Sunday, June 25, 2017

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Ruchira Khanna, Author

Ruchira Khann, Author
Ruchira Khann brings us BREATHING TWO WORLDS, a novel about what it’s like to be born in one country but earning a living in another. A reviewer describes her novel, “What a heartfelt story!” The experiences of immigration inspired her to write the story. Her character’s villains are not human—but rather the “thoughts and emotions a person tries to juggle with on a daily basis.”

Khann was a biochemist, then technical writer before turning to fiction. She has written and published two other novels, CHOICES and VOYAGERS INTO THE UNKNOWN as well as a children’s book, THE ADVENTURES OF ALEX AND ANGELO: THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING IGUANA. She is currently working on a fourth novel with the themes of ambition and trauma, and lives in California with her family.

Be sure to check out the excerpt following her interview.

Q: What drove you to select the topic of BREATHING TWO WORLDS? What influenced your writing of it?

Ruchira Khann: BREATHING TWO WORLDS talks about an individual who is born in one country and is making a living in another country. I have tried to pen down the various emotions she breathes in from the two nations that are both dear to her.

Immigration has always been on the cards for many. Thus, inspiring me to write such a novel.

Q: You are a biochemist who decided to write. What drove you to leave your career as a biochemist and become a writer?

Ruchira Khann: I became a technical writer after I quit working in the lab so that I could continue to work from home. While working on the desktop for hours creativity took a turn for which there is no going back….

Q: BREATHING TWO WORLDS is described as literary and/or women’s fiction, not romance. Would you consider it to be cross-genre? Are the themes intertwined?

Ruchira Khann: Absolutely! The themes are intertwined, but the focus is more on the fiction as she is trying to juggle between her foundations and priorities in life.

Q: Reviewers say that BREATHING TWO WORLDS is an “engaging, thought-provoking read.” Did you intend to deliver a “message” and/or educate or influence readers with this novel?

Ruchira Khann: I avoid being preachy in my novels. As far as an author I choose themes that are close to humanity thereafter I allow my readers to read and judge.

Q: Although your novel is about a woman from India, would you consider it to be a universal story? And is it as much about being a woman as it is straddling two cultures? Would you describe your main character as a “modern woman?”

Ruchira Khann: Yes! This story is about any individual who is an immigrant.

Q: Why will readers care about your main character? How will they relate? Did you base your main character on an actual person?

Ruchira Khann: The main character, Neena is a fictional character and is living a dual life with regards to her priorities and culture that she has been brought up in. This story relates to any individual man or woman who is living two cultures.

Q: Does the concept of heroes versus villains apply to BREATHING TWO WORLDS? If so, what are the attributes of a compelling villain?

Ruchira Khann: Heroes and villains are in plenty here :)
The only difference is that they are not 'humans' but mostly the thoughts and emotions a person tries to juggle with on a daily basis.

Q: How helpful is humor to develop your characters or tell your story?

Ruchira Khann: Humor is also important to keep the storyline light if it is getting too preachy or has too many twists and turns.

Q: What’s next? Will you continue writing novels? Will you stay in your literary fiction genre?

Ruchira Khann: I am currently working on another novel that is based on a theme of ambition and trauma.

Yes, I shall try to stay focused on my genre although intertwine it with romance, mystery.

Q: Tell us about Ruchira Khanna. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Ruchira Khann: I am a holistic healer having my practice and also associated with the Stanford Healing Partners.

Continue to take freelancing technical writing projects.

About Ruchira Khanna

Ruchira Khanna, a biochemist turned writer, left her homeland of India to study in America, where she obtained her Master’s degree in Biochemistry from SJSU and a degree in Technical Writing from UC Berkeley.

After finishing her studies, Ruchira worked as a biochemist at a Silicon Valley startup for five years. After the birth of her son, Ruchira took a job as a technical writer, so that she could work from home. Soon, she began doing freelance writing work as well.

Her love of writing grew and she started working on her own books. After four years of freelancing, Ruchira published her first book, a fiction novel for adults called CHOICES.

Then came the children’s book THE ADVENTURES OF ALEX AND ANGELO: THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING IGUANA. She got a thumb’s up review from Kirkus Reviews.

In January 2016, she published her second fictional novel VOYAGERS INTO THE UNKNOWN. It talks about the quest for happiness as the heavy hearted tourists who travel miles from different parts of the world to Raj Touristry in Agra, India, return to their respective home with a healed heart. This book talks about their journey!

In BREATHING TWO WORLDS, Ruchira talks about ethnicity and cultures, and helps to strike a balance via a fiction-drama novel as her characters breathe two worlds.

In addition to writing books, she is a holistic healer associated with Stanford Healing Partners and also maintains a blog of daily mantras on Blogspot, called Abracabadra. Ruchira currently resides in California with her family.

Neena Arya, a Delhi-born, goes abroad for further studies and decides to settle down there. Determined to be a 'somebody' from a 'nobody' she blends with the Americans via the accent and their mannerisms while having a live-in relationship with her European boyfriend, Adan Somoza.

When illness hits home, Neena rushes to meet her ailing dad. Tragedy strikes and amidst the mingling with relatives and friends, she finds herself suffocated with the two different cultures that she has been breathing since she moved to the United States. How will she strike a balance between both the cultures as she continues to support her widowed mother? Will she be able to do justice to her personal and professional life after the loss?

