Wednesday, April 17, 2019

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Mari Reiza, Author

Mari Reiza against Verona's Romeo and Juliet 's wall.
Author: Opera and the Retreat
Mari Reiza is a romance author who “doesn’t set out to write romance.” Readers enjoy the emotions she brings to her stories. She writes both short stories where you can “live in the moment,” and novels where her characters can be developed and “turn around and surprise you, almost mocking you.” Her most recent novels are Opera described as “A scorching rendition of human resilience” and the Retreat, "an uncomfortable but fascinating ripening journey."

Born in Madrid and currently living in the U.K., Mari likes to travel, especially in the mountains which "clear her mind for writing." She enjoys hiking, climbing, and skiing with her daughter when she’s not writing. She plans to spend time in Nevada to write her next novella.

Q: You’ve written romances set in a variety of times and locations.  Readers tout the emotion you bring to your stories. What inspires you? Do you have a favorite romance author?

Mari Reiza: First of all I don’t set out to write romance. I only see, sense and speak, as a woman. And what I see is that the feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love still remains, at a risk of talking clichés, a prime maker and wrecker of lives. All around me. What more engaging is ever there to speak about than love or death? 

And romance per se is but the tip of the iceberg, the flame making us blind and fearless which is interesting but almost always transient. Empathize with Opera’s Ivanka who can’t stomach grievers orbiting around her, live with her through the agitation and accident of her encounter with Maria (a man, despite the name), followed by a growing love-force determined to push out the most unmovable of deadlines. Or with Carmela’s cousin in Caro Mbeautiful and innocently in love with him and her wedding dress, ready to embrace marriage like a magic portal. 

But it never lasts. 

And still, there’s nothing more real than the dream of love.

Although falling out of love can also prove intriguing. PHYSICAL’s Fátima, for example, drops out of love with herself then with her husband. ‘And thus things were being taken away from me one by one,’ she complains. ‘How was I going to enjoy sex if I was a nobody? Not even earning any money?’ (Is sex a requisite for love? another question altogether.) 

It can be equally painful when your lover falls out of love with you. What are you supposed to feel then? ‘He asked me for the ketchup, in a whisper, and I gave it to him. Somehow, I felt that it was the least I could do, now that I understood I had been but a vague irritant for the last few months, that I did not arouse him anymore,’ tells us Kiki, Fátima’s friend. 

What I mean is, it’s nice to see people on a high but they are even more arresting when breaking down, forced from hero back into humbled human.

In essence, I like romantic books exploring female sexuality and power on the upturn then resourcefulness and resilience on the downfall from love. Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride and Lily King’s Euphoria are amongst my favorites.

Q: Your most-recently released novel the Retreat has been described by a reviewer as “a feminist, coming-of-age novel.” Do you agree? How would you characterize it?

Mari Reiza: In the Retreat, something has happened to Marie (a girl, unlike Opera's Maria) in her youth which she can’t get rid of, something that prevents her from building relationships, understanding her sexuality and the place for God in the world. It is definitely an uncomfortable if fascinating ripening journey and yes, almost everyone that counts in the novel is a female. The only man that could have made a difference is absent and from that you can draw your own conclusions.

Q: Several reviewers describe your recent novel Opera as “a Romantic story in the classical sense rather than what a modern romance story would be.” How would you characterize Opera? Do you consider it contemporary romance?  

Mari Reiza: Mmm… when I search contemporary romance it says: ‘Contemporary romance is a subgenre of romance novels, generally set contemporaneously with the time of its writing. ... Heroines in the contemporary romances written prior to 1970 usually quit working when they married or had children, while those novels written after 1970 usually have, and keep, a career.’ Puzzling. 

Well, Ivanka is a beautiful young woman born in Saint Petersburg, wedded to rich banker Alexey. She definitely lives like an old-fashioned heroine and has indeed quit her Operatic career to follow him to London. In addition, her love with Maria has the chivalric and supernatural feel of a classical tale. So, I can see why they call it a classical romance.

