Interview with Author Anita Kushwaha

On the blog today, we have a special guest, fellow 2020 debut author Anita Kushwaha to talk about her new release Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters and author journey.

  • Tell us a little about yourself!

Hi! I’m Anita. Here are some fun facts about me. I’m a Canadian author living in Ottawa, Ontario. As a recovering academic with a background in research, my former life involved conducting social and environmental research in the eastern Canadian Arctic and Ottawa. I love reading, running, baking, listening to music, outdoor concerts, watching tiny house videos on YouTube, and napping with my cat, Noodles. I taught yoga for a few years and would love to get my Therapeutic Yoga Certification someday. I daydream about moving to the west coast of Canada on almost a daily basis, I love the temperate rainforest and the ocean! I met my British husband hiking the Inca Trail some fifteen years ago and we’ve been together ever since. I’ve wanted to be a writer from a young age, but it wasn’t until I met my husband, who showed unwavering faith in me, that I finally mustered the courage to take a chance and go for it. The saying about how the belief of one person can change your life rings true.

  • What is the premise of your book?

My diverse Women’s Fiction debut Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is a mother-daughter story told in alternating timelines, that of Asha and Mala. The story begins with the revelation that Asha’s parents have kept the truth about her adoption a secret for her entire life. But why? As Asha is thrust on a journey of self-discovery, the reader is introduced to Mala, and the choices and secrets that end up shaping both their lives. More broadly, the book is about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together, and the secrets that tear them apart, and the particular social and cultural pressures faced by the South Asian characters in the novel. Writing about mental health as a way to foster compassion and combat stigma is also a passion of mine and plays a strong role in this novel and my work in general.

  • What inspires you?

I was listening to an interview with Margaret Atwood the other day, who is incidentally one of my writing heroes, and she mentioned that when it comes to writers, she thinks they are either musical or visual. I definitely fall into the musical category. I don’t listen to music while I write but when I’m away from my desk, I listen to music constantly for inspiration. Lyrical musicians in particular help me drill down and explore the nuance of certain emotions and experiences. Nature also plays a large role in my writing. Much of the figurative language I draw upon tends to come from nature. I’m an outdoorsy Canadian who loves running, being on the water, cycling, and walking through the urban farm near our house. And of course, I draw tons of inspiration from my fellow writers. We writers are readers, first and foremost!

  • What are some of your favorite books, movies, and/or television shows?

Ah, the impossible question! Here are some that come to mind:

Books: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Blind Assassin, Ishmael, The Golden Spruce, The Glass Castle, The Neapolitan Novels, LOTR, the Harry Potter books, anything by Margaret Atwood, Jhumpa Lahiri, Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith….and so much more!

Movies: Interstellar, Serenity, The Shawshank Redemption, Fire, The Lunchbox.

TV: During the pandemic we started gravitating towards some of our old favorites for comfort. I’m currently re-watching Parks & Rec, The Office (US), and Star Trek DS9. I think Firefly will be next.

  • What does your writing schedule look like?

When I’m in writing mode, trying to finish a draft or working on revisions, I keep to quite a rigid schedule. It’s my job, so I treat it that way. I usually write for a couple of hours, take a break to fit in a run or some form of movement, then write for a few more hours in the afternoon. Not very glamorous, but it gets the work done. I’m taking a social media break at the moment, but normally I would finish the day with catching up on that sort of thing. An author’s work is never done!

  • Any writing rituals or “must-have” conditions?

I need silence, solitude, and a good chunk of time. Ear plugs. A big mug of tea. My laptop and notebooks. That’s about it.

  • Favorite place to write?

I meander throughout the house with my laptop. Back before the pandemic, I would sometimes venture to the local library or university campus to write.

But these days, the dining room table wins most of the time. My husband and I catch up during breaks in the kitchen.

  • What are your non-writing hobbies?

I love to read, run, cycle, practice yoga, and bake. I really enjoy napping with my cat, Noodles. I consider that a pastime, for sure. I’m a big sports fan, so soccer and basketball are popular in our house. I also love being lazy and having a good Netflix binge every now and then.

  • What are you working on now?

