I am very excited to announce Driving Ms. Desi’s first ever Book Review section: Chit Chat & Chai. (applause) Thank you, thank you! But wait that is not all. I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have interviewed an award winning author who released her very first YA novel last year and I kid you not is already back with its sequel! She is my first author friend. (ok so we havnt actually met but hey in this day and age a phone chat goes a long way! 😉
May I introduce to you the lovely and charming Rajdeep Paulus!!! (more applause)
Raj (as she is affectionately known as) is the first time author of Swimming through Clouds and its sequel Seeing Through Stones. Honestly speaking I had not read a book from the Young Adult genre in a very long time. Not since the Harry Potter series. But there was something about Swimming Through Clouds which drew me to it and I was compelled to read it (First time purchasing online for E reading! – This experience has brought on a lot of firsts for me as you can see)
I can tell you I was not disappointed and it was beyond anything I was expecting. The author reels you into her story world that is the life of young Talia from the first page, nay the very first line! You are hooked and you don’t even realize it. This is a story of struggle and survival of a teenage girl who has been robbed of her childhood; robbed of her innocence due to unimaginable (the author makes it very imaginable) torturous abuse. The dark imagery is at times difficult to digest only because you cannot believe what you are reading. Your pulse quickens and you just want to jump into the pages to save Talia. The wonderful part however is that despite its raw telling of very real world situations the author is able to maintain hope throughout. Talia is still able to keep her innocence and dignity. You are rooting for her until the end.
Paulus masterfully tugs at our emotions; her words making you endure both pain and love. You will be left wondering about the characters of the book long after you have finished reading. Which I thought was genius. Rajdeep Paulus very cleverly leaves you wanting more and she delivers indeed. Seeing Through Stones continues on Talia, her brother Jessie and her love interest Lagan’s journey from what I can only imagine is another gripping tale which hopefully answers many questions left over from the first book. I am literally just about to purchase my second ever online book right now, but I think I’ll go the paperback route this time. The cover is too gorgeous not to grace the bookshelf. Either way I STRONGLY recommend purchasing both these books. They are not only beautifully woven stories but have strong multi-cultural characters created by a wonderful South Asian author, who is also a super mom to four young daughters. I am proud to support South Asian Women writers and urge you all to do the same!
The book trailer can be viewed here
Sanober: We all know the ‘mama’ of the house is central to ensuring everyone’s life from the husband to the kids is running smoothly. You have FOUR wonderful daughters. How in the world did you find the time to sit down and churn out TWO novels?
Rajdeep: Ha. Sometimes I think it’s the kids and the Dad who are keeping me afloat! It’s clearly a teamwork effort. Truth is, I started by doing most of my writing while the kids were in school, but when I realized I needed a few longer stretches, I asked Hubby for one evening a week and one Saturday a month to focus on my career. Those days, I worked away from home, usually some place that serves yummy lattes with whip and a sprinkle of cinnamon. During crunch times, I’ll put in extra evenings, and right after a book comes out, I taper down and enjoy some extra family time. And of course there’s the ever-changing schedule of my doctor hubby whose call schedule tends to shape our months from the get-go. Finally, it would be criminal not to mention my neighbours, Stancy and Roy, who are like parents to me. They love the girls and happily watch the youngest princess for me, often on very short notice. That’s a gift you can’t put a price on!
Sanober: Your novels deal with a difficult subject matter i.e. violence and abuse. What inspired you to tell this story? Was the topic something you felt needed to be heard or did it manifest itself as your characters developed?
Rajdeep: That’s a great question. As a newbie writer, I knew the basics. The main character must face some sort of conflict in order to embark on some sort of amazing journey with the possible help of other characters to overcome the challenge. I wanted to make the problem unique, but let’s face it, there’s nothing completely new under the sun. So I began by crossing out all the problems I wasn’t comfortable with writing about. And this might sound funny to you, because I never expected the abuse to be as extreme as it came out in Swimming or in Stones, but at the same time, I knew what Talia and Jesse went through had be undetectable for the story to last more than a few chapters.
In terms of whether there was a social justice agenda with the books, not really. At least not at first. I wanted to first and foremost strive to write great stories. But as I began to be more involved and learn from organizations combating Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking, it seemed a natural course to make these issues relevant to the story, but not take over the love story. That has always been my primary goal. To write a really endearing love story (or two) in the midst of the madness.
Sanober: How long have you been writing stories and what led you to this path?
Rajdeep: In some ways, I feel like I’ve been writing all my life. In fact the other day, I thought about how when I was long-distance dating my now hubby of fifteen years, I must have written him two, sometimes three, letters a day. A. Day. Yes, you can believe he loved to check his college mailbox those two years!
I studied English Lit at Northwestern and started teaching right out of college, but my favourite lesson plans always involved some sort of creative writing. I would even make up a story using the sixth graders’ spelling words when I tested them every week. The kids began to look forward to the test, wondering what kind of crazy story I’d come up each time.