Q: You write both short stories and novels. Do you find that each offers you a way to better tell a story or deliver a theme? Do you prefer one over the other?

Mari Reiza: I love the short stories to live the moment; they can almost be cinematographic. However, the novel allows time for the character to show you her true colors then totally turn around and surprise you, almost mocking you.

Q: How do you make your readers care about your characters? Are their issues, problems, and joys relatable to readers?

Mari Reiza: I should not be saying this perhaps, but I do not worry too much about the reader when I’m writing characters. My assumption is, this is a story that is happening or has happened or if not exactly so, it could have happened or may still happen. It's real despite being fiction. Then I try to focus on the humanity of my heroes and inject as much humor as possible. I hope this will help make the tale entertaining, relatable and readable but perhaps it won’t work for everyone. I’ve learnt, at the end of the day, I have to do what works for me. Writing, like the other arts, should be an expression of what we have inside, even if perhaps it’s not very commercial half the time. But hopefully it may still make a small difference.

Q: Why do you write? Do you choose topics that concern you to help reveal them? Or, do you want primarily to tell a story? 

Mari Reiza: I do not write with a topic in mind, for any audience in particular or with a specific aim. I only relate things I have observed, often mismatching the different bits, throwing them together to play the what if game. 

In Physical: What if we put the anarchic girl with curly black hair and thick-rimmed glasses with the straightforward, rational and practical woman, fair-haired and attractive in a sexy-cute kind of way without being stunning? 

In Opera: What if Ivanka’s masseur slim as a river reed and pretty despite his cut-rate-dental teeth, was hired for his osteopathy services but tried to cure her of her fatal illness instead? What if her trusted prince was not to be trusted, but was instead wanted back in Moscow by a hysterically resentful, erotically hyper-charged Cuban (male) ex-lover, and Ivanka's masseur was (again) the only one who could help him?

What if... 

You get the picture. 

Q:  You were born in Madrid and now live in the U.K. and you write frequently about women’s issues. Do you find that your topics are applicable across broad national boundaries and are as relevant in Europe, Asia, United States etc.? 

Mari Reiza: We call ourselves a global society but I think there are still tremendous cultural differences between countries, even regions you consider close neighbors. I like the differences to last, but in my books I ensure they co-exist. I often write about London, situations where different people come together. In Room 11, the patient's husband is Italian but the nurse is an African immigrant and the doctor is of Indian origin. In Opera, the heroine and her accomplice are Russian but the masseur and the composer are Italian. In Physical, one lady is Brazilian and the other is from Northern Italy… (what's my fixation with Italy you may ask?) It's undoubtedly my background. I left Spain at twelve and have lived since in Brussels, Amsterdam, the US, Milan and the UK (and loved almost exclusively Italian men.)

Q: How and why did you make the transition from investment research writer and management consultant to author of contemporary romance novels? 

Mari Reiza: I’ve always been an avid reader and written on the side, short stories and poems since school, first in Spanish then in English. My jobs took me away from fiction but still involved a lot of writing. Although of course it was a very different kind of writing. I knew I loved the writing and the salary but had not much interest in the subject matter. The opportunity came to step down, perhaps it wasn’t seen as an opportunity at first to be honest but more like forced upon, and I took it. The rest is story.

Q: What’s next? 

Mari Reiza: I’m off to Nevada this Easter. A writer I like back in my land of origin, the Basque country, Bernardo Atxaga, wrote his days in Nevada some time ago. I love that book. I’m thinking to write my own little Nevada novella perhaps.

Q: Tell us something about Mari Reiza. What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

Mari Reiza: I have become passionate for the mountains: the Dolomites (Italy again!!!). I enjoy hiking, skiing and climbing with my daughter. We are there whenever we can. The scenery helps the writing too: it clears the mind, for more.

