Welcome to Not Enough Time in the Day's Saturday Spotlight. Today we have a very special guest. Author Zee Monodee is making her first appearance with here to celebrate the release of a new series of books called the Island Girl Trilogy. The first book was released on July 30th by Decadent Publishing and is called The Other Side. Come on over and join us while Zee and I talk a bit about herself, her writing and her new series.
What inspires you to write?
The love of a happy ending. As much as I enjoy reading about HEAs, I prefer to write my own, because writing a love story brings you that much closer to the characters, so much so that you become them, in a way, to live their journey right along with them. All this is present when reading a good romance, but writing romance gives that little bit extra.
Are you a plotter or panster or a little of both?
Plotter all the way. While I did start out with rigid outlines that detailed every scene, along the way I’ve moved to a more panster-type approach within the scope of my outline. Like, the outline for a scene can have simply “Hero and heroine hash their issues out” and this gives me the direction I need to take. The actual scene ‘writes itself’ when I’m at that point and letting the story unfold.
Do your stories tend to be character driven or plot driven?
Character driven. I love letting them loose and seeing what sort of things they can come up with. Most of the time, I, too, am ‘discovering’ what makes my characters tick and how they react to issues during the first 3 chapters, and this comforts me in the knowledge that I better let them take the story the way they want it to. Of course, I do have a plot arc behind it all – I cannot write without direction – but it’s a line that’s written in the sand, not set in stone.
Do you listen to music while writing? What kinds of music work best for you? Do different types of music help you for different types of scenes?
I always ‘zone out’ when writing, so much so that I probably wouldn’t know if an earthquake were happening under my feet. So even if I had music playing, I wouldn’t hear it.
But I do work with music in the sense that many scenes are inspired/highlighted by specific tracks that I like to think make up the soundtrack to my scenes/books. I often find the sentiment I want to express in a specific song’s lyrics, and the type can vary from Demi Lovato-pop music to Shania Twain-country, with Scorpions-rock in between.
Tell us about the different types of characters you like to write about? Why are these types so appealing to you?
I like to think I write about strong women. They are no wallflowers or damsels in distress – they don’t ‘need’ a man to be whole, but they do desire love. I love this type of heroines because to me, they show the inherent strength of the women’s heart and spirit, but they also demonstrate the beauty and peace that comes from being body, heart, and soul in a relationship that nurtures them.
My heroes are always strong, Alpha men, but they’re not the caveman-type (usually!) and they know how to respect a woman and give her space to be her own person, all while providing her with cherishing, comfort, and shelter when she needs it.
Why these types appeal to me? I like to think I’m a strong woman; I can exist perfectly well on my own, but still, I do wish to have someone to share my life with, someone who ‘gets’ me totally.
Strong Alpha heroes – no need to look any further: my husband is one of those, and I’m a ridiculously happily married woman (though I want to throttle him more often than not!). :) He is my hero, and no wonder I write about men who have threads of his persona in their character.
Do I project my own relationship out there in my romances? Probably.
What are the recurring core issues in your stories? Why do you think you are drawn to these types of characters/plots again and again?
I enjoy having family at the heart of all my stories. Whether it be brothers and sisters, or children/offspring, this notion of family and ties is very important to me, and some of this gets carried into all my stories. Though I do have an elder brother, he is 16 years my senior so I grew up pretty much like an only child. In my books, I have the kind of big, boisterous sisterhood I would’ve loved to have.
And there’s something about a baby/child that tugs at my heartstrings and gives a different dimension to a romance; I love this additional level of complexity when two people are trying to forge a relationship.
What are your favorite fiction genres to read from?
Light, funny romances. Chick lit also ranks high up on that list. Basically, give me anything with a satisfying happy ending, and I’m content. But I also admit to being totally fluffy, so hard and heavy mysteries/thrillers are not for me (though I do enjoy these in movie form).
What are your favorite non-fiction genres to read from?
Cookbooks and/or books about cooking. Mind, I don’t really enjoy cooking, though I do find being in a kitchen to be stress-relieving, but food fascinates me.
I also enjoy memoirs, and health books (this one, mostly because I’m a 2x breast cancer survivor so anything that can help me prevent the risk of cancer recurrence wins a read in my corner).
Who are some of your favorite authors and why do you think they appeal so much to you?
