Today for Writers on Wednesday we have a Q&A with debut author Shail Rajan
Shail is a contemporary women’s fiction writer and the author of The Summer Breeze, her debut novel which celebrates the role family, friendships, food, and falling in love play in our everyday lives. Shail lives in the Bay Area with her husband and three wonderful, noisy, mischievous children. When she is not writing and reading, she serves as the president of a non-profit, cooks nonstop, tackles the occasional DIY project, and obsesses over her vegetable garden. Don’t be surprised if you hear your stomach growling while reading her books because Shail is a serious foodie and often includes vivid descriptions of the food her characters are eating. If you feel the urge to cook something up, she often shares her recipes on her website and social media!
- Why do you write in the genre, you do?
I’ve always been drawn to stories about strong women taking control of their lives and doing it with grace, kindness, and humour. I love stories which center around new beginnings and second chances. My writing contemporary women’s fiction is just a natural extension of what I love to read.
- When did you take up writing?
I started writing as a way to pass the time back in 2003. Since then, The Summer Breeze and other partially completed manuscripts have been waiting patiently on my laptop. At the end of 2020, I finally mustered up the courage to send my first book baby out into the world!
- How important is setting/place in your writing?
It’s always been very important to me for my readers to be able to vividly imagine setting/place throughout my books. What I wasn’t prepared for was how it would resonate with them. In so many reviews and so much of the feedback I’ve received, people have appreciated the visual imagery I’ve created. It’s a great feeling.
- Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
Callie, the female protagonist in The Summer Breeze, is my absolute favorite. She’s kind, independent, flawed, funny, a foodie, and unstoppable. I think there’s something inherently relatable about a woman who is so multi-dimensional – like so many of us.
- Do you have a schedule for writing?
I’ve always been an early bird and usually wake up a couple of hours before the rest of my family. I try to take advantage of the quite time and focus on my writing in the mornings. I’d love to be able to do more during the day, but it’s been challenging with three kids learning remotely. Once they’re back in school full-time, I think I’ll be able to dedicate even more time creating these stories and characters that I absolutely love.
- Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
When I started out on my writing journey, I tried to wing it. However, I quickly realized I needed to be more of a plotter because I was writing over such a long span of time (years!) that I found myself forgetting details about certain characters and events. Now, since I have committed myself to chasing this dream, I’m writing at a much quicker pace and I’m able to wing it because I can get fully emerged in the story.
- Can you name three of four of your current favourite books?
I recently finished reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and Know My Name by Chanel Miller. Both books moved me in different ways, but both educated me about journeys vastly different from my own. Anyone who loves to read knows this is one of the best things about books: the ability to engender empathy for the lives of others.
For me, American Dirt was a page turner from start to finish. Whenever I had to put it down to do something else, I was eager to get back to it to learn what was coming next. I found myself feeling the stress, anxiety, fear, and hope of the characters throughout the book.
Know My Name literally pried my eyes open. Learning about the experience of sexual assault through the eyes of the victim – starting with the days and hours leading up to an assault, the actual assault, the response of first responders immediately after, the fear of telling family and friends, the trial and subsequent appeals, and of course, the emotional upheaval that the victim and her family face – was truly an emotional education. Did it make me feel uncomfortable? Yes, incredibly so. Will I have my children read it when they’re older? Most definitely.
There are also two books that I always have on my nightstand. The first is Pride and Prejudice because I absolutely love everything about Jane Austen, from her writing style, to her description of setting, to her wonderful female characters. And of course, Mr. Darcy.
The second is A Town Like Alice by Nevile Shute. I came across this book years ago and loved it so much that my husband managed to find a first edition copy which I have read and re-read numerous times. There is something so magical for me in the emotional journey of the main character Jean Paget.
Note from Monique: A Town Like Alice is also one of my favorite books!!!
- Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
I’m working on two projects right now, and I’m so excited about both of them!
The first is book #2 in The Summer Breeze series where readers will be able to catch up with all their favorite characters from The Summer Breeze Bed and Breakfast! Callie will continue her unsuccessful attempts to not meddle in her guests’ lives, eat even more mouth-watering food, and try to keep her head on straight when Nick is around. Two weddings and a catastrophe will be the backdrop to Callie’s life in the beautiful lakeside town of Seneca Springs.
My second projects is a romantic suspense novel that I’m having a the best time researching and writing. Stay tuned for more info on how small town life takes a dark turn when a rock star comes to Sycamore Ridge!
- What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on their journey?
Do NOT stop. Write every chance you get and be prepared for bumps and detours along the way. I started writing The Summer Breeze in 2003. Take a minute to let that sink in! It took me 18 years to put my dream back at the top of my to-do list and make it happen. But I’m here now, and I’m having the best time ever!
The Summer Breeze
Tired of her fast-paced life in NYC, Callie Williams leaves her successful career and demanding fiancé behind and makes a life-changing decision to open a bed & breakfast in the lakeside town of Seneca Springs. Navigating the complexities of small-town life, Callie forges lifelong friendships, eats more than her fair share of delicious food, and tries not to meddle in the lives of her guests. The only thing hindering her newfound happiness is the attraction she feels for Nick, a rough-around-the-edges construction worker who is determined to get under Callie’s skin.