About Mari Reiza

Mari Reiza was born in Madrid in 1973. She has worked as an investment research writer and management consultant for twenty years in London before becoming an indie fiction writer. She studied at Oxford University and lives off Portobello Road. Also by her, Inconceivable Tales, Death in Pisa, Sour Pricks, Pack of Wolves, STUP, Mum, Watch Me Have Fun!, Marmotte’s Journey, West bEgg, PHYSICAL, Room 11, Triple Bagger, Caro M, Opera, the Retreat.

About Mari Reiza’s Books

the Retreat: An uncomfortable but fascinating ripening journey

Ahmed has abandoned her. Nadia is gone the way Isabelle did before, her two fallen warriors. But Marie can still hear His voice clearly. A deep call for justice takes hold in an impressionable teenage girl from a recently broken family during a religious retreat; what happens next will mark her life for years to come. the Retreat is a story of men playing God, of hurt that doesn’t find its way out.

Opera: A scorching rendition of human resilience 

Suffering Ivanka, once an arts patron in Moscow, receives a wrongly delivered letter at her secret address in Kensington. Her therapist Fer recognizes the intended recipient immediately, leading her into the hands of Maria, a faded Italian pop-idol living a reclusive life only a few houses away. Maria unintentionally wakes Ivanka up to the nature of the spiritual depth she has been craving, convinces her it's the lack of it that has made her sick. Can she, with the help of Igor, her sweetest long-life friend and accomplice, help Maria back into music?


Twitter and Instagram address @mari_reiza

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Ruchi Singh, Author

Ruchi Singh, Author
Ruchi Singh brings us GUARDIAN ANGEL, a romantic thriller, which is her favorite genre. The book spins off a  character from her previous novel, THE BODYGUARD, and tells how an “angel“ rescues a security expert in mortal danger.  

Singh is an award-winning author who writes both romance and romantic thrillers. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading and exploring classical Indian dance forms. She is currently working on an emotional romance novel and is also planning a detective series.

Q: How did you conceive of the plot for GUARDIAN ANGEL

Ruchi Singh: I had released THE BODYGUARD prior to GUARDIAN ANGEL. Nikhil Mahajan, though an important character, played a secondary role in that novel. After the release of THE BODYGUARD, I received numerous personal messages and review feedback that people want to hear Nikhil’s story as well. 

Hence GUARDIAN ANGEL came into being. Essentially it is a spin-off from THE BODYGUARD and can be read as a standalone book.

Q: Reviewers in a previous book, THE BODYGUARD, said your characters were “well fleshed out.” How do you make readers care about your characters? 

Ruchi Singh: There are certain expected social, physical, and notional perceptions. If we as an author understand those qualities and perceptions, defining a character’s traits become easy. 

Then throughout the story, those traits have to be released or written depending on the circumstances and situations. I cater to those perceptions and hope that the readers would fall in love with them. They generally do. 

Q: Reviewers also tout the thriller aspect of your books. How do you create suspense while simultaneously producing romance?

Ruchi Singh: In a suspense, the information about the plot has to be revealed in a piece-meal fashion. For romance to simultaneously flourish, both hero and the heroine have to be actively involved in the main plot as well as be thrown together in the scenes. The plotting, characterization and internal conflicts are important here.

Q: Is the concept of villain vs hero relevant to GUARDIAN ANGEL? What are the characteristics of an effective villain?

Ruchi Singh: Yes, of course it’s relevant in GUARDIAN ANGEL. Every story has to have a villain. Though it’s not necessary that the villain has to be a human being. The inner conflict, weaknesses, and circumstances can also play a part in traumatizing a protagonist and can thereby be termed as a villain. GUARDIAN ANGEL, too, has a villain of the human variety. Although the protagonist and the villain do not confront each other face to face, they do go after each other in a more covert manner.

The characteristics of a villain should be such that readers also share the hero’s revulsion, fear, or distaste. A villain lays down the conflicts in the path of the hero and should be one notch more powerful than the hero. A story, where the hero is able to overpower the villain against all odds, is a real entertainer. 

Q: In GUARDIAN ANGEL, how helpful is back story, especially that of setting?