Jill Mansell, Sophie Kinsella, Kristan Higgins, Susan Mallery, Susan Anderson – they’re all authors who pen lightweight romances, often with a huge dose of humor. I have too many authors I love to mention here, but those above are auto-buys for me. I know I will be setting down for an enjoyable read with any one of their books.
Who inspires you and why? (loved ones, friends, authors, public figures, historical figures, actors, teachers etc)
My husband. Sounds cheesy, lol, but this man has stuck by me through thick and thin and never once faltered in his commitment to me (I send thanks every single day for that, coz I’m not an easy person to live with!). I want to be better because I want him to be proud of me, to know he hasn’t dedicated himself to a lost cause when he asked me to marry him. :)
What inspires you and why? (Art, poetry, music, movie, book, etc. Please share something specific if you like.)
Cheesy and maybe a tad weird here, but I have to say my faith in God. I’m not overly religious but faith plays a huge part into who I am and what I do and how I do it. Having faith helps me to know I can always strive to be better, to do better, and make myself rise above everything. It’s also rather comforting to trust that everything happens for a reason and we simply have to go with the flow. People can think that is naive of me, but maybe I need this dose of naiveté to survive. :)
Besides reading and writing, what activities do you enjoy in your leisure time?
I like to crochet, though that hardly gets any dedication lately coz I have no free time. I also enjoy baking, especially making cakes. Then, too, I’m a gaming fan and this is how I spend quality time with my son and stepson (though I do prefer the more ‘cerebral’ stuff like Candy Crush – you get the drift, lol – rather than the racing and bashing/zombie-killing sprees the boys love)
What’s your day job? Do you like it? Why or why not? How has your job affected your personal development? How has it affected your writing life?
I’m an editor in my day job, and for about a year now, have been granted the opportunity to be at the helm of Ubuntu, a line dedicated to African romances, at Decadent Publishing.
I love words, so becoming an editor always seemed like a given. And ‘working’ this way has made more conscientious professionally (things like respecting deadlines, managing, negotiating with authors and relationships with authors and superiors).
And lol, it’s affected my writing life in the sense that I can no longer while my time away and write when the mood strikes. I have had to instigate dedicated schedules to keep on top of both jobs. :)
In one or two sentences, give the core premise behind your story.
Divorce = scarlet letter that places you on the other side of society.
When and where does your book take place?
Mauritius, my homeland, at the start of the year 2000.
Lol, FYI *cue geography lesson!* Mauritius is a tiny speck of an island in the southern Indian Ocean. Think Hawaii, but to the east of Africa. We don’t have natives here, though, and our population is entirely made up of immigrants – the descendants of white colonizers (French and British), descendants of African slaves, Indian indentured laborers, Chinese traders, Tamil building artists, Muslim merchants. Just about every religion on Earth exists in peaceful cohabitation on what is termed the ‘rainbow island’.
How does the time and setting weave into the plot and persona of the characters?
Even though the year 2000 is just about a decade away, society has taken a huge leap in those 10-12 years. Divorce was an unheard-of concept back then, and those women who dared get a divorce (double standards for men! No consequences for them) were shunned, vilified, and pretty much treated as outcasts.
Fast forward to now, where (sadly) the divorce rate almost goes head to head with the marriage rate.
The book showcases this state of affairs, and over the course of the trilogy it is part of, chronicles the changes in Mauritian society over the period of 2000-2010.
Who is the heroine?
Her name is Lara Reddy. She is of Indian origin, born to Mauritian parents in London, and recently divorced from the ‘proper’ Indian boy she married back in England. Back in Mauritius to take up a prestigious job, she never expected to face a backward society that casts her away because she dared break free from a marriage that wasn’t working anymore.
What drives her?
Lara is a perfectionist, and very much a career girl, coz she excels in the professional realm while being a lost case on the domestic front.
What obstacles will she encounter in this story?
She will have to face her past, in the form of the ‘unproper’ boy she had loved as a teen, the one that got away, and she’ll also have to take a good look at her personal issues that are preventing her from living free, learn to trust in herself to do the right thing.
What about her will make readers sympathetic to her?
Lara never really asked for all that gets dumped on her. Her husband leaves her for a more accommodating uterus; her mother is a harpy and would drive anyone insane; her family is nuts. We’ve all, at some point or the other, been stuck between a rock and a hard place and had no idea if it would be possible to work out of everything. Like they say, when it rains, it pours, and Lara’s plight is not helped when she has to face the same crossroads she stood at twelve years earlier. As adults, we’ve all faced crossroads, and how to find the right direction is something we all have to face sometime.