Amidst the adjusting she bonds with an ally and learns about ties beyond blood. On what grounds will she be able to form an invisible thread that she has longed for since childhood?

BREATHING TWO WORLDS ventures into cultures and ethnicity allowing Neena to ponder upon her foundation and priorities.

"Oh!" the Mom answered, but could not contain her curiosity with one hand holding the hyper toddler and the other on her hip she could not resist, "You two don't look like brother-sister, hmmm. So, what is your relationship?" she inquired with a slight smile in a soft voice but without any inhibition. A handful of seniors sitting in the same room observed all the drama and nodded to each other while their fingers were moving on the Tulsi neck beads.

Neena rolled her eyes and thought to herself, "Jeez! We Indians are always darn inquisitive."
Nikhil immediately got up and started walking towards the dining area. This was happening to them for the umpteenth time, and he was now tired of clarifying things. He had lived in this country for half a decade now and still he could never understand the fascination Indians had for marriage and children. 

Neena was confused at first because it was unlike Nikhil to be so rude. On the contrary, sometimes Neena referred to him on lessons in patience but today it was different. But then she didn’t have a choice; she felt it was rude to walk away from the young mother leaving the conversation unanswered. Moreover given Indian mentality in all possibility, she might even follow them till she had a convincing answer to her question. 


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

SPECIAL FEATURE: The Mystery of a Sleuth

Joyce T. Strand, Author
The Jillian Hillcrest Mysteries (3)
The Bryn Bancroft Mysteries (3)
The Judge's Story
The Reporter's Story
How do you start to write a novel? Do you begin with a plot, a character, a genre? What comes first?

I started to write mystery novels in 2009. I selected the genre based on my love of reading all types of mysteries or suspense thrillers--noir, spy, cozy, hard-boiled, contemporary, historical. The only type of mystery I didn't like was true crime--too many loose ends!

After agonizing for a year about what should come first, I realized that for me, the character not only was first but would drive the plot.

 As I get ready to publish my ninth novel in November, I'm reminded of my process in the following discussion, which has steered me through the penning of my eight published mysteries. 

“Every man [and woman] at the bottom of his [her] heart believes that he [she] is a born detective.” John Buchan [bracketed additions mine!]

My path to writing a mystery began with choosing my character—the sleuth who would be the hero and solve the crime.

As an ardent reader of mysteries, I have many favorites—Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, a police detective who doesn’t always play by the rules but usually gets the guilty one. I immediately connect to almost all of John Grisham’s crime-fighting lawyers who fight for the
rights of their clients. Kathy Reichs whose background as a forensics anthropologist resulted in the Temperance Brennan series that pulls me into the bone-analysis process for unearthing the guilty party.

 I enjoy reading how Patricia Cornwell’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner, figures it out even while she is threatened by culprits. And I’ll never forget the orchids grown by the rotund Nero Wolf created by Rex Stout as he and his assistant Archie manage to solve an intricate mystery without Wolf leaving his house.

 But how could I—a public relations executive with a thirty-year background of writing biotech and high tech articles and speaking to the public on behalf of my Silicon Valley companies—how
could I possibly write about crimes from the perspective of any expert? I didn’t have Michael Connelly’s crime reporter background, nor John Grisham’s lawyer training or practice.

But, I proceeded with John Buchan’s theory that we all believe we are born detectives. Therefore, anyone can be a detective. Beginning with my first novel, I determined that I would exploit my own background to feature a credible and interesting amateur sleuth.

I found many examples of other authors who have produced outstanding mysteries without depending on skilled crime scene investigative skills. British author Dick Francis relied on his experience as a jockey, and his non-detective characters encountered criminals and plenty of crimes to solve around the horse racing industry. Mary Higgins Clark creates everyday protagonists, whose crime-fighting varies with her settings, and they certainly find evil-doers. Nora Roberts manages to mix crime and romance and also uses settings to vary the plot. Even Nancy Drew was an amateur who as a teenager managed to solve crimes.

So, you guessed it, my first amateur sleuth, Jillian Hillcrest, was a public relations expert at a biotech company in Silicon Valley. In my first three novels, she got involved and solved crimes inspired by real California cases. My next three contemporary mysteries featured her boss, a financial executive turned winemaker. After all, I know about wine. I drink it all the time.

My next mystery, scheduled for release in November 2017, will feature an out-of-work young woman who has been somewhat marooned in the unincorporated small town of Ramona, California when she breaks up with her fiancé. I currently live in Ramona and have selected it as the setting, because it is unique in so many ways—it’s a contradiction of rural roads and ranches surrounded by scenic mountain views peopled with cowboys on horses, and peppered with vineyards, wineries, and a growing artist community—all less than 35 miles from downtown San Diego.

My newest contemporary character, Emily Lazarro, is also a contrast of characteristics—she tries to please everyone, which thwarts her desire to be independent. But in the same way that I learned about the community, so does Emily. And despite running into difficulties and even a murder—or two—Emily also grows into her sleuth’s role.

As with all my amateur sleuths, various events draw Emily into the need to solve a crime. But I can’t tell you any more, or that would be a spoiler. But just know that Emily is at the center of it all.

Joyce T Strand Amazon Author page