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Author Spotlight: Welcome Back, Sapna Srinivasan!

We have a winner! Congratulations to Jenny Chlipala–you are Sapna’s giveaway winner. She will be in touch with you. Thanks to Jenny and everyone who stopped by! Hope you’ll come back soon!

I do love welcoming back authors who’ve been in the Spotlight before; having old friends stop by for a visit is always a treat! Today, fellow Tule Publishing author Sapna Srinivasan has popped in  to tell us about her new release, A Homecoming Mantra, book 4 in her Sood Family series, plus she has a great giveaway!

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.

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Take it away, Sapna…

What’s with Auntie Sharmila?

One of the recurring secondary characters in my books within The Sood Family series, is Auntie Sharmila Sood. She is the matriarch of her close-knit large Indian American family. Her goal is to see all her nieces and nephews settled in life. How does she define “settled”? Well, the answer to that question also defines Auntie Sharmila. For her, settled somehow equates to getting married and starting a family. Ah. Is she “problem character”, you ask? It does appear so, doesn’t it? But as a woman of the modern world, surrounded by modern ideas, and bold perspectives, I thought I’d take an equally bold stance on a bold character i.e., Auntie Sharmila. I wouldn’t call her a problem character. But rather a portrayal of real-life aunties within my Indian-American community, and also the less modern, core communities back in India, where my older relations still live.

The “Auntie Sharmilas” of my family are bold, they are opinionated, and they mean well. But they also lack a modern perspective which puts them at odds against the younger generations within their families. So, how did they get that way? So one-dimensional in their thinking?

The answer to why something ends a certain way, can sometimes be found at the start of its journey. Let’s then go to the start of Auntie Sharmila’s life. In my books, all we see is a tough-cookie auntie character named Sharmila who makes it her business to keep tabs on her nieces and nephews. But in my first book, A New Mantra, Auntie Sharmila provides my main character, Mira Sood, a tiny glimpse into her own past. Sharmila claims it is what made her who she is. I never opened up the door entirely to why Sharmila is the way she is. I knew some readers wouldn’t entirely understand her. I expected some might even disapprove of her style and persistence in wanting to play Emma Woodhouse twenty-four, seven. But I needed to add vinegar and salt into my story. Something a little unexpected, less sweet on the palette, to balance out the sweetness of Mira Sood, and the charming compassion of Andy Fitzgerald, my heroine and hero, respectively.

Auntie Sharmila’s character was inspired by the many aunts and great-aunts I encountered in my life. A lot of them were married off by their parents, without their consent, when they were just eighteen or nineteen-year-old. Some were even younger. My great-aunt was married when she hit puberty, some were as young as sixteen. They moved into their in-laws’ homes, where they knew no one, and where they were surrounded by relations of their new husband—a husband who was still a stranger to them. When I was younger, this notion truly horrified, but also fascinated me. Of course, I badgered my uncles and grand-uncles about why they agreed to marry a woman so young, and they all shared the same sheepish look in response. They were now too old to change the past, and could only stare at it with a sense of guilt as the rest of the world acquired a more sensible perspective on such social issues. But unlike the men, my aunts and my great-aunt, and even my grandmother, however, had a more definitive response to a question I asked them all—how did you survive your past?

The answer they gave me varied, but they all had the same implication. And my great-aunt once summarized it with this response: “Sometimes when you can’t change your circumstances, you need to change your perspective in order to survive.” Her reply surprised me because I realized how young she would have been when she gave herself this advice. It is a piece of advice I rely on to this day. My great-aunt was a tough-cookie. She set a high bar—for herself and for the others in her life. She was also very opinionated, even in an age when women weren’t allowed to have opinions. She believe in the arranged marriage system, but not the way it played out in her own life. She believed women should be allowed to educate themselves, and if a man had a problem with that, then it meant he must be afraid. Both her daughters were well educated, and “settled” in life. Her perspective, like Auntie Sharmila’s was a mixed bag. Some didn’t understand my great-aunt. Some did. She, like Auntie Sharmila, left most people shrugging at her without knowing her story, thinking—what’s with her?