This was an insanely productive year, which is probably why I’m totally drained and taking a short break from writing at the moment to regroup. I started a sisterhood story, more bitter than sweet, inspired by The Blind Assassin and The Neapolitan Novels back in 2014 and finally completed it last winter, just before the pandemic hit. Finishing that felt monumental. Lots of complex family dynamics and secrets, also in keeping in with my interest in exploring issues of identity, belonging, immigrant experiences, and the lives of South Asian women. What excites me about the project is having another opportunity to explore the complexity of female relationships and family life. Endlessly fascinating topics to me.

Then the pandemic hit, and I found myself diving back into work as a coping mechanism. Over the next five months, I started and finished another sisterhood story totally different from the first, which had been scratching at my brain for about six months beforehand while I had been working on the other manuscript. (I write a bit more about the WIPs here: https://wp.me/p3z19G-K2.) My agent is currently reading and reviewing both manuscripts to decide which we should pitch first. Exciting times!

  • What are some of your writing dreams for the future?

The dream has come true, hasn’t it? As a nine-year-old who used to construct my own illustrated stories out of old cereal boxes, actually becoming a published author seemed like an impossible dream and yet it’s been the dream of my heart since then. There have been countless obstacles in the way, and frankly there still are, but I feel extremely grateful to be writing and publishing because I know how many people don’t get the chance to explore their passion and devote themselves to their true vocation in life. Publishing is extremely competitive and far from a meritocracy, often the best books don’t get the attention they deserve, which can make falling into a comparison spiral almost impossible to avoid. Staying grounded in gratitude and remembering the young girl full of hopes I was way back when helps me to keep focused on the ultimate dream: to keep writing and publishing and building a literary career of timeless work. There are no guarantees in this business, but if I’m able to do that, then I’ll be more than happy.

Also, a big book tour, movie and TV deals, celebrity audiobook narrator, foreign rights, bestseller lists, all the notable book clubs, awards, flowers, champagne, chocolates. Just kidding. 😉

Author Bio:

Anita Kushwaha is an award-winning Canadian author. Her road to publication included a fulfilling career in academia, where she studied human geography at Carleton University and earned an M.A. with distinction and a Ph.D. as a Tri-council funded scholar, collaborating with Indigenous communities in the eastern Canadian Arctic and Ottawa on socio-cultural and environmental issues. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers creative writing program, her work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Quill and Quire, The Literary Review of Canada, The 49th Shelf, Open Book, Word on the Street, The Ottawa Review of Books, Girly Book Club, CBC All in a Day, and Canadian Living among others. Her first novel, Side by Side, won an Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Silver Medal for Multicultural Fiction in 2019. She is also the author of a novella, The Escape Artist. Her Women’s Fiction debut, Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, was released in January 2020 by HarperCollins Canada and selected as a March Book of the Month by Word on the Street, highlighted as a “Books with Buzz” by Canadian Living, and included in the “Crazy for CanLit” reading list curated by the Giller Prize foundation. Raised without stories that reflected her, her family or her background, themes in her work include exploring the social and cultural pressures faced by South Asian girls and women, immigrant experiences, diaspora, intergenerational conflict, identity, belonging, place, and mental health. She is a member of the Canadian Authors Association, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and is the recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Literary Creations Grant. As a daughter of First-Wave Indian immigrants who made Canada their home over fifty years ago, she proudly writes about communities in the National Capital Region where she is from and makes place for herself and readers like her within literary realms and beyond in this way. She lives in Ottawa.

Synopsis:

For readers of Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s “Secret Daughter” and Nancy Richler’s “The Imposter Bride,” a breathtaking novel from Anita Kushwaha about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together and the secrets that tear them apart

Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—when the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly to Asha, the young woman on the cusp of adulthood who links them together. On the day after her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness, leaving Asha with only a letter. Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them. Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future. Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life. Three mothers, bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all. “Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters” is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.

Release date: January 28, 2020

Buy links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2P2ZiS8

Amazon Can: https://amzn.to/2OHMx0m

Chapters/Indigo: http://bit.ly/34J4gtQ

Indiebound: http://bit.ly/2OSSHuV

Social media links:

Website: https://anitakushwaha.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MsAnitaKushwaha I

G: https://www.instagram.com/msanitakushwaha/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/msanitakushwahaauthor/

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/388PkHx

Publisher’s website: HarperCollins Canada: http://bit.ly/2rGoHcm

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