The novel writing venture really kicked off about three years ago, and it began with blogging and then one day, I decided to take a jab at fiction. Each night, I wrote another chapter. And a month or so later, I had completed the first draft of my first book—one that will probably never leave the drawers. And that’s okay, because that experience helped me to find Talia’s story. And I don’t know that it could have happened any other way.
Sanober: Is there anything you learned or were surprised to learn about yourself throughout the journey of this story?
Rajdeep: Great question! Where do I begin? There are so many little and big life lessons I’ve skimmed from my own characters’ journeys, but I think the most profound epiphany I had was one night as I was penning a pseudo-argument between Talia and Lagan. I began by siding with Talia and her perspective, because she really wanted, or rather what she needed, at the time, was a friend, not a knight. Later in the book, as the similar conflict surfaced again, I found myself totally siding with Lagan, and his plea to be there for Talia. He argued how unfair it was for Talia to decide what he could handle hearing about her life. Even as I wrote those lines, I wept at my laptop, because I saw the same situation being played out in some of my own relationships, and how the fear of being vulnerable was limiting how close I could be to those who were supposed to be closest to me. Yep. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that. 🙂
Sanober: Can you give some advice to aspiring authors particularly the Desi Mama’s whose lives are consumed by their children, husband and other commitments?
Rajdeep: How about three little tips I’ve picked up along the way: 1. Be Patient. Good things rarely come when things are rushed. 2. Good is better than fast. ß From my agent, Chip MacGregor, who reminds me what once you put something out there, you can’t undo the impression it will make. And 3. Life will always be a balancing act, and if you have to choose which side of imbalance to fall on, choose your relationships. Your kids. Your marriage. Life is too short not to make the best of the times when your kids are young or your hubby’s around. Or your parents are still healthy enough to take walks with. Not sure who said it, but on our death beds, rarely do people regret not having worked more, rather, they regret not having spent more time with their loved ones.
Sanober: Any teaser as to what we should be looking forward to next? 😉
Rajdeep: Unfortunately, I don’t have anything concrete to tell you in terms of books. I am starting a new blog this summer, though, on my hubby’s crazy cross country biking trip that will, if all goes according to plan, kick off the summer of 2015. He and his buddies created C4C Cycling 4 Change 2015 to help raise awareness and funds to fight child poverty and human trafficking. I’m so excited about this, apart from the obvious reasons, because I get to work on the blog with my thirteen-year old daughter, the only one, at this stage in the game, who seems to have the writing bug.
I do have about three fiction projects that I’m editing and writing, but none of them are any where near ready to be talking about. And last night I dreamt an entire idea for a YA Book, so I’m about to jot it down before I forget it. I’m hoping it will sound as amazing on paper as it seemed in my dreams. I guess I won’t know till I read it. And write it down, of course.
**Thanks so much for having me, Sanober! It’s always sweet to connect with other Desi-Mom writers! Happy writing to you too! ** Best, Raj
Rajdeep Paulus is the author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones , is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram .
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Praise for Seeing Through Stones:
“Tough and touching, resilient and raw—Rajdeep Paulus has crafted a story of love and abuse with the deft touch of a master… Paulus never allows her characters to be anything less than real and she never averts her pen from the realities that face far too many women and children. “ ~ Tosca Lee, NY Times Bestselling Author of Havah and The Books of Mortals series with Ted Dekker
“In this follow-up to her debut, Rajdeep Paulus quickly pulls her readers back into a heartfelt story that challenges our notions of family loyalty. Seeing Through Stones continues Talia’s healing journey, but, even better, it gives readers the long-awaited story of her heroic brother, Jesse. There’s something here for everyone, and perhaps the best part is Paulus’s weaving of multicultural characters and traditions into a rhythm as unique as it is refreshing.” ~ Laura Anderson Kurk, Author of Glass Girl & Perfect Glass
“After reading Rajdeep Paulus’s debut novel, I was incredibly eager to get my hands on the sequel. The wait was worth it! With a lyrical voice, heart-tugging characters and skillful handling of sensitive subject matter, Paulus’s sophomore novel is a beautiful piece of storytelling. I can’t recommend it enough.” ~Melissa Tagg, Author of Made to Last and Here to Stay
“Seeing Through Stones both broke my heart and filled it with hope at the same time. Paulus’s writing simply soars as she paints her characters’ pains, fears, and hopes in a beautiful portrait of recovery and grace. With this book, Paulus has established herself as a powerful voice in Young Adult literature. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.” ~John W. Otte, Author of Numb and the Failstate series
“Brilliantly crafted, Rajdeep Paulus stitched what seems dark and broken into a tapestry of hope and love.” ~Jennifer Murgia, Author of Angel Star & Between These Lines