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This blog was featured on 05/06/2019
Sandhya Menon on Writing Diverse Stories, Advice and What's Next
Written by
She Writes
May 2019
Written by
She Writes
May 2019

Sandhya Menon hit the New York Times bestsellers list with her first YA romantic comedy When Dimple Met Rishi and delighted her fans once again with From Twinkle, with Love On May 14, she’ll release her third book, There’s Something About Sweetie, a companion novel to the When Dimple Met Rishi, which follows the heroine's brother, Ashish, and a confident, self-proclaimed fat athlete named Sweetie as they both discover what love means to them.

On Being a Writer

On Instagram, Menon posted:

“Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) I can't believe I get to do this for my job,” she says. “That I get to invent whole universes for readers to lose themselves in, characters to see you through life's rough patches, mirrors and windows through which you can leap and twirl and dance and fall in love."

“My inspiration was the lack of South Asian heroes and heroines in contemporary YA! I wanted brown teens to be able to see themselves living life and having happy endings,” she responded to a reader-submitted question on Goodreads.

On Her Writing Routine

Menon approaches writing like a typical day job.

“I write every weekday between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM, until I get to 2,000 words,” she shares on her website. “Some days this happens quickly and other days I want to crie (that’s not a misspelling; that’s “cry” and “die” combined). I tend to take a break between 3 and 5 or 6 PM, and then get back to it in the evenings when I’m on deadline.”

On Writing Diverse Stories

As a wife, mother, and daughter of immigrants, Menon strives to write about strong, passionate, intelligent girls and women who can serve as role models for her fans. Readers will also notice the diversity in her novels - from ethnicities to socioeconomic status and backgrounds. 

“If you look at the world around you, you’re probably going to see a pretty diverse group of people. A lot of times, we tend to isolate ourselves in little bubbles of people who look like us, think like us, and experience life a lot like we do. But that’s not the truth – at least, not the way I see it. I want to tell stories that are more representative of the beautiful melting pot I live in, and that means people of varying ethnicities, sexualities, and abilities will make it into my stories.”

“At least one of my heroes/heroines will be Indian-American because that’s my identity,” she says on her website about her future work. “I want to populate bookstore shelves with main characters I didn’t see very many of growing up.”

In an interview with NPR she noted that she believes YA publishing is making good progress in creating a diverse market for writers nowadays, in response to readers who crave books that reflect the world around us. 

On Advice for Aspiring Writers

On her website, Menon generously offers wisdom and support to writers 

“Know when to give up and when to keep going,” Menon says. “If you’re contemplating giving up because writing is hard or the publishing industry is sometimes unfathomable or you’re stacking up that pile of rejections, don’t give up. Keep honing your craft. You WILL get there.”

On the other hand, she cautions, if the story you’re working on just isn’t giving you any joy anymore or you feel you’ve outgrown it, there’s no shame in stopping. “No one knows your art better than you,” she says.

“I truly believe great art happens when we're scared/intimidated and push through it anyway.”

She also offers advice about keeping projects manageable and protecting oneself from becoming overwhelmed.

“Learn how to finish projects,” she suggests. “Start small, say, with a piece of flash fiction (about 500 words). Once you’re able to consistently finish those, move on to short stories, then novellas, and finally, novels. It can be incredibly intimidating to begin writing an 80,000+ word project, and your confidence will be so much higher if you scaffold finishing things for yourself.”

“Seek out a community of writers who are at the same stage as you to get feedback and emotional support,” she replied to a reader-submitted question on Goodreads. “It's important to get better at your craft, but those friendships will also sustain you through the ups and downs of publishing.”

Lastly, she recommends reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for a humorous and encouraging look at what it means to be a professional writer, and the Plot Whisperer Workbook for helpful craft advice.

On What’s Next

Menon recently announced that she’s working on an upcoming YA contemporary series. The entire series is set at an elite boarding school for modern-day royals in a fictional town just outside Aspen, Colorado.

“Each book is a spin-off on a well-loved fairy tale,” she says. “The first book, Of Curses and Kisses, is a spin on Beauty and the Beast and follows an Indian princess who must con her worst enemy, a misanthropic British aristocrat, into falling in love with her to restore her family’s honor.”

The excerpt above was originally published on the Colorado Sun. Read the full interview here.

Photo Credit: SandhyaMenon.com

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