It's my distinct pleasure to get to interview my lovely and talented Buzz Girl critique partner, Dona Sarkar-Mishra!
I've known Dona for several years and we sort of began our journey as contracted authors together, after critiquing each other's first sale books. Dona recently sat down to answer some questions about her career and writing methods...
Dona, you are the author of How to Salsa in a Sari -- what drew you to writing a story about cultures clashing, and then intertwining?
It's so much a part of who I am. I'm Indian, was raised in inner-city Detroit where the kids were predominantly black, then moved to Novi, which was predominantly white. I've spent most of my life not fitting in and instead of trying to be something I'm not, I've sat back and observed the life around me. The idea for SALSA came to me when I was watching an obviously blended family fight in Sears.
Are you more like your character Issa or Cat?
A little of both actually! I think I have Issa's desire to succeed and be indepdent but unlike Issa, I don't let people step on me or intimidate me. I can be a total brat like Cat if I'm in the mood (thankfully this doesn't happen too much!) but I wouldn't say I'm spoiled. (My husband would disagree!)
What was it like to get the "call" that you'd sold your book?
Wild and unbelievable! Only my immediate family knew (because of my hysterical screaming!) I didn't believe it for days and only told people about a month after it happened. Only after I signed the contract did I actually pick up the phone and tell friends.
Will there be a sequel to Salsa?
I want there to be! I am tossing around ideas for it and it is tenatively called THE MANGO TANGO SUMMER. In it, Diego is fed up with the girls and sends them to NYC for the summer to do internships while he and Alisa go on their worldwide honeymoon.
What is your next project for Kimani?
SHRINK TO FIT is the story of a beautiful, strong athlete who develops an eating disorder while trying to fit into the "perfect girl" mold for her crush. It's grittier and more serious than SALSA but a very realistic issue with teens today.
When did you first know you were going to be a writer?
I've wanted to be one forever, I was always scribbling stories in my journals and coming up with stories in the shower....but when I took my first writing class at the community college, I knew this was something I wanted to do for a career.
You have a very supportive spouse. What did he say when you first told him you were writing your first novel?
Manav was overjoyed and demanded I write for 3 hours a day to ensure him an early retirement! He always says I'm happiest when I'm writing (even though that's usually when I'm walking around aimlessly talking to myself!) He also loves all my writing friends and thinks we're a bunch of "real-life characters" when we get together! He's really happy I have a creative outet away from my "practical" job.
How do you stay in touch with your "teenage" self to write YA?
Haha, it doesn't take much! I like to read YA novels and watch YAesque shows like Gossip Girls, Smallville and One Tree Hill. Also, I love to watch teens at the mall (not in a creepy way)
What do you wish you could write, but don't?
I LOVE reading mystery novels and wish I could write one....but I know I can't. If I tried, the villain in my novel would be rubbing his hands together villainiously while stroking a Persian cat :)
Who is your celebrity crush?
Enrique Iglesias! Haha, he was my high HS crush. but recently, there's no one special that's caught my eye. Except Wentworth Miller. And Naveen Andrews. But that's it. Also Josh Holloway. Ok, that's really it. :)
What did you learn from the publishing experience on Salsa?
That you have to take your career into your own hands. No one is going to tell you to do the revisions on your book, or ask for your opinion on your cover, nor is anyone going to market the book for you. You have to be in control of your own book and career.
What advice do you have for teens who'd like to write?
I would say just do it! Take a writing class, join a critique group, read some writing books. Just start writing the book and you'll learn just by doing. And don't be discouraged if your first book doesn't turn out the way you expected. It's an art best perfected by repetition.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Paris is my favorite city in the world so I'll always pick that. I am dying to see Italy and after our recent Caribbean trip, I would say Trinidad and Tobaggo for the rich culture.
What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you write at home or a cafe?
I only write on weekends nowadays and the only way I can get anything done is to lock myself in my favorite coffee shop for 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday and churn out the pages. Typically, I can do around 20 pages a day :)
You have a very tough day job at Microsoft -- how does that impact your writing?
The only thing it means is that I can't write on weekdays--which is ok with me. I work around 12 hour days at Microsoft so I can't do anything at the end of the day other than fall into the couch with my husband. I actually appreciate the long hours and stress because it makes me appreciate every single drop of writing time I can get.
Thanks for the insight, Dona! Best of luck with everything you've got going on.
Heather Davis is the author of
Never Cry Werewolf
Coming in April 2009 from HarperCollins
Dona Sarkar is the author of
How to Salsa in a Sari
in bookstores NOW from Kimani Tru!