Author Interviews

Rekha Waheed

1. Please tell our readers a bit more about yourself.

I’m a modern Muslim woman from Brit-Bengali background who hopes to change the stereotypes and misconceptions about Asian women in the cosmopolitan world. I grew up in an England with novels that catered largely for the mainstream reader. The few British Asians novels that existed served appeared only to demonise Asian lifestyles, faiths and traditions. Where was the Asian Alley McBeal, Carrie Bradshaw or Bridget Jones? I’m proud to say that we know have Maya Malik to who brings a whole new world of traditions, expectations and mishaps to the mainstream. I see novels as a bridge into new cultures, lifestyles and experiences and that’s why I write.

2. What three words best describe your writing?

Savvy, sassy, candid.

3. Your latest novel, My Bollywood Wedding follows the story of Maya Malik as she prepares for her big day. What inspired you to write it?

Simply because I was asked to!  ‘My Bollywood Wedding’ has a prequel called the ‘A-Z Guide to Arranged Marriage’, which had a great reception. It struck a chord with a new generation of readers who related to a sassy tale about Maya Malik, a Asian singleton looking to settle using old traditions and new world savvy. As a result, my publisher, Little Black Dress, asked me to write the sequel. I originally wrote ‘The A-Z Guide to Arranged Marriage’ to dispel myths surrounding the custom and help readers distinguish between the virtues of arranged marriages and the illegality of forced marriages.  Writing a romantic comedy that applauds the benefits of an old world tradition with the ambitions of the new world is the best launchpad to create change.

My Bollywood Wedding’ takes this to the next level, it addresses the pressures of interfering family members on Asian couples, the risks associated with turning Mr Right into Mr Forever and the financial burden of getting married these days. We all have dreams for a an amazing wedding day – ‘My Bollywood Wedding’ shows the realities of getting married in the modern day into a neat little story for singletons, brides-to-be and married ladies to enjoy.

4. Maya Malik is a bit of an anamoly – on the one hand she seems to know what she wants, on the other she seems incredibly naive. What do you think that says about the modern Asian woman?

Modern Asian women are in an era of incredible change. Balancing faith, family expectations, careers and ambition is challenging our conventional traditions and family structures. Maya Malik’s journey represents dilemmas faced by Brit-Asian women. Finding Mr Right isn’t enough these days, getting past all the wedding hurdles and family expectations to get to married is a challenge in itself. And at some point ambitions for careers suddenly take second place. That’s not forgetting the fact that Asian weddings on average costs more than £25,000… that’s a phenomenal amount of money that greatly affects the success or failure of marriages. The fact is Asian women may act like we know what we want, but like all women ,we’re still just trying to figure out how to get it. My Bollywood Wedding is a modern sassy novel aimed to make us laugh, cry and enjoy the realities of what it takes to get married, but the novel deals with some serious issues tackled about modern day pressures.

5. The book reads like a diary – letting us in on Maya’s deepest thoughts and fears but also there’s an attempt to educate about Asian culture and tackle common misconceptions. Is there an element of this being semi-autobiographical?

I wish I could say my life is as glamorous as Maya’s! Sadly, my book are not semi-autobiographical. My natural writing style is to write in the first person, and luckily enough my readers appear to enjoy this. Maya resonates so well with the reader because she represents into the hopes and fears of many educated asian women today.  It is very common to find highly educated, well traveled, smart asian women who are single in their 30’s. Their hopes and fears are at one with  Maya’s journey as a savvy singleton looking to land a ring Mr Right in a series of serendepitious mishaps!

6. What do you hope to achieve through your writing?

If my books show Asian women and our shared cultures as being attractive, intriguing and intellectually stimulating, then that’s an achievement. I’ve written three books about strong, feisty, savvy Asian women who make tough decisions in a multicultural cosmopolitan world because I grew up in an era of misconceptions and stereotypes about Asian woman. One which told me only of a fate of being forced into marriage to a cousin with a lifetime of cooking, childbearing and cleaning. My books show the realities facing Asian women. For example, Asian weddings at on average £30,000 are expensive, inexcusably, ridiculously expensive, and it’s one of the themes addressed in ‘My Bollywood Wedding’.  There are others equally relevant themes, but the underlying aim of the book is to show our women operate in a new modern era with a bit of sass.

7. It seems that your book is geared to being written for a reader who doesn’t necessarily have the knowledge or first hand experience of the culture. Who do you write for?

Predominantly women and anyone who has an inkling of an interest in Asian culture. I’ve had readers from Italy, Australia, and the States from completely different backgrounds who written to me to tell me that they recognise their culture, their family members, and their experiences in my characters and in my stories. So whilst I’m proud to be writing for Brit-Asians, I’m equally proud to have mainstream readers find joy from my books.

8. What’s next for you as a writer?

I had a very busy 2010 writing and launching both Sari’s & the City and My Bollywood Wedding, so i want to go right back to the drawing board and pray that 2011 is going to be a year of inspiration for me.

9. Finally what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

If there’s one experience I can share with them, it’s to absolutely love the journey, the joys as well as the rejections because it should always be about the writing.

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