Zee Monodee`s name is no stranger to this blog, today I`m very lucky to be interviewing her and placing a Spotlight on one of her many great stories, Book 2 of her Island Girls trilogy, Light My World that was released on April 8th.
Hi Zee, thank you for gracing us with your presence here at Inside These Lines. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Thanks for having me over, Inge! Pleasure to be here, in the spotlight *squirms a bit*
So, about me – early thirties, married, mum to an 11 year old boy & stepmum to a 15 year old lad. Degree holder but chose to be a stay-at-home-mum and desperate housewife. Total bookholic. Neurotic basket case half of the time…and my idea of therapy involves either shopping for shoes or writing books. 🙂
I’m from the island of Mauritius, 3rd generation Indian, so a lot of Indian culture as it takes place on the island comes into play in my stories.
And for as long as I can remember, my dream was to write books one day.
What were you like at school?
Lol (hope my kids aren’t reading this…)
I was the epitome of the model student in primary school. Top of the class, never missed one piece of homework, always with the right answer in class – yep, the kind of sickening student everyone else would love to hate. J I made it into one of the top secondary schools of the island (competition to get into secondary school here is very much like the SATs to get into university in the US – a dog eat dog race for the best spots).
And that’s when all hell broke loose. Still a good student, but my naughty side also came to the fore then. Yes – skipped classes, botched the homework, got just good enough to pass grades.
Luckily for me, I woke up soon enough to realize I was sending myself down the drain, and that restless, rebellious edge, I channeled into extracurricular activities like the debate team, Model United Nations, and the like.
And yes, I brought my grade average way up, and kept that going into university, as well.
I think all kids must rebel a little at some point – some of the joy of school is about playing hooky with classes once or twice, just so you make the mistakes of youth while you’re still young (and then are not tempted to maybe have a midlife crisis!) So yes – if tomorrow my kids tell me they’ve skipped a class, I won’t bring Hell down on their heads. But if they do it more than once, then yes, I’ll mean business. 🙂
Which authors inspire you?
When I started writing, my main inspiration was Vikram Seth – he wrote about India and Indian culture and I wanted that kind of flair in my stories – I knew that could/would be my niche, my forte.
Along the way, when I realized I couldn’t write serious or not-fluffy for the life of me, then Jill Mansell became the one to emulate. Have you read one of her stories? She starts you with a cast of characters, and all seems to be going straight from A to Z. But then through the story, A veers to G, then G returns to C, then it zaps forward to M, and then it’s downhill to Q, and only then can you reach Z. Her stories are always a wild, fun ride and I wanted mine to have that feel, to take the reader on a crazy journey with over-the-top characters.
Martina Cole – with her books about strong, shades-of-grey heroines in criminal East End London – has shown me that not all heroines need to be clean and ‘good’ girls; that sometimes, making them shady is more realistic than having a Mary Sue who doesn’t deserve a HEA as much as those shades-of-grey women.
And closer to now, Kristan Higgins, with her Blue Heron series, has been one that got me pondering, too. She has intense – and I do mean intense, don’t-shy-from-issues, characterization – that is making me re-think about deepening the characterization in my fluffy books.
So, what have you written?
Lol, quite a few books and shorts/novellas.
There’s the Island Girls Trilogy, of course – The Other Side, Light My World, Winds of Change – that was my very first writing. I had planned to stop after the first book, then the next two just popped out of the blue. Thought I’d be done after them, but no. More ideas popped up like replicating super plot bunnies. 🙂
My next work was Storms in A Shot Glass – a romcom in the glitzy world of London socialites and tabloid scandals (this book is coming out, revised, with Decadent Publishing this year).
Tried my hand at those shades-of-grey heroines next, and the Corpus Brides series was born. Set in the fictional world of clandestine espionage agency Corpus, these stories feature strong, ruthless women who work as spies and assassins. Their moral compass might look askew sometimes, but at the heart of them, they are just regular women yearning for love. Walking The Edge (about an amnesiac heroine who uncovers secrets about her shady past in Marseille) and Before The Morning (which features the most lethal assassin and sociopathic heroine from the Corpus who goes into a tailspin when she crosses paths with her childhood best friend and the man she never stopped loving) were both published by a now-gone-under epublisher, and I am revising these stories for submission again, before writing the next book in the series.
Then has been Calling Home (romcom featuring a socially inept forensic pathologist who lands custody of a tween girl. The handsome doctor next door runs to her help!) and this book releases May 13 this year with Decadent.
Transient Hearts was my contribution to the Western Escape line at Decadent – about an Indo-Briton chef who finds all she’s ever craved with a New York Forex broker in the town of Freewill, Wyoming. But they’re both in transit in the town, so what’s the hope of a HEA?
You Belong To Me (releasing sometime this year) is a retelling of the Grimm fairytale The Nix of the Mill Pond, for the Beyond Fairytales line at Decadent Publishing – this story returns me to the world of espionage and grey characters.
