Fedora Chen, you are Sapna’s winner! Congratulations! Thanks to everyone who stopped by!
There’s nothing more fun than sharing great news from my fellow Tule Publishing authors–I love this group of writers, they are my heart. Today’s news comes from the amazing Sapna Srinivasan, whose second book in the fabulous Sood Family series, A Rebel’s Mantra releases on Tuesday, July 12. Sapna lives in Seattle, WA with her perfectionist husband and perfect daughter. Her name in Hindi means “dream” and true to its meaning, Sapna finds gratification in dreams and storytelling. She was born in southern India, raised in northern India, and spent the better part of her adult life in the United States. She, therefore, unabashedly clutches her Indian roots while embracing the American in herself. She loves to cook traditional Indian food and, yes, she uses cilantro in practically everything. When she isn’t cooking, writing, or being intellectually stumped by her daughter, she may be found running down the nearest trail by her Pacific Northwest home.
You can find Sapna at any of these links.
Sapna is excited to give away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky commenter–just tell us if you consider yourself a rebel or a traditionalist in the comments below. We will pick a winner randomly at noon on Saturday.
We’re celebrating A Rebel’s Mantra with a fascinating article from Sapna about how she created her heroine, Laila Sood.
A Traditional Indian Recipe For a Rebel Heroine
“When life gives you lemons, you do tequila shots.” That’s the opening line of A Rebel’s Mantra, my second book in The Sood Family series. The real—the only reason I wanted to start the story with that, is because I felt the line summarized Laila Sood, my heroine in the book. Laila’s not the average Indian American girl. She’s beautiful, of course, but unlike her modest cousins, Laila’s aware of the effect she has on men. And she’s gleeful in capitalizing on the fact. She’s a rockstar. No, literally, in the book, Laila’s in a band. She’s also unafraid to chase her dreams—without compromise, without apology. She puts her needs ahead of traditions, and she doesn’t care what the aunties in her life think. She breaks with her family, trying to keep her rebel status alive, but she has a lot to learn about love, which she’s never experienced—until she meets Hari Singh, the handsome, Indian American doctor from a wealthy family who embodies everything Laila has poo-pooed thus far.
I am nothing like Laila Sood. I’m not as brave, nor as uncompromising. I’m guilty of questioning the reflection I see in the mirror, two out of four times. Lies. It’s three out of four times. I’m your average Indian American wife. I’m not a yogi, but I respect traditions. I’ve got opinions, but I’d never cross an auntie—God, no. I can bang out a six-course traditional Indian meal for eight in under sixty-minutes, and I can wrap on a sari in under two. I check the traditional boxes. So, how in bangle-jangle does a woman like me come up with an idea for a heroine who’s her exact opposite in every way? Simple. I take all the things I’m not, add mascara, some scarlet lipstick, some good old sass, and an electric guitar. Boom. Laila Sood.
I was raised in an orthodox, traditional household where topics such as love, sex, relationships, boyfriends, rock music—well, any western music that didn’t directly tie into Indian mythology was a no-no. I followed the rules. But I was intrigued. I didn’t talk about relationships, or love. But I thought about it—lots and lots. I learned classical Indian music, but listened to rock music in my room in very low volume out of tradition’s earshot. I taught myself how to play guitar. I was Laila Sood, undercover. But never outwardly.
Secretly, I was fascinated by the other side—the untouched, rebel side of me. I wanted to feel free, but traditions were important. Expectations were lofty, and I needed to carry them on my shoulders. My first book, A New Mantra, featured a heroine, Mira Sood (Laila’s cousin), who was a lot like me in her personality. But as I thought about this second book, A Rebel’s Mantra, I wanted a different kind of heroine for it. A heroine who challenged the traditional Indian norms I grew up with—that I succumbed to. I knew I wasn’t Laila. But I had Laila-potential. I didn’t have it in me to realize this potential. But I knew I had it in me to bring it to life some other way. A Rebel’s Mantra was that way. As I completed writing my first book, the idea for my second heroine was growing stronger and stronger in my mind. It had to be Laila Sood.
Laila’s a rebel, but she’s not flawless. She’s a woman in a man’s world, holding her rebel candle up against a traditional wind. She rejects her parent’s choice of groom and moves to America to start a rock band, severing their relationship forever. As someone who grew up in a large, tight knit Indian family, this was an important aspect to pull into focus for me in this story. It was necessarily to highlight how often the opinions of a woman were brushed under the rug in a male-dominated society. Social status meant everything where I grew up, to the point where there was no place for conflict, and no room for differing opinions within a family. If one didn’t agree with the decisions made by the elders in the family, one had to hold their tongue.
Besides the objective of telling a good story, I wanted Laila to be a voice for women with opinions. I’ve had the privilege of knowing some incredible, strong-willed women in my life who stood up for what they believed in, no matter the cost. While Laila is not a version of me, she’s a representative for individualistic women—the ones who have the power to inspire an idea for a book.
A Rebel’s Mantra
Laila Sood has always resisted tradition and her parents’ wishes, from leaving her small town in India and moving to Seattle to start a rock band, to rejecting the groom her parents chose for her arranged marriage. Now twenty-nine, Laila’s band has critical acclaim on the indie scene, but she hasn’t attained her goal that will cement her rock star status—signing with a major LA label.
Marriage is the last thing on Laila’s mind when she meets Hari Singh. He’s an Indian mama’s dream—a handsome pediatrician from a rich, well-connected Indian family—and everything Laila’s rejected her entire life. Even worse, sparks fly between them like Diwali fireworks, and though Laila’s aunt is hoping to match Hari with her daughter, Hari is fascinated by Laila. She thinks a few dates will prove that he’s too boring and traditional for her, except Laila only falls harder.
Does Laila still chase her rock star dream, or has Hari shown her a new way to fly her rebel flag that just might be anchored in tradition?