Ruchi Singh: GUARDIAN ANGEL is set in the backdrop of conflict in Kashmir. The backstory and the setting are revealed to the readers at opportune scenes throughout the story. There are certain chunks which are revealed through inner monologues, thoughts, and dialogues. Some aspects are just hinted using a word or two here and there, and let the reader imagine the rest. The backstory and settings help readers to get a reference point for the location, story and the characters’ motivations. If used judiciously it’s a very powerful story element.

Q: Did you write GUARDIAN ANGEL strictly to entertain? Or were you trying to educate or deliver a message? 

Ruchi Singh: Every novel I write is to entertain the readers. I consider myself a storyteller and entertainer.

Q: What caused you to pursue a career as an author and away from that of IT career?

Ruchi Singh: It all started in 2012 when I had left my regular job to be a full-time homemaker. After a year my daughter joined the college in a new city. I was feeling a little low due to empty nest syndrome but didnt want to go back to the corporate rut. That was the time friends and family suggested writing. My family members and friends said when you read so much, you can write as well.

Since I am very fond of novels, I began with a novel. I really enjoyed the first few days of putting my thoughts on paper. The result was the debut novel TAKE 2. But it was only when I had won the Indireads short story competition, in Oct 2014, I knew I will become a fiction writer.

Q: What’s next?

Ruchi Singh: I am writing an emotional romance which is again set in Kasauli, the backdrop of my second novel JUGNU (The Firefly). I’m also planning and plotting a detective series, which is at a very nascent stage. There are lots of ideas floating in my mind, but very less time.

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

Ruchi Singh: I am generally a happy-go-lucky person. I go with the flow of events happening in and around me. When I am not writing I read a lot, and I also like to spend time and relax with my friends.

About Ruchi Singh

Winner of TOI WriteIndia Season 1, Ruchi Singh is a novelist, and writes in two genres: romance and romantic thriller. A voracious reader, she loves everything—from classics to memoirs to editorials to chick-lit, but her favorite genre is ‘romantic thriller’. Besides writing and reading, her other interests include dabbling with Indian classical dance forms.

The Man
Security expert Nikhil Mahajan is in mortal danger. Gravely injured and unable to see, he is in the midst of hostile strangers in an unknown place. Any hope of survival is fast fading away. 

The Angel
Should an innocent man be left to die just because he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time? Someone has to intervene.

In the bathroom, he stripped off his clothes and looked in the mirror for the first time since the day of the bomb blast in Mumbai. He couldn’t recognize the man staring back at him in the mirror. His hair, matted with dirt, was stuck to his skull. The only things which were clean were his wounds and the skin around it which had been taken care of by the hospital nurse.
He had a full-fledged beard with a patch of bandage where the skin on his face had burned. The scar would definitely leave a reminiscence of…? Of what? What should he call the events of the past weeks? An incident? An episode? A misfortune? He drew a blank. In retrospect, past few weeks seemed like something which could not be explained in words.
Pushing his confused thoughts aside he examined his leg. The burns were deeper on the shin and thigh, the doctor had told him. He looked gaunt, a shadow of his former self. He must have lost at least ten kg, if not more. Sighing audibly, he unwrapped the new toothbrush and remembered his own electrical one in his bathroom back home. 
Everything unfamiliar, and every person a stranger. A new name. A new identity. His ordeal was far from over. He picked up the new tube of the toothpaste and felt like a beggar.
Taking the support of the wall, head bent down, he stood under the shower with the water running down his face, and wept. The adrenaline rush of keeping himself alive receded as he emptied the fears, worries, and helplessness of the past month down the drain with the bathwater. The thought of being able to see his parents soon made him more emotional. He sniffed and sniveled, and resolved to take back control of his life. And most of all, he resolved to do something about those monsters back in the Tral forest.


~ 1 winner for 500/- Amazon Gift Card + kindle copy of Guardian Angel
~ 1 winner for 250/- Amazon Gift Card + kindle copy of Guardian Angel