And there’s also the Eternelles series I co-write with my bestie. It’s a paranormal/Urban Fantasy series that focuses on an immortal mother-daughter duo working together to stop the Apocalypse in their small, supernatural town of Shadow Bridge on the US East coast. It’s been dubbed Charmed meets Supernatural meets Sookie Stackhouse – which should give you a handle on what the story reverts around. 2 free prequels, featuring the characters’ backstories – Adrasteia & Séraphine – are out, as well as Book 1, Inescapable (free, too, btw), and Book 2, Indomitable.
And oh, yes – the 1NightStand short stories at Decadent. Once Upon A Stormy Night brings an unlikely power couple together; they wanted one night to forget and be themselves, but they find more when they meet. Once Upon A Second Chance is the story of an estranged Muslim couple, who are reunited through a blind date set up by Madame Eve. Secrets tore them apart, and before the night is over, they’ll each have to make peace with their pasts.
There’s also the Daimsbury Chronicles series – short/novella-length stories about the many families and inhabitants of the small village of Daimsbury in Surrey, England. Book 1, Bad Luck With Besties, follows 2 former best friends – Honor and Liam – meeting again after fifteen years and debating whether they could have a chance at love now.
My latest project is a series titled Havisham Park. It’s small town romance set in the fictional villages of Havisham Park, which fall under the patronage of the Earldom of Havisham in North Yorkshire, England. The current countess and her two sisters come to their family homestead and that’s the start of many mishaps and happenings in the village. Book 1, Whisk Me Up, was written last Nano, and is the story of an anorexic supermodel who discovers the meaning of life and fulfillment in the village, and with the Thor-like chef of the local pub. Only problem is, he’s allergic to celebrities. Is theirs a recipe doomed to collapse like a failed soufflé?
Wow! You are certainly a busy lady. Writing, a stay-at-home Mom & oodles of creativity for fascinating stories and characters! Simply, wow!
Where can we buy or see them?
Here you go:
The Other Side (Island Girls, #1)
Amazon US (Ebook & Print) ~ Amazon UK ~ Amazon CA (ebook & Print) ~ Barnes & Noble (Nook & Paperback) ~ Smashwords ~ Kobo ~ AllRomance Ebooks ~ Decadent (ebook) ~ Decadent (Paperback) ~ Kalahari (Paperback)
Light My World (Island Girls, #2)
Bad Luck With Besties (Daimsbury Chronicles, #1)
Once Upon A Stormy Night (1NightStand)
Once Upon A Second Chance (1NightStand)
Adrasteia (Eternelles, Book 0) FREE (best read after Book 1)
Séraphine (Eternelles, Book 0.5) FREE (best read after Book 1)
Inescapable (Eternelles, Book 1) FREE
Indomitable (Eternelles, Book2)
Give us an insight of your main character in Light My World. What does he/she do that is so special?
Well, in the words of Trent Garrison, the book’s hero, Diya Hemant is a spitfire! That word sums her up pretty nicely. She’s cheeky, impulsive, a bit of a hot head, has a sharp tongue…but her heart is in the right place, and she’s just looking for love aka Prince Charming, but on her terms; not what society, or worse, her mother, would deem suitable/proper for her.
I think there’s a part of Diya in all of us – do we accept whatever others deem best to bestow upon us, or do we seek our own path and forge our destiny? Diya’s spirit is what’s special about her, imo.
Light My World, is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
Well, I started The Other Side, book 1 in the trilogy, with the idea that it would be my magnum opus and I’d be done with writing. How wrong I was…because from the very start, Lara’s two sisters popped onto the pages and I just knew they had to have their story. Diya was the most vocal, so she got her story right after I finished book 1. Now, you can’t write about 2 sisters and leave the third one out, right? So Neha got hers, too (Winds of Change, coming soon).
I knew that each story would have to have a few years in between, and every story showing what’s happened to the previous book’s couple. It seemed like 10 years would be suitable for this, spreading the stories apart by 5 years each. And since the 2000-2010 decade was the one that seems to have brought most change in Mauritius – whether in lifestyle or mentality – I had my time frame for the series, and the books chronicle, in the background/backdrop, this evolution of the Mauritian society from a close-to-Third-World country to one of the leading developing nations of Africa.
But basically, it’s just feel good romance following the lives and loves of 3 sisters, and showcasing a typical Mauritian family. 🙂
What are your thoughts on writing book series?
You know what? I used to be allergic to book series in the past, like when I was a reader. I did not see the appeal at all. Then I started writing, and you know when characters pop up and just scream to have their stories told? How can you dismiss a series then? And when you keep going, you notice more and more avenues to expand the world and bring more interesting people and plot lines in – I became a series junkie, both in reading and in writing!
But you need a lot of discipline to write series. There’s a basic world you need to account for in each book, details that need to be similar and consistent throughout – you need a good memory (or a good series bible!). And you cannot jump the gun – if a character’s story has to come next so that plotline moves seamlessly throughout the series, you cannot say “throw it all to Hell, I’ll write that other character’s story.”