Who is the hero?
Eric Marivaux. White man, descendant of wealthy former colonists and thus part of the ‘upper classes/unofficial aristocracy’ of Mauritian society, pediatrician who came back to Mauritius after his studies in France because he knew the one he’d loved and lost – Lara – would not be there and he wouldn’t be reminded of what he’d forfeited because she now lived in England.
What drives him?
Eric wants nothing more than a quiet life to be lived in peace and harmony, preferably with the only woman he’s ever loved. When he finds out she is single again, he will stop at nothing to make her a part of his life again – permanently, this time.
What obstacles will he encounter in this story?
A headstrong, obstinate woman named Lara! :)
What makes this hero hot and lovable?
He loves with all he’s got, and he’s got the patience of a saint. Eric knows there’s no other woman for him except Lara, and that’s how it’ll be, full stop. He stops at nothing to win her back, even though he gives her space to come into her own and doesn’t pressure her.
What about him will make readers sympathetic to him?
That he is the kind of man every woman dreams of. Eric was the first-ever hero I wrote, so yes, he does have that aura of perfection to him. But I believe readers will root for him to get his HEA, because he more than any other deserves it, and that’s what will draw them to him.
What message do you hope readers take away from this story?
That you always have to trust in yourself – in your heart, you’ll always figure out what the right thing is.
Also that love means hope, and there is always hope.
Is this book a part of a series?
Yes. It is book 1 in the Island Girls trilogy. Each book stands alone, though.
What is the theme of the overall series and how does this story fit into that?
The series follows the lives and loves of the three Hemant sisters, and also showcases the Mauritian society during the 2000-2010 decade.
The overall theme is about finding love outside of the set parameters that had been in force until then, mainly through tradition and cultural customs. The Other Side is the first book that shows how stepping out of ‘bounds’ can indeed be the best thing someone could do; that we all have to take chances in life.
Will these characters show up in other books in this series?
Yes. All three sisters make appearances, sometimes with a secondary plot, in each book.
What are you working on now?
I’ve started a small-town series for the Tease-Entice line at Decadent Publishing (geared to category-style contemporary romances in a shorter format). Titled The Daimsbury Chronicles, Book 1 in that lineup, Bad Luck with Besties, is a holiday story that will be released for Christmas.
Each story in this series features people who live in the fictional Daimsbury village that is set in Surrey, England. As expected, I have families in there. Book 1 features Liam, the eldest of the Morelli clan, and Honor, the second-born in the Whelan sisterhood, among other families that people the town. Each brother/sister in these clans will get their own story.
What’s coming soon?
Bad Luck With Besties (The Daimsbury Chronicles #1) for Christmas, and in between now and December, the next 2 books of the Island Girls series (Light My World in September, and Winds of Change in November). I also have a standalone romcom set in the glitz & glam world of London’s rich & famous, Storms in a Shot Glass, and an Indian culture/foodie romance from the Western Escape line at Decadent Publishing, titled Transient Hearts. These two books are expected to release in the coming months.
Do you have a question you’d like to ask the readers to generate comments?
Yes – why do you read romance, and what are you looking for in these books?
(Giveaway – a randomly-drawn commenter will win a cameo appearance in my next Daimsbury Chronicles story!)
About the Author
Stories about love, life, relationships... in a melting-pot of culture
Zee is an author who grew up on a fence – on one side there was modernity and the global world, on the other there was culture and traditions. Putting up with the culture for half of her life, one day she decided she'd stand tall on her wall and dip toes every now and then into both sides of her non-conventional upbringing.
From this resolution spanned a world of adaptation and learning to live on said wall. The realization also came that many other young women of the world were on their own fence.
This particular position became her favorite when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of writing – her heroines all sit 'on a fence', whether cultural or societal, in today's world or in times past, and face dilemmas about life and love.
Hailing from the multicultural island of Mauritius, Zee is a degree holder in Communications Science. She is a head-over-heels wife, in-over-her-head mum to a tween son, best-buddy-stepmum to a teenage lad, an incompetent domestic goddess, eternal dreamer, and an absolute, shameless bookholic. When she isn’t penning more stories and/or managing the Ubuntu line at Decadent Publishing, you can bet you’ll find her with her nose in her tablet, ‘drinking in’ a good book.
On August 15th, look for Zee Monodee on our sister blog Through Stephanie's Eyes for Thursday Thirteen.