asked about their submission guidelines (this happened right after I read a newspaper article here that said the house was looking to expand its fiction line). I got put through directly to the acquisitions manager, a very nice lady who asked me what my book was about. I told her it was the story of a Mauritian divorcee who comes back to the island after her divorce in England, and has to contend with a closed and gossipy society, all while she meets her first love again, a white man, whom she had left because they weren't of the same cultural/racial origins.

She went, "I like the sound of that; I want to see it." I asked if she wanted the partial, to which she answered that she wanted the full!

After an hour or two of total panic and hyperventilating, because the story was nowhere near finished, I sat down and started writing the rest of the book. Dropped it at the house in December. March 2006, the lady calls me again and says they're buying the book.
I couldn't believe it when she told me that! Literally thought I was dreaming. :)

The book came out in April 2007, and I think the day of the launch was even more surreal for me, because I still couldn't believe I had written the book that was in my hand, and that we were presenting to the media. It will stay in my mind as one of the best memories of my life.

Did you sell the first story or novel you wrote?

Yes, as mentioned above. That story was called "The Other Side", and its rights have reverted to me now.

Looking at it today, I can see how that story is merely a skeleton of the true plot. My writing and characterization has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the years, and though the gist of the plot and storyline were good and strong, I wouldn't shop that book around today as it is. The characters definitely need to be beefed up  (and I should do them more justice by fleshing their anorexic-thin frames)

How many drafts did you write of your first novel before you felt you got it right? What about now - do you still write several drafts of a story?

I struggle with drafts mostly for the first third of the book. I need to ease into the story, get that 'absolutely right' beginning, both for the plot and the characters, so that's where I do most of my drafts.

For my first novel, I did 3 drafts, mostly because I was looking to find my voice and the right flow. I tried omniscient – too distanced, and not conducive to romance. Tried 1st person – not funny enough, and the read was stilted. I also had a huge case of I-itis, where all my sentences seemed to start with "I" :)

Third draft I tried 3rd person, and lo and behold, it agreed with me! Went from there, and wrote the book till the end.

To the point of annoying the writers reading this again, I write only one draft of a story. I'm a big plotter, and I think every scene through, work out every single detail in the scene, before I sit down to write it down. So what I write is most of the time exactly how the scene should unfold, taking me where I need it to take me, exposing what I need it to expose, etc. I get the details right on the first go itself – for example, the intricacies of a location, say the center of Prague. I will research Prague and incorporate that information into the writing right from the get go, weaving it into the read. I do this for every aspect of the story, so that when I reach the end, I have an out-of-shape though healthy person (let's use this analogy!), and I only need to whip him into shape with an exercise regimen, by addressing the issues my CPs picked up, and also eliminating instances where I repeat myself, my crutch words, gerunds, passive voice, etc.

So I write a draft basically start to finish, edit/polish it, then I send it off to my editor or I start shopping it around. I don't rely on the draft showing me where the story is going – which could be why I get away with one draft itself. I know where the story is taking me and how to get there – I make sure I know the route beforehand and just travel there when the time comes.

Do you read industry or writing related blogs? If so, can you share some useful links?

I used to read a lot of writing articles when I first started – Charlotte Dillon and Holly Lisle both have sites that are troves of valuable information.

But lately, I don't read many industry/writing blogs. I'm more geared towards writer blogs, where I catch up with my writing friends. :)

Did you get an agent first or did you submit directly to publishers?

I've never gone the agent way. I've made some half-hearted attempts to snag an agent, discouraged mostly by the fact that many agents simply do not reply or even acknowledge that anyone has gotten in touch with them. I found that kind of waiting – and not even getting an answer! – tedious and preferred to go directly to publishers. Every sale I've made so far, I've queried the houses directly.

I wouldn't say no to having an agent though – if the right agent came along, then why not?

Did you ever get rejected? If so, how did you handle it?

Rejections? Yes, too many to count! They're part and parcel of the writer's makeup, I believe. And they're always hard, gotta admit that.