And there’s always the need to up the ante – not only must you keep the feel consistent and deliver what your readers loved about the previous book, but you need to go above and beyond for every successive book, and that can spell the biggest challenge of a series over time.
What genre is Light My World?
It’s basically a romantic comedy – light and fluffy, and (I’ve been told!) with quite some laugh-out-loud moments throughout. But the book also skirts around the genre of New Adult – Diya, in her mid-twenties, is facing life as an adult and many twenty-something women can empathize with being in her shoes. You could also call it a contemporary romance.
What draws you to this genre?
Well, I love light and fluffy. Romcoms are my escape from life, from the day-to-day grind. I find the best escapism and feel-good factor comes from settling down with a story that can make you smile, if not laugh out loud (and I can’t write funny to save my life! I tried, but failed miserably!).
One fun fact about the hero of you book.
He’s an uptight, straight-laced Brit, and this paves the way for lots of comedic moments and silly conflicts with impulsive and brash Diya. Loved to ruffle him up throughout the story. 🙂
Which actress would you like to see play the lead character for heroine in Light My World?
Well, I did write the story with Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor in mind – she’s got the peps and snark and bouncy-type of personality that Diya epitomizes.
But when I saw the cover and the model used to represent Diya, I realized Glee’s Lea Michelle would also be a perfect fit for her. 🙂
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Amazon Author Page:
It was great hosting you today Zee and getting to know such fun facts about you and your writing! Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this Spotlight Interview.
Pleasure was all mine! Thanks for having me over!!
Blurb of Light My World:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that to find a prince, a girl has to kiss a few frogs along the way. But what happens when a modern-day princess comes across…an ogre?
So what if a girl has to kiss a few frogs to find her prince?
Tired of her Indian-origin mother’s relentless matchmaking, Diya Hemant is determined to find her Prince Charming on her terms. Armed with a definitive list of requirements, she is sure she’ll know her man when she meets him…
But looking and finding are two different things, especially on the tiny island of Mauritius…
When her path crosses surly British widower Trent Garrison’s, it’s hate at first sight. And though fate keeps pitting her against him, she’s certain he can’t be turned into a frog let alone a prince.
Can this modern-day princess overcome her own expectations and see beyond the ogre to the man beneath?
Still squatting in front of the children, Diya peeked up for a first glance of him.
Brown linen trousers covered his long legs, and she craned her neck to take in his tall body and broad chest. He’d rolled the sleeves of his cream-coloured shirt to his elbows, revealing big, powerful-looking hands and strong forearms dusted in dark hairs. A tense, corded neck lay visible beneath the open collar of the shirt, with a slightly pointed chin above it. Strong jaw, and chiselled, taut, handsome features. Deep-set grey eyes, very much like the elder boy’s, squinted at her beneath thick eyebrows the same hue as the neatly trimmed dark hair on his head.
Diya gaped. This hulking Adonis was her neighbour?
He has offspring to boot, whispered a little voice.
She snorted under her breath. Just her luck, again. He was taken. What is it with this weekend from hell?
The word rolled off the Greek god’s tongue, and the British accent and disbelieving tone dripping with spite jolted her like an electric current.
This man, and the savage who’d hit her car the day before, were the same person.
The surprise zinged through her; she gasped, and brought her hand up to cover her mouth.
In doing so, she lost her balance and toppled over onto her arse to lay flat on her back. Pain from hitting the hard marble erupted all along her spine, and she caught herself before the back of her head smashed into the floor. Quick save, and thank goodness most of the broken glass lay in her flat, and not in the lobby. She’d have been in for some major injury, otherwise.
“Are you okay, miss?” a little voice asked.
Would this nightmare ever end? She must appear like an undignified heap, and there went all the leverage she could bring to this meeting. Humiliation piled onto her anger at being caught in such a stupid position, in front of him, no less.
“No, I’m not okay.” She glared at the oaf. “It’s all because of you, you beast.”
“Dad?” Matthew asked. “What’s he done?”
Confirmation he was the boys’ father. Great. Could something, anything, go right for her?
“Oh, forget it,” she said as her voice broke.
Shoot, she wouldn’t cry, would she?
“Of all the people in the world….”
He spoke the words softly. The disbelief in them wiped away her feelings of self-pity, and hurt like a stab, in the same go.
Was he rude by nature, or did he always itch for a fight? Either way, she wouldn’t let him off the hook.
“What?” she asked. “Go on. What were you gonna say?”
“Nothing,” he said through clenched teeth.
“It’s not nothing. So don’t be a chicken. Say it.”
He remained stubbornly silent.
She glowered up at him. “So?”
He tightened his jaw. “You’re the one person I hoped to never meet again.”
This had to strike beyond rude. What a bastard.
Outrage at his insult filled her, but the distaste for him and his cavemen-like ways won the battle. “Same here, mate.”
“You know each other?” Matthew asked as he peered back and forth at them.
“Yeah,” they both growled.
AllRomance Ebooks https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-lightmyworld-1472190-177.html
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 favourite 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.