Giveaway question: Do you have an aunt, a great aunt, or other matriarch figure in your family that bears a resemblance to Auntie Sharmila? Tell us, and you could be chosen as a winner to win a twenty-dollar Amazon gift card!

A Homecoming Mantra

He’s a great single dad, but his family decides he needs a new wife…immediately.

No one in the Sood family has divorced—ever. But when successful mystery writer Shaan Sood’s wife cheats, he files. After his ex cuts ties with both him and their daughter, he leaves India to return to his Washington hometown and raise Misha closer to family. Shaan focuses on building a stable and loving home for Misha, but his peace is shattered by his loving family’s insistence that Misha needs a mother. Shaan is done with love, but he’d be lying if he didn’t admit he can’t stop thinking about his beautiful new neighbor.

Riding instructor Claire Wellington is everything Shaan should avoid. She’s kind, intelligent, and interested in helping Misha rebuild her confidence through riding lessons. Misha falls in love with the captivating and adventurous Claire, and Shaan’s heart isn’t far behind.

But Claire has secrets, and Shaan is a man who’s built a career solving mysteries. Can he risk his and his daughter’s hearts once again?

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  • Sapna Srinivasan

    I truly enjoyed reading each of your comments, those of you who have aunts/aunties that relate to my character and those of you who don’t, and some of you who have aunties who are their own separate category of beautifully unique. I think the takeaway for me is just that we all have stories to share….I love that these stories bring people together and get us to listen to each other. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read my article and drop a comment!! I appreciate you all.

  • Kimberly

    I love my mom’s two sisters, my aunties mean the world to me, so glad that I have them in my life.

  • Roseann McGrath Brooks

    I like the idea of a single dad struggling with family members who are sure they know better than he does. My Aunt Janee was the strong yet slightly mysterious woman of a generation ago in our family. We all wondered what was with her, but we all wanted to be around her. Lots of great stories!

  • Jenny Chlipala

    Sounds like an amazing and touching story! I don’t have anyone in my life like that either, but always grateful to have my family and friends in my life!

    • Sapna Srinivasan

      Congratulations, Jenny! Your e-gift card was sent to your email this afternoon. Hope you enjoy!

  • Janine

    I really can’t say if I have an Auntie Sharmila in my family. I lost touch with all of my relatives when my family moved from New York to Texas when I was just a little kid. But I do love the advice you wrote here. “Sometimes when you can’t change your circumstances, you need to change your perspective in order to survive.”

  • Sue Farmer

    I read this series and just loved it! My mother was from a family of 12 brothers and sisters. Several never had children. They were all wonderful and also opinionated. I was closest to my Aunt Ann and I cherished her advice and tried to not do things that would be counter to what she suggested. She was a leader within the family. Aunt Ann left home and moved to Washington DC in the early 1940’s with her husband and they worked at the Pentagon for many years. She was my godmother and I miss her.

  • Kate Sparks

    My grandmother’s sister. She married from a very small town during WWII subsequently divorced and went to a major university and on to a lifelong teaching career. I am not sure how she sneaked her divorced woman stays past school boards, but I think they were desperate for teachers in small towns.
    A career woman in your family!!!

    • Doris Lankford

      I had an aunt, my Mom’s oldest sister, who sounds a lot like this. She was the oldest child of 9. She was married but had no children of her own. Auntie, as she liked to be called, was very opinionated. She was always ready with advice and solutions. I remember going to her house and not being allowed to touch or do anything. She was of the generation where children were seen not heard.

  • Liz Flaherty

    I had a few “Auntie Sharmilas,” and am so grateful to have had them. I loved your post, and now I’m thinking about my Aunt Gladys…and Aunt Ethel…and…