How to handle it? Chocolate cake helps, as does ice cream (preferably Haagen Dasz!), or indulging in front of a movie/clip of your favourite hunk. :) Or for me, eating choc-chip cookie dough Haagen-Dasz ice-cream in front of the TV watching a rugby match between, let's be wild, the All Blacks of New Zealand and England's XV de la rose, with the yummy Johnny Wilkinson captaining for England :)

Lol, jokes aside - I do indulge in all the above, but I also know that no one else can pick me up but myself. So I wallow in self-pity, rant with my besties, and then I pick myself up and keep looking forward. There's something in life we need to realize – we cannot go back. Yes, you can turn around and look back, but take a step in that direction? Not possible. So the only way to go is forward, and life's too short to waste on regrets and what-might-have-beens – so dust yourself up and keep moving forward!

What, in your opinion, do agents/publishers look for in a new author in the current market? Is it all to do with talent or with trends?

It's a bit of both, actually. If readers don't want something right now, no matter how much talent the writer has, the pubs/agents cannot push the story down the reader's throat. There's got to be a measure of demand and supply and somewhat of an equilibrium point in the market (yes, I majored in Economics in high school & university!).

But a new writer has to have talent, and that little 'something else' that sets him/her apart from the common lot. That can be voice, a different approach to a storyline, or even something as simple as identifying a need in the market offerings and filling that up, never mind if he/she does that in a dubious manner. Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series comes to mind here – there's huge debate/controversy over the actual validity and strength of the stories and the writing, her true talent, but what happened was that a book (even bad, if some are to be believed – I started Twilight but couldn't finish it as Bella is so not my cup of tea! ) saw a gap in the market and filled it, with the raging success that it had.

I don't think a writer can do well by following trends. That trend you're after – it might not be you and your voice, but do you go ahead and set yourself up for grief and misery when you don't manage to a) write it well, and b) sell something that doesn't shine as your true talent can shine?

Each writer out there is gifted for something or the other, for a genre or a niche that they'll be amazing at. Yes, you can write across genres – I do it myself. But can a writer write across all genres, enclose all trends? That's hard to do, so why not spare yourself the suffering and focus on finding your strengths before you chase after the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow?

What do you think of the changes going on in the book industry (e.g., e-books vs. print books, and big publishers getting involved in digital publishing)? Where do you see the industry going?

I see a move towards ebooks. I myself hardly ever buy print books now. Yes, some might say print will never die, that people will always want the feel of paper, the smell of ink - I agree. But that number of people will dwindle to a very low percentage of the book-buying market, where ebooks will take the lion's share of client consumption.

As for digital publishing, I'm all for it. Everything we do today has ties to a computer or other informatics device, so it's logical that books will also follow upon that wave.
For those people who can do self-publication and for whom indie/self-publishing will bring a favorable return – why not go for it? But what most folks have to realize is that indie/self publishing is not for every writer out there. Yes, there's promo and all that which falls squarely on your own shoulders, but there's also the fact that for self-pubbing to be profitable, you have to live in the US, or the UK, Germany, France (and only a handful of other nations). Every other country in the world is imposed a tax on revenue by the US government – so that eats into your earnings. The 70% royalty for Kindle authors applies only to those writers in the US and the handful of other nations benefitting from this percentage advantage. Any other country in the world, the writer makes the standard 35%. Now the US government imposes a 30% tax on all outbound revenue payments to non-US citizens. So unless your country has signed a tax treaty with the US, you forego 30% of the 35% you earn on each book – in the end, you're working/selling/promoting for only 5% of the selling price of the book (if your country does have a tax treaty with the US, you can apply to have the US government consider returning those 30% to you – that's not even a guarantee!)

Add to this the fact that just a couple of weeks ago, there was this article that highlighted how much a Kindle book actually costs outside US borders (this is the link http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/how-much-does-a-99c-ebook-cost-on-amazon). The article also showed how 95% of the world do not have access to Kindles and download facilities for Kindle books in their countries. Same goes for the Nook, which doesn't operate outside of the US.

So if you're not a US citizen in the US and targeting the US market, you're pretty much setting yourself up for failure and suffering by going the self-pub/indie route. A good majority of writers do not fall into this category, so that's a door that's closing right there, right then, in their faces.

Indie publishing works for some, not all – so there will always be the need for publishing houses (whether epubs or print houses) to enable those authors who cannot self-pub to channel their work out.

Do you think writers should consider self-publishing?

If the writer is a US citizen in the US and targeting the US market – sure, why not?
Rest of the world – I don't think so.

