As part of #RamadanReadathon, I’ll be hosting a series of author interviews to spotlight new and upcoming releases from debut and established authors. I’m so excited to welcome Farah Heron on the blog today to talk about her debut novel The Chai Factor!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After a childhood raised on Bollywood, Monty Python, and Jane Austen, Farah self-rejected her writing career before jotting down a single word, despite admitting her ultimate fantasy was to be a writer. But when she could no longer keep the story arcs straight in her daydreams, she started writing a few years ago and never looked back. She writes romantic comedies and women’s fiction full of huge South Asian families, delectable food, and most importantly, brown people falling stupidly in love. Prior to writing, she had careers in Human Resources and Psychotherapy. She lives in Toronto with her patient husband, surly teenager, and delightful middle-grader, along with two gerbils, one hamster, one rabbit, and a fish named Silvia. You can follow her on Twitter @FarahHeron.
ABOUT THE CHAI FACTOR
Thirty-year-old engineer Amira Khan has set one rule for herself: no dating until her grad-school thesis is done. Nothing can distract her from completing a paper that is so good her boss will give her the promotion she deserves when she returns to work in the city. Amira leaves campus early, planning to work in the quiet basement apartment of her family’s house. But she arrives home to find that her grandmother has rented the basement to . . . a barbershop quartet. Seriously? The living situation is awkward: Amira needs silence; the quartet needs to rehearse for a competition; and Duncan, the small-town baritone with the flannel shirts, is driving her up the wall.
As Amira and Duncan clash, she is surprised to feel a simmering attraction for him. How can she be interested in someone who doesn’t get her, or her family’s culture? This is not a complication she needs when her future is at stake. But when intolerance rears its ugly head and people who are close to Amira get hurt, she learns that there is more to Duncan than meets the eye. Now she must decide what she is willing to fight for. In the end, it may be that this small-town singer is the only person who sees her at all.
Salaam, Farah! Thank you so much for joining us! To begin with, could you quickly introduce yourself and your debut novel The Chai Factor? How would you describe the book in comps?
FH: Hello! I am so happy to be here! I am romance writer from Toronto, and The Chai Factor is my debut. It is an interracial romantic-comedy about an Indian-Canadian, mostly secular-Muslim engineer, and the small-town Canadian musician she falls in love with. I always find comps tricky, but I’d say The Chai Factor has the humour of Sophie Kinsella, the chemistry of The Hating Game, and the big heart of Bollywood love stories.
If your protagonist, Amira, had to introduce herself with three interesting facts, what would they be?
FH: Amira’s not one for self-reflection, and would probably claim that there is nothing interesting about her, since for many years her only focus has been her career as an industrial engineer and her master’s degree. But people who know her well would say that Amira is whip-smart and incredibly witty, a fierce defender of all human rights, and a loyal supporter of her friends and family.
Are you a chai person or a coffee person?
FH: I love chai, but I confess, I need large amounts of coffee to get through my day. Chai is a comforting routine for me, but coffee sustains me.
I’d have to agree! Personally, I’m a tea person but I rarely drink the chai kind. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
FH: I wrote this story as a way to process the ugly things that so many people are dealing with in today’s difficult world. Amira is a fighter, but internalises the world’s injustices to the point where anger and avoidance are the only way she can survive anymore. I hope readers connect to the themes of fighting intolerance on your own terms, and of finding strong connections in unexpected places.
Since music is an integral aspect of the novel, what are your characters currently listening to?
FH: Duncan is a music teacher, so he loves all types of music. He’s probably listening to whatever his students are learning right now, or whatever the several bands he sings with are practicing. And now that Amira’s done grad school, she has the time for music again. Her secret love of guitar-heavy rock music is probably remerging, and she’s no doubt teaching Duncan all about Bollywood music.
What has been your favourite or least favourite part of writing this book? Like Amira, did you set yourself any rules until the drafting was done?
FH: I loved creating the characters in this story. Amira and Duncan are great, but digging deeper into their families and friends with each subsequent draft was such a joy. And no, I don’t have any rules or rituals when writing, except finish the draft. I just plod through until it’s done. Voice, characterization, and plot can all