Friday, February 17, 2012

VBTC Pit Stop - At the Round Table with Mohana Rajakumar, Mommy But Still Me

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was good in many ways since that is where she met her husband, had a baby, and made the transition from writing as a hobby to her full time gig. She has published three e-books this year including Mommy But Still Me, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, and Coloured and Other Stories. Since she joined the e-book revolution, she dreams in plotlines.
Her work has also been published in AudioFile Magazine, Explore Qatar, Woman Today, The Woman, Writers and Artists Yearbook, QatarClick, and Qatar Explorer. She has been a guest on Expat Radio, and was the host for two seasons of the Cover to Cover book show on Qatar Foundation Radio. She was the Associate Editor of Vox, a fashion and lifestyle magazine.

BK: Please tell us a little about yourself...
I’m a woman with a lot of interests who doesn’t believe people when they say you should just choose one.

BK: Please tell us a little about your book....
This is my journey from being an academic and professional who worked 80 hours a week (afraid to get a Crackberry because it would mean even more hours) to becoming the sustainer of another life. The book records all the questions, worries, and fears from trying to get pregnant to caring for an infant.

BK: What inspired you to pen this particular memoir?
At first it was something I did for myself: so I would remember these moments and not lose them to sleep deprivation. Then when I thought about epublishing, it seemed like a book that would resonate with a lot of readers.

BK: When did you first consider yourself a writer? 
Um… sadly, about six months ago? But I’ve been writing since middle school. I hand wrote a romance novel in eighth grade. My teacher read it and said it was good. I wish I knew where it was now! I wrote another thing – can’t remember if it was a book or a story—for a teacher as a gift in middle school. My Dad found it, read it, and said “Why don’t you do something more productive with your time?”

BK: How do you keep your story flowing?
Structure is something I impose after a first draft. It’s important to get down everything you’re thinking about the world of the story first, and then go back and look at making it technically perfect. 

BK: Do you ever run into writer's block, and if so, what do you do to get past it? 
Now that I’ve a few books under my belt, I ask myself: WHAT ELSE? to keep the plot going. And it helps to talk to other creative people to toss around stories ideas.

BK: What is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks, or must-haves to write? 
I teach and also juggle a few standing freelance writing assignments as well as startup projects (plus the aforementioned child and the contingent husband) so I only have a limited time to get things done. When I sit down, I have to get to it in four hours a week or less. If I don’t, it doesn’t get done. Sometimes I don’t make my goal in terms of numbers of words or pages or pieces but I usually I do something. And that matters.

BK: Where do you hope your books/writing will be in the future?
I’ve got three novels in the works right now and I’d like to give fiction a good run for my money in the next six months.

BK: What do you hope readers will take away from your books? 
A world that isn’t the same as theirs maybe in composition – the nationality of the people involved, a foreign setting, but within a story has emotions, dilemmas, characters that do resonate with universal themes in their own lives.

BK: What is one piece of advice you received that you carry with you in your writing? 
Write. Every single day. Even if it a journal entry (Julia Cameron) or a story that’s rejected (Stephen King). And no, email doesn’t count (Me).

BK: What is one piece of advice you would give to new and aspiring writers? 
Ask yourself why and how badly you want to see your work in print. Can you put in the hours it would take to train for a marathon? The stamina to then run one? If other things take priority, you don’t want to write badly enough. And that’s okay. Come back to it. Or it will fade away. And that’s okay too. Writing has become a fad of sorts “I’m working on a book” is something people say to be cool. But don’t pretend to be cool. Do it. Otherwise find something else that’s your true passion.

BK: Are you currently working on any new projects? What can we expect from you in the future?
I hope to have an essay collection about living in Qatar ready soon. The editing is as tricky as the writing so I’m stuck there for now. But readers deserve the best so there’s no point in rushing.

I do have another memoir type reader out there already, SO YOU WANT TO SELL A MILLION COPIES? If you like the conversational tone of MOMMY BUT STILL ME, this guide for aspiring writers may appeal to you.

BK: Where can readers find you?
In Qatar. So if you’re in the area, look me up! 

The modern woman's guide to switching from jet setter to incubator, MOMMY BUT STILL ME retells the story of a first time mother with humor and honesty. From sex with a purpose to ankles swelling into cankles, this is a no-holds barred look at the all the changes, big and small; from knowing "hipster" as a term that describes your generation to using it describe where you like to carry things.
Imagine a man volunteering to trade in his game nights for heart burn and back ache. Good thing there are women around to ensure the survival of the species. This hilarious look at the journey from high heels to high blood pressure, as a jet setter turns into a bed wetter, is what your doctor won't tell you and your own mother may have forgotten in the years since she was blessed by your arrival.
"At our first meeting my future father-in-law waited until we sat down in the Thai restaurant, the oblong menus placed in our hands and the waiter was a distance away, tending to other diners, before turning towards me, his eyes glowing. This was the first time we were all seeing each other after his son had proposed to me. "When will I get to hold my first grandchild?" He asked. For my father-in-law and everyone else, I have a question of my own: When will any of you be satisfied?"

Follow Mohana's Tour HERE


Sugarbeat said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing! Your comment about things being lost to sleep deprivation certainly resonates with me. I wish I had written more information down at the time as I fear too much is gone to the fog of exhaustion!