How do you feel about so many bookstores closing across the US? Do you think this trend is similar in other countries?

I'll tell you about my own example, here in Mauritius. I used to be a bookstore rat! Any place I went where there was a bookstore, there was no way you could tear me out before I got to browse those aisles and see what books were available. If I had spending money with me, worse – I'd never get out of that shop without buying a book or two.

That would've been me 1-2 years ago.

Today, I won't even stop in front of the bookstore window. I might peek at the titles on display across the glass panes, but I won’t pause, let alone go in. Why? Because I buy all my books online, in ebook format! For the 500-600 rupees per book I would've spent at the bookstore (that's about $15-20), I can get between 3-5 ebooks, depending where I shop! Shopping online also gives me access to a greater variety of books – can you believe no bookstore carries Susan Andersen, Victoria Dahl, & Megan Hart single-titles here? We get the big names, like JK Rowling, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel – but in a way, that policy of getting big names that sell forces the reader to stick with those big names that sell already; where then, does the reader find other, new authors? It's a vicious cycle – bookstores order what will sell, readers are forced to buy what bookstores ordered; next time bookstore orders books, it will see that Author A sold so-many books last quarter, so let's order Author A's new work again, because it sold, and we don't know how Author X's work might do; readers never get to see Author X's book, and are forced to buy Author A; which then starts the same cycle, and so on.

I'm sad to see bookstores closing – I love the feel and look of a physical book, but this is a time when the world really is a global village and if businesses don't open up to the prospects of a global connected village, they risk becoming islands and alienating themselves.

Are your books available in print or in digital format?

Digital for now – I hope they'll get to come out in print later on. :)

What advice do you think aspiring authors should heed today?

Don't chase trends – especially if the trend in question is not what's 'you'. Say paranormal is hot, but your niche is women's fiction. Don't start writing paranormals just because that's what's selling :)

Stay true to yourself – find what you want to write and write that, not what someone else/the market/the trends want you to write.

A dose of humility will always help – always remember no writer is an island. The people you meet and/or help today, as an unpub, are the same ones who will be around to support you as a pubbed author tomorrow, to stand by your side and vouch for your goodwill and character. No one wants to recommend a total cow – so don't behave like a total cow! The biggest 'payment' of being nice – you can make someone's day with your kind words. Never forget the power of a kind/nice word.

And write the best book you can! Can never stress that enough :)


What are you working on now?

I'm putting the outline of Book 3 of my Corpus Brides series together – the book is titled Let Mercy Come. It will be the final book in that series, the one that wraps up all the threads of the ongoing mystery explored in the first 2 books. This one's heroine is Anastasiya, the agency doctor whom readers will meet in Book 2, Before The Morning (which is going to my editor in the coming days *fingers crossed*). All 3 of the Corpus Brides books are stand-alone single-titles, but there is an overarching theme/premise that carries throughout all the stories.

I'm also beefing up the outline of Book 2 of the Destiny's Child series – titled Glory Days, which I've started during the year but had to put on the backburner when other projects cropped up with their deadlines. The Destiny's Child series focuses on how Fate uses a child – whether newborn or grown up – to bring two unlikely people together. The people may or may not have biological ties with the child, but it's up to them to overcome their issues and conflicts and create a family unit together. These stand-alone books are connected only by theme – the child destiny brings to two people. There is no link and/or continuation between the stories and characters.

In this light, Glory Days focuses on Stellan Elriksen and Kelsey Clegg. Nineteen years ago, they were teenage lovers, before Kelsey, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in London, left Swedish aristocrat Stellan without a word and disappeared. He never figured out what went wrong between them... until now, when Kelsey knocks on his door for help. She hid a secret – when she left, she was pregnant, and gave up their daughter for adoption. Today, the girl herself got pregnant and gave birth to a premature baby, and she died following complications from that birth. It's up to Kelsey and Stellan now to fight for custody of the preemie – their granddaughter! – to prevent her from ending up in the abusive clutches of her biological father's family. Can Stellan trust Kelsey once again, after she hid his only child, whom he'll now never get to meet?

Both these stories are very emotional, high-strung plots that rely on the characterization to pull them through. I'm having fun but at the same time, they're both demanding plots, exhausting characters. I'm a perfectionist and like to immerse myself completely into the character I'm writing – their struggle, their pain, their emotions, their journey, become my own; I live their lives by proxy, and that's knackering on many days. :) But I remain convinced I need this approach to give a deep, layered story to my readers, so that's why I keep doing it.

What is/are your favourite book(s)? Do you read only books from the genre you write in?

I love Sophie Kinsella's chick-lit – her novel The Undomestic Goddess is one of my go-to reads when I want a good time.

On the whole, I love British chick-lit, and I suppose that's mostly because it's a genre I am totally inept at! I can never write light and funny, so I rested my case and prefer to indulge in reading the genre now.

And no, I don't read only in the genre I write. :) That would be so limiting, don't you think? The amount of good books out there, the spectrum of genres and good stories – I don't want to restrict myself when I'm a total bookholic who loves nothing more than a good story.
But yes too – in a way, since I write mostly contemporary romance, I read a lot from the genre too. For instance, I'm hooked on Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold series, can't wait for next year when the next 3 books featuring 3 female friends from the town of Fool's Gold will get their story each.

As for the romantic suspense, I don't know of many other authors who write with the dark, heroine-centric espionage slant I favor, but I bet I would read them if I found them. Lori Foster comes to mind for romantic suspense, and I enjoy her books.

Do you read when you are plotting or writing a story?

Lol, if there's one constant in my life, it's that I'm always reading! I've never had a problem with finding aspects of a book I'm reading make their way into what I'm writing. I have my vision for my book, for my story, my characters, and that's almost always fully formed inside my mind the minute I mull it over.

So I indulge in reading. It's my sure-fire way to de-stress. I can get an overdose of TV or movies (or soap operas! Lol) but never from reading. :)

What book inspired you to write romance (or whatever genre you write in)?

There were 2 books, actually. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, inspired me to try my hand at a cultural/societal mores-type of story, but one that would feature a 'unique' perspective, namely that of Mauritian society.

At the same moment in time, I read See Jane Date by Melissa Senate, a chick-lit story from the Red Dress Ink line of Harlequin. I loved the quirky characters and the funny tone, the vibrancy of the modern/contemporary setting.

I thought why not have the best of both worlds – a light, funny story based on a satirical view of the society I lived in.

Great aspirations, only partly realized because I found out I cannot write chick-lit, or even funny in the true sense of the word. My stories also tended to go darker in the spectrum between light and dark. Little by little, I found my writing niche and voice, and reconciled myself to the fact that I'll never be a humorous writer. :)

What hero/heroine/character was the most fun or challenging to write for you?

The most fun was Diya Hemant, the youngest sister in my Indo-Mauritian cultural series on the 3 Hemant sisters – her story was titled "Light My World" (the rights have recently reverted to me, it is no longer in publication).

At the time I wrote this book, Diya was very much me in my own shoes. We were both in our early twenties, and though I was already married and a mum, I had been through her journey to find Prince Charming in a land full of frogs, and with my mum and aunts all breathing down my neck to get me married ASAP to a 'suitable boy.' My suitable boy, like hers, turned out to be older than me, with a romantic past behind him, and kids from a previous marriage. He was serious and staid, and I was a chirpy, bubbly thing who, at first glance, passed for a total airhead.  (still do, apparently, if my boys are to be believed!) That was also the case for Diya and Trent – to write their path to love and how they opened up to one another was a definite merry journey.

The most challenging... would have to be Rayne Cheltham, the heroine of Book 2 of the Corpus Brides, Before The Morning. Rayne is secret agent whose specialty is killing her targets without leaving a trace behind. She lies and hides secrets like she breathes, and she has sociopathic tendencies.

How can someone like that be a likable heroine, you may ask? The thing is, Rayne is a lot more than that. At the heart of her, she hides a crushed and beaten soul – the only thing she ever wanted, the only thing that would've made her world with its destructive bent right, was to marry the boy she grew up with and loved since childhood. He denied her that, and sent her on a downward spiral that made her who she is today. Her world takes a spin the day she meets him again, when she knows she can no longer keep doing what she's been doing all these years.
It wasn't easy to get into Rayne's mind, to think like her, to imagine what her world, her perception, her feelings would be. She was also very complex, full of facets that appeared and hid within the blink of an eye – writing her kept me on my toes, forced me to become her so I could portray her characterization in a convincing manner.

