Interview with Aasiyah Qamar

Jen: Please help me welcome Aasiyah Qamar to Book Talk this week. Aasiyah, will you please share a short bio with us?
Aasiyah: First I wanted to say thanks for having me here today. It’s a great pleasure and a wonderful honor to be featured on this blog.

I was born on the island of Mauritius nearly three decades ago. It is located in the southern Indian Ocean, in the tropics (and no, it’s not sunny all year round unless you live by the beach, which I don’t, unfortunately!). I’m of Indian origin, in that my ancestors came to settle and work on the island at the turn of the 20th century, and though the culture has evolved to an Indo-Mauritian culture, echoes of India’s traditions and mindset still linger in our every move. So I also grew up here, then did a stint in England, and now living on the island since my other half is settled here. I’m married and mom to a 6-year old hellion that I love to bits, and in my ‘other’ life from that of the writer, I’m a struggling domestic non-goddess and a part-time university student in communications science.

Jen: Tell us about Light My World and where it’s available.
Aasiyah: Light My World is a story about today’s young women and what it’s like to look for Mr. Right when half of you is shackled to traditions and the other half bears the freedom of the globalised world. It takes place on my island, Mauritius.

Diya Hemant, the heroine, is right where she wants to be at this stage of her life. She’s successfully positioned her interior design company on the local Mauritian horizon and now wants something more – Mr. Right. But mind you, she doesn’t want this in the way culture and tradition and the ‘antiquated morals’ of her mother dictates. Marriage and kids and all that commitment madness will be for later, much later. Right now, Mr. Right will do.

And then Diya meets someone who is Mr. Absolutely Wrong according to her list. But no problem – she just has to steer clear of him, doesn’t she? Except Fate has other plans for her, and for this man, Trent Garrison, a widower who came to Mauritius to bring up his two young sons in peace.

Here’s the blurb for it:
Life’s good until it throws you the one curve you never wanted or expected. At twenty-four, Diya Hemant faces the prospect dreaded by every modern Indo-Mauritian girl – an arranged marriage to not end up an old maid. But for vivacious and live-life-in-the-fast-track Diya, giving in to her mother’s antiquated morals was never an option. Hearth, home and children weren’t part of her plan for the short-term, even if she’d love to find her Mr. Right. Widower Trent Garrison has already been there and done that, and has no plan to go down that road again. He has to ride the straight and steady for the sake of his sons, and nothing will divert him. Marriage, attachment, and love are not in the cards for him, not ever. Neither can afford a U-turn. But they can’t dodge it either.
The book is available at the following venues:
http://eirelander.webs.com/lightmyworld.htm
http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-lightmyworld-89451-149.html
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002PHMNRY – Kindle edition

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Aasiyah: I started penning stories as young as eight. When I moved to high school, I always elected for the story-writing themes in language essays. I thus wrote short stories 4-5 pages long on an almost weekly basis. Then I left school and got into the corporate world and got married and divorced and married again and became a mom and picked up my university studies and there was no time to write.

After my son’s birth, I left the corporate world and became a stay-at-home mom, and then too, it took an instance when I nearly looked death in the face (a breast cancer diagnosis) to make me dust the dream of writing from the shelf and pursue it actively. I started to pen my first ever novel then – 10 months later I subbed it to a local publisher in Mauritius who’d made a call for local authors to come out of the woodwork, and my ms got accepted. Actually, I’d called to ask about writer’s guidelines from that publisher, and luck had it that I managed to speak to the managing editor and she asked me to pitch her the (yet unfinished!) story right there on the phone. Imagine my surprise when she says she likes it and would want that ms asap on her desk! I wrote endlessly for like 3 weeks and finished the ms and sent it off. It went through their reading committee and about 6 months after dropping that envelope at their office, I heard from the editor and she said they were buying it. The Other Side, my first book about an Indo-Mauritian divorcee who makes it back into the closed and gossip-ridden society and meets her first love again, a man of different racial and cultural origins, was published in April 2007.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Aasiyah: Alive. Idea-changing. Original.

Jen: Do you have a writing routine?

Aasiyah: Not really. I set up an elaborate routine whereby I would read my outline, read my previous chapter, pen down notes of the chapter to be written and then I’d sit and write. But what’s a routine when you’ve got rambunctious kids around? Routine went out of the window – I’m lucky if I get to throw a glance at my outline before I sit down with the laptop and start writing. I will maybe light a scented candle before I start, but that’s about it. I now write mostly when my son is at school, between 9 and 2, Monday to Friday, when I’m on a project. That too supposes that there aren’t university assignments and exams around the corner, in which case I cannot give so much time to writing alone. I have to admit I write in bursts – I have no idea when I’ll be able to free up a block of days to be able to dedicate to a project. I try to write a chapter a day, and since I outline my stories, I know how many chapters I will have, and thus, how many days this will entail, also counting on stuff happening to take you away from writing.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?

