Interview by: Ava
Ava: What inspired you to write A Match Made in Mehendi?
Nandini: I’ve always been interested in how people have adjusted to life here as immigrants. I moved here when I was in my 20s, but my kids have grown up here and my husband grew up here. He moved here when he was three. So it’s really interesting, what people choose to keep from family traditions or what they decide to change and what they decide to adapt. So it’s always been interesting to me, and one of the most interesting things is how they find love.
Ava: How would you explain your writing process?
Nandini: A lot of writers are plotters, they like to plot everything from beginning to end and have a structure and write to it. I’m more of what they call a pantser. You know, just go with the ideas that are working for you and explore the sort of themes and the characters in your head a little bit. And once you have a sense of what you want to write about, then get into the plotting part of it. So in the beginning, it’s a bit like daydreaming. You think of something interesting that you know you want to work on, or you want to develop, and you just write it. So scenes from randomly anywhere in a book, or character studies about some kind of character I find interesting. And then, later on, once I have a little bit of writing down, then I work out what the plot would be, and it’s a little bit of both. And one of the things I do is when I’m midway through a book, I will paste a big roll of paper on a wall and I will literally write everything down. I’ll do little summaries, and cut out pictures of settings and people and paste it on there. And just having that visual helps me out a lot.
Ava: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Nandini: I don’t because I think of the thing that breaks writer’s block for me, which is deadlines. You know, if you have deadlines, there is no such thing as writer’s block. You have to sit down and your writing will be rubbish, but you can move through the rubbish to better writing. And if I don’t have an external deadline, I try and make deadlines for myself, like I love NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).
Ava: What kind of research did you do while writing your book?
Nandini: Well, here’s the thing. It’s very easy to just say oh, you know, this is based on tradition. But if you really look at it very closely, like how would people decide that people are right for each other? So I had to look at what is out there, and I didn’t really find anyone doing it in a way that I thought would make sense. I came up with my own ideas on how the app would work, which was fun. I also looked at the very traditional matchmaking matrimonial service, and then the very crazy, you know, Tinder and all that other electronic stuff. So it’s fun to have stuff in common.
Ava: Is there one form of matchmaking your prefer?
Nandini: I think it depends on the person. You know, there are some people who are so shy and who really can’t put themselves out there. And, you know, culturally they’re not comfortable dating or don’t have the confidence to ask people out. And they are lovely people and they have matched out there but they might need some help. But then there are some people who don’t need help. So I think it depends on your personal choices and personality.
Ava: Is there a particular author or book that inspires you?
Nandini: Oh so many. I loved reading when I was growing up, you know, but I especially loved Jane Austen. I love science fiction, I love all kinds of different books. I love Silica Aquin, she writes science fiction. She used to write, she’s gone now. But growing up I loved her books because she thought of these big crazy concepts and you know, worked through them. I was also inspired because there was nobody writing about Indian teenager or Indian American teenagers or our Indian culture. So the missing piece was also an inspiration.
Ava: Do you like your cover design?
Nandini: Oh yes, yes. Actually let me show you, because this is not the first version of the cover. There was a completely different version, but with the same model. And I love the model, she looks so beautiful. So they actually send me pictures of models. See, this is the old version, but it’s the same girl but they styled her differently. In the first version they made her look a little old fashioned to me. Yeah, and it’s the same mehendi design but they sort of made it white and blended it into the background. But see, it’s a process.
Ava: What can we expect from you in the future?
Nandini: So you know, this is my first book to be published in the U.S., but I’ve published three books in India. Two of them were YA, one was a middle grade, so I’m hoping, I have a backlist, so I’m hoping maybe one or two of them might come out here. One of them is about a big fat Indian wedding in Boston. It’s about a teenager planning the wedding for her older sister because they lost their mom when they were younger. And she wants the wedding to be like her mother would have planned it, because, you know, her sister is a busy sort of medical student She’s a doctor, but she is a resident, so they have no time. Her and her husband have no time, the dad has no clue how to plan an Indian wedding, so this girl is like “Okay, I have a driver’s license and I am going to plan this thing,” and she finds out all this stuff like, where to get a horse and where to get the flowers and how to do all that. But there is a hurricane, which we don’t normally get in Boston, but it’s based on Hurricane Irene, which blew through in 2011, and it’s on the same day as the wedding. Now they have to figure out what to do. It’s called Red Turban White Horse, and it came out with Scholastic India.
Ava: What does literary success look like to you?
Nandini: I think literary success to me is someone who needs a book, like what I am writing, finding that book. Even if it is just one person, even if it’s 10 people scattered everywhere, who found my book and love my book and found something in it that makes them feel confident or makes them feel seen. That is enough for me, it just makes me feel good.