How do you juggle work, writing, chores and family/personal life? Do you have a secret to time management that you want to share with readers?

Lol, that's exactly what it is – juggling! And half the time the balls are threatening to fall on the ground and I'm scrambling for purchase. :)

But I think the secret really is time management. In the past, I've tried to be everything – writer, wife, mother – at the same time, and failed miserably at all 3 of them. My then-6-yr-old son openly berated me for being an awful mother, and my husband and I came close to breaking up because I was giving my everything to writing and my then job as an editor. I thought being physically there for the people in my life was enough – I was wrong.

I've learned from my mistake – we women are not one thing or the other; we're everything at the same time, but there's a time to let each and every facet shine. The other facets have to retreat in the shadows from time to time.

I've found a schedule that works for me – I focus on writing when my husband and son are not at home, during the day. I look after the house when my son comes back from school, just like I would if I were still working in a corporate 8-4 job (jobs are from 8am to 4pm mostly in Mauritius). In the evenings, I am the wife and the person, very rarely the writer (unless I have a deadline behind the door, but the guys understand that and accommodate me then).

If you want to be good at something, you have to give up on other things to focus on that one thing – so there's a time for me (8.30 am – 1 pm) when I'm the writer, and also the author who promotes and keeps up her social media presence; a time when I'm the mother and housewife (2.30 pm when I go pick up my son from school – 8 pm when he goes to bed); a time when I'm me and a wife and companion (the rest of the time in the day!).

I've found that not being everything all at the same time works, allows me to indulge every role I have in my life. Find what works for you – spread your day out so you address all your roles, and go from there. Contentment and happiness come from being all you are, not just one thing or the other; and for me, productivity flows from this contentment and happiness.

Do you have a ritual that you follow when it comes to writing?

Not exactly. :) I just park my butt in my chair, and when 10 am strikes, close all Internet windows and bring up my WIP's Word document. I'll often have a 1-pint mug of green tea next to my laptop, but that's about as ritual-y as I get. Oh, and I ask my husband and my mum to not call me between 10 am and 1 pm :)

Where do you see yourself, careerwise, in 5 years time?

Having at least a dozen more books out and a steady and growing readership, with whom I'll interact regularly, and thus making new friends every single day. :) I love meeting people and making friends.

I hope my name will be recognizable for strong, deep, layered stories; that readers will have me as an auto-buy on their reading lists.

I also hope to be working with a few good publishers, including Noble Romance Publishing, who have given me my big break and who continue to support me each and every day, along every step of my career journey. :)

What's your website URL?

http://zeemonodee.blogspot.com/

Are you on Facebook?

Yes, and Twitter, and Goodreads.  Just search for Zee Monodee in all 3 places and you'll find me.

How do you connect with readers?

On my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads – you just need to start talking to me to probably become fast friends, lol. Readers can also contact me directly via my email address zeemonodee@hotmail.com

About Zee:

Off the top of my head, here goes: I'm 28, married for close to a decade, mum to an 8-yr-old hellion & stepmum to a 12-yr-old video-game-obsessed lad; an undomestic goddess; a bookholic; a hopeless romantic; a chocoholic; and a shoe-holic (especially at Aldo stores :D); handbag-holic; shopaholic (when my husband isn't looking :D). Somehow, I also have a bachelor's degree in communications science, specializing in economics/marketing & media management.

And here's my 'official' bio:

Zee Monodee...

Stories about love, life, relationships... in a melting-pot of culture.

Zee is an author who grew up on a fence - on one side there was modernity and the global world, on the other there was culture and traditions. Putting up with the culture for half of her life, one day she decided she'd stand tall on her wall and dip toes every now and then into both sides of her non-conventional upbringing.

From this resolution spanned a world of adaptation and learning to live on said wall. The realization also came that many other young women of the world were on their own fence.
This particular position became her favorite when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing - her heroines all sit 'on a fence', whether cultural or societal, in today's world or in times past, and face dilemmas about life and love.

Hailing from the multicultural island of Mauritius, Zee is a degree holder in Communications Science. She is married and mum to a tween son.

Latest and upcoming releases:

Calling Home (A Destiny's Child Book) is my latest release! The book came out on December 5, with Noble Romance Publishing, and is a "... sweet & tender, old-fashioned romance that nevertheless lacks none of modern/contemporary edgy grittiness..." (words of reviewers & the staff at Noble :D).

It's the story of an uptight forensic pathologist in London, whose life takes a spin when she lands custody of an 11-yr-old tween girl. But there's more to her than meets the eye, and little by little, with the help of the handsome – and younger! – village doctor, will she be able to embrace this new world of emotion and finally call home?

Here's the official blurb:

Calling Home (A Destiny's Child Book)

It's the little things that keep us calling home...

Forensic pathologist Margo Nolan is described as a cold, unemotional man hiding inside a woman's body. Clinical and rational, the ice queen persona is only a facade to protect herself after she has lost the one thing she has ever longed for: Emma, the daughter she brought up like her own.
When tragedy strikes in Emma's life, Margo is the only one who can step in... to become the stand-in parent to the 11-year old! Clueless about children, family life and anything that should involve her heart, Margo is at a loss.

But she need not worry - sexy and easygoing, and much younger, village doctor Jamie Gillespie is here to help the heart-thawing process.

Find the book online here.

---------

My other novel so far is the romantic suspense/espionage thriller Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One), that came out in June 2011.

Here's some more about that story-line:

Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One)

The next step might be the last...

A woman without a past

Left amnesiac after an accident, Amelia Jamison struggles as her instincts slowly rise from the depths of oblivion, leading her to question her life as the wife of a cold, manipulating and distant man. Wisps of a dream show her another man she may have known intimately, but is he a memory, or a figment of her imagination?

A man with too much information

After many aliases, today Gerard Besson is simply a police commissaire in Marseille. When a mysterious woman starts to follow him, he is suspicious - and intrigued. But things aren't what they seem, and as he reluctantly gets closer to her, dregs of his painful, buried past emerge and make him question her identity.

Each seems to have led several different lives

But neither is prepared for what awaits them when they cross the fine line between knowing your true self and that of your alter ego.

Danger is the name of the game, and as it catches up with them in the French Provence, both know they better be ready for the inevitable fall.

You can find the book online here.


~ Angela ~
No Rules. No Formulas. Just Love.

"Mile High to Heaven" and "Mr. & Mrs. Foster" available at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid.

32 comments:

christine warner said...

What a lovely interview and a great tribute to Zee! She is an amazing person :) Hugs to you Zee!

Loved learning more about you and your writing. As for your books...your latest release is a must read I think. Sounds incredible. I checked out the 1st chapter on your website and Loved It!

Congrats on your much deserved success!

Zee Monodee said...

*blushin* and you're gonna make me cry...

Thanks so much for this fabulous interview, and this amazing intro. You brought tears to me eyes, and yes, you too are the sister I wish I'd had when I was growing up!

Love ya tons, sweetie! XOXO

Zee Monodee said...

Thank you, Christine! Angela did a smashing job, didn't she?

Big big hugs, and thanks for coming over, girl! xoxo

Angela Guillaume said...

Zee - you deserve every blessing, dear. I meant every word.

Christine - thank you so much for stopping by. I'm happy you've discovered Zee's work. This interview was a pleasure to post x

Sheri Fredricks said...

I never tire of learning more about you, Zee. The way your mind works, how smart and savvy you are, and it all comes out in your writing! If I were ever inclined to keep up with someone, that would definately be you.

Thank you for one of the best interviews I've ever read, Angela!

Angela Guillaume said...

Sheri, I totally agree with you. And thank you for the really nice words about my interview xoxo

Sandy said...

Lovely interview, Angela.

Zee, I wish the very best with your books. You're a wonderful writer.

I have read The Other Side and thought it was great but am sure you'll keep growing.

Angela Guillaume said...

Hey Sandy, thank you so much for stopping by - I really appreciate it. x

Brenda said...

Zee and Angela, what an amazing interview.
I've read other author interviews, but this was by far the best. It was like we were all sitting around a table, drinking coffee, and chilling.

Zee Monodee said...

Thank you Sheri! Gosh, have you all ganged up to make me blush and cry today??? Lol

That was so sweet of you - thanks again! Big huge hugs!!

And Angela did a fab job indeed! :)

Zee Monodee said...

Thanks Sandy! It's so nice to see you here. Long time no hear, and I'm sorry I fell off the wagon too - gotta remedy that!

Big hugs, Lady!

Zee Monodee said...

Awww, Brenda! Oh yeah, we missed only the lattes, frappuccinos, and choc chip cookies, all served by hunky cabana boys who look like Thor-Chris Hemsworth... ROTF!

Thanks for coming over, darling! XOXO

Angela Guillaume said...

Brenda, how about hot chocolate or Zee's favorite - Nutella ice cream? Wouldn't it be nice to actually get together :D. I feel so good that you are loving this interview xoxo

Angela Guillaume said...

Hands off Thor, Zee. He's mine. Lol xoxoxo

Lucy Felthouse said...

Wow, what a fab interview! I feel like I know you so much better now. It sounds like you've been through an awful lot, and I'm so glad you stayed strong and made it through. Much respect to you.

Can't wait to get stuck into your books, especially the one about my hubby! ;)

Sherry Gloag said...

Angela and Zee, thank you for offering one of the best interviews I've ever read. Zee, you are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

Angela Guillaume said...

Lucy - the book about your hubby? And a mystery unfolds... :)

Angela Guillaume said...

And thank you too, Sherry. I give myself just a smidge of credit...but what made the interview were really Zee's detailed answers to my questions. She really went deep. x

Nancy said...

Please enter me in this contest. Thank you. npl42011@hotmail.com

Rae Lori said...

Wonderful interview and interviewee! Zee you have such a wonderful outlook on writing and amazing inspirational stories. I always look to you and Angela for my inspirations to keep going in this nutty business because you guys are rocking the literary world! I'm so glad you had this interview. It was great to read!

Zee Monodee said...

Gaaah - Nutella ice cream!! What did you make me remember, girl??? :)

And Thor - don't worry, we got the clones. The original is safely yours :p

Zee Monodee said...

Thanks Lucy! So glad you could come over.

Lol, when life throws lemons at you, well, you make lemonade, innit? I've always been a hopeful optimist, and guess that's helped. :)

And lol too - please do get the book with your hubby staring in there. Hmmm, I wonder if you'll share the man... Maybe I could clone him...? *grin*

XOXO!

Zee Monodee said...

And Angela - Lucy snagged the yummy Jared before all of us, and won't hesitate to shoulder Genevieve Cortese-Padalecki aside to hold on to him :)

Zee Monodee said...

Awww, thanks Sherry! So glad you enjoyed the interview. Angela's question prodded deep - the big credit goes there :)

Big hugs!

Zee Monodee said...

You're in, Nancy! Thanks for coming over :)

Zee Monodee said...

Thanks Rae! You and Angela have been my rocks in trying times and good times too - where would I be without you, my soul sisters?

Glad you could come over, sweets! Love ya!! XOXO

Angela Guillaume said...

Oh I understand now. Lucy, what a hubby we have there, lol.

And Thor, hmmmm, shouldn't I be the one licensing the clones? LOL

Rae - so happy to see you here. You and Zee are my rocks too. In good times and bad you are both there for me, like the best of marriages :). I'm blessed to have you in my life.

xoxo

Julia Phillips Smith said...

This is the first moment I've had to take a breather and sit down to read this wonderful interview. LOVED learning more about you - and I agree, Angela, it's hard to believe such a young woman can be so wise. (I've got two decades on you, Zee!)

I'm so glad that I'm one of the writer friends you've met online - you and Angela help to make our wide world a comfy, cozy place.

Angela Guillaume said...

Thank you, Julia! You are a pretty fabulous person yourself! What would I do without people like Zee and you, and some other great writer friends? You make life so much richer and more interesting! Thanks for stopping by xoxo

Zee Monodee said...

Thanks so much, Julia! I have no clue where I'd be without the fabulous people I've met via the Internet. And lol, you're all making me blush - I'm just little ol' me :) xoxo

Zee Monodee said...

And sorry I'm late with the giveaway!

So, the winner who gets the choice of one of my books is...

Lucy Felthouse!!

Thanks everyone for coming over and commenting - you made my week. XOXO

Angela Guillaume said...

Zee - just saw your last two messages. Better late than never! Lol x