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A little while ago, I was craving to read  a “good” romance novel, something interesting and different. Looking through my Kindle, I chanced upon Inconvenient Relations, a contemporary romance with a fun twist on arranged marriage. Since it was my first book by the author SImi Rao, I had no preconceived notions or expectations, but in minutes, the story wrapped itself around me like a blanket in winter. I was drawn into it and kept reading because the plot was relatable, and I enjoyed the writing style a great deal.

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In a  conversation, physician and author, Simi K Rao unveils the secrets of her writing and shares stories that inspire her to write.

A physician most of the time, how did you get the time to fit writing into your routine?

My work as a physician is stressful;  there are lot of things that I take home with me. Writing is my best escape from the real world. Years ago, I started writing a blog and interacting with readers. I was thrilled to discover that people liked what I wrote. This inspired me to publish a full-length novel. After the success of my first novel, I was motivated to write and publish more.

What inspires you to write?

It is something I enjoy doing. I’m inspired by many things like nature, people, music – even my work. And my imagination fuels my writing. I love to tell a story and leave my special stamp on it.    

The characters that you portray in your book are very realistic. What’s the magic ingredient that you used to pull this off?

Most of my characters do have an association with people I meet or someone I would like to know. They are often an amalgamation of qualities drawn from several people. For instance, the neurosurgeon in my book, The Accidental Wife was modelled on someone I know. However, I am conscious of not trying to t paint any one character as being all good or bad, because that would be unreal. As humans, we are all naturally flawed. Through the characters in my book, I try to portray that If you like someone, you have to like them despite their faults. Also,we need to  learn to not judge people for the choices they make. Sometimes we can face rough times in life, and people end up making wrong choices that further leads them to face “bad” situations. I take lessons from my work, where I meet people who have faced tough situations in life.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you wait for your muse to make an appearance or do you have scheduled times when you write? A sacred space that you use?

I write impromptu. Due to long hours at work, I have no specific time or schedule for my writing. So, I carry my iPad everywhere. If I’m driving and see a beautiful sunset that triggers my imagination, I want to write about it  right then.. I do not write every day, but I do write whenever I am inspired. At times inspiration comes in bits and pieces. Most times I work with a general story outline.

What is the biggest challenge you face  as a writer?

Finding time to write and getting into the mood.

Who are your favorite authors?

I am an avid reader and it’s hard to pick books based on recommendations. I love reading classics.

Alice Munro, Nobel prize winning author, inspired me to write short stories for my new book. I am also amazed by Robert Harris and E. L. Doctorow. Their styles are intriguing and engaging.

Do you have an interesting author “quirk” to share?

If I want to write about romance,  I need to listen to music. I like listening to music when I’m alone. I love to travel, and a lot of my ideas for writing occur when I’m traveling. In my first book I wrote about Venice beach in LA, a place that  I had visited. I like to paint pictures of the places for my readers. But sometimes, I also write about places I have never visited. For example, in The Accidental Wife the female protagonist travels to Afghanistan, a place I’ve never seen. I had to do extensive reading and research before writing about it.

Your next book is “Under the shade of the banyan tree.” Tell us a little about it.

Under the shade of the banyan tree is a collection of poetry and short stories. It’s the first time I’m branching out to working with a publisher, Written Dreams Publishing. Brittiany, a dear friend and editor has been an amazing guide in helping me put together this collection.

The contents for this book have been written over several years. My poems are based on a woman’s perspective of life, my life as a physician, the various transitions that a woman goes through in different stages of her life. These poems are very personal to me. If you read them, you will be looking at me. The short stories are all women oriented tales. One of them is actually a short chapter from my next novel.

Is there a specific message that you want your readers to grasp in your next book?

Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree is a deeply personal collection that could be best described as a memoir focussed on the mind and its thoughts. It is a snapshot of emotions, observations and reflections. Some of the poems are very raw because they reflect on certain situations in which one feels helpless. One of my poems is based on a lady suffering from dementia. I wrote the poem from her point of view, the message being to look deeper into life, rather than just on the surface.

Can you share any words of inspiration for unpublished authors?

Don’t be afraid to publish because nowadays self-publishing is very easy and has opened many doors. It is fantastic platform for writers of all levels. Always be true to yourself, don’t do something because someone else asks you to. Don’t write about things you don’t believe in just for commercial success if you are not comfortable with it. Believe in yourself. Unless you publish, you will never know if people like your writing or not.

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If you are looking for a book that is not merely words that you read but one that also exudes emotions that move your heart, do pick up one of Simi’s novels and you will not regret it. I will not be surprised if you relate to one of her characters and say to yourself, “Oh my God! That’s so me!”because that’s what all her stories are about, real people and real lives, woven into engaging tales that will envelop you in a world of myriad emotions.

 Learn more about Simi and her books on her website www.simikrao.com

Surabhi Kaushik is an Indian writer, based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Her works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and parenting essays have been published in various websites such as yourstoryclub, halfbakedbeans, writer’scafe, perfection pending, herviewfromhome and India Currents. She is part of various writing groups and is closely associated with “Write Like You Mean It”, a writer’s group in Main library, Charlotte. She also leads a monthly Fiction Writing workshop and conducts writing workshops at various libraries across Charlotte, North Carolina. 

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