Aasiyah: Since Diya is an interior designer, I had to brush up my knowledge about interior design and thus browsed a lot of home decoration websites and DIY home renovation books. Diya also specializes in the renovation of old Colonial houses that are typical of former French colonies like Mauritius. I thus visited some of these houses that are now museums on the island, finding all the pertinent details about their architecture and the time when they were built. One such Colonial house plays an integral part of the plot towards the second half of the book, and I thus had to have my facts right about this kind of dwelling (if you catch the book trailer for Light My World, you’ll see an image of the house I used as inspiration towards the end of the trailer).

Trent, on his part, works as an airline administration officer but used to be an operations director back in England after giving up his career as commercial pilot. For him, I had to find out what the job of operations director entailed, basically what happened in an airport operations’ department. My husband came to the rescue here, since he works for the local airline and put me in touch with people who work in those departments.

Jen: How do you pick the character’s names?

Aasiyah: Diya’s name came about when I was writing The Other Side, which is the story of her eldest sister, Lara. They are 3 sisters with modern, two-syllable names. Lara is the cosmopolitan one, thus the almost European name. Neha, the middle sister, has a traditional outlook about life and thus has a traditional name. Diya, as the youngest, was the hellion, the rebel who never did anything by the books. But she is a terrific person too behind the impulsive nature and thus her name is the same one as a symbol of light, the diya.

For Trent, I needed a very British name, and this name just stuck to him when I was thinking what to name him. He also hails from Yorkshire, and Trent is the name of a person who may have lived by the Trent River in England. He comes from an old family and thus I knew he had to have an ‘old’, distinguished kind of name.

I admit to have used the names bit quite extensively in the book – the title itself clicks in with the idea of Diya as the light bearer, the one who will light a dull and dark world with her touch.

Jen: Do you become attached to your characters and have a hard time letting them go, or are you happy that their story is told and you can move on?

Aasiyah: I’m happy to have set them on their path of finding happiness together. I have an intense, almost symbiotic relationship with my characters when I’m writing their story, and such a connection might become unhealthy if allowed to continue beyond the scope of a book. As such, no, it’s not a problem to let them go because I have to let them go. It may happen though that I don’t completely cut ties with them – they may make appearances in other books of the series. For example, Lara and Eric of The Other Side feature as secondary characters in Light My World, and the reader thus gets to see what they have been up to since the end of their book.

Jen: If you could travel back in time for one year, what time and place would you choose? And if you could only take 3 things with you, what would they be?

Aasiyah: I would go back to my son’s first year. I was so stressing over the fact of being a good mom and making sure everything was perfect that this period seems to have gone by in a breeze and before I knew it, the kiddo was grown up and I barely recall him as a baby. I would like to go back just to savor those moments but with the knowledge I have now that even if you don’t have all 10 bottles washed and sterilized at all times, the baby won’t suffer from it and you won’t be labeled a bad mom!

3 things… that’s hard. I’d take my laptop to be able to write everywhere (only had the big PC back then); a bottle of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse because it’s truly the miracle product that can be used for face, body and hair while giving great results in all instances; and yeah, my 24-7 Internet access (I’d die without my online ‘life’ with my CPs and friends. Back then we only had a lousy dial-up that also cost a bomb).

Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?

Aasiyah: Went out to dinner with the hubby without the kid to an exclusive Indian eatery! Was pure unadulterated bliss!

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?

Aasiyah: A linguistics student from the University of Mauritius told me that they should be featured in the university curriculum on Mauritian literature because they feature aspects of real-life with the kind of sweep-you-off-your-feet dimension of popular fiction novelists – this would thus ‘shake up’ the curriculum by giving something that can be enjoyed both as popular fiction and as study material. Someone from the press also compared my books with popular South American telenovelas, saying it was a Mauritian soap opera on paper.

Jen: What do you do in your free time?

Aasiyah: I love to read, be it fiction or non-fiction, though in this one I veer more towards magazines like Readers’ Digest and lifestyle publications. I also enjoy doing Sudoku puzzles (though I hate Maths. I cannot explain this fascination with Sudoku). I’m also a TV junkie, watch a lot of the popular series like CSI and NCIS. Not so much of a movie buff, but I do enjoy a good romantic comedy.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Aasiyah: I am currently penning the book about Neha, the other Hemant sister. I will also keep writing, bringing Mauritius and my culture more into the limelight. Writing flows in my blood, and as such, I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?

Aasiyah: I have a website and a blog, and I’m also on Facebook. Here are the links:
Website: http://www.aasiyah-nolwynn.webs.com/
Blog: http://aasiyah-nolwynn.blogspot.com/
Email: aasiyah.nolwynn@gmail.com
Facebook: Really awkward link for that one, so just look up the Group for Aasiyah Qamar & Nolwynn Ardennes, and you’ll find me there!

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Aasiyah: Yes. That if ever a story strikes you, be it good or bad, please let the author know. We love to hear from our readers, and just a little note to our email or joining us on platforms such as Facebook fuels us to write more and better stories for you!

Thanks again for this opportunity to be here. It’s really been a wonderful experience!

Jen: Thank you Aasiyah for stopping by the blog and sharing with us. Readers, Aasiyah is giving away a downloaded copy of Light My World to a random commenter. Leave a comment or question as the first step to entering the contest. Then you must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to contests.bookblog@gmail.com to complete the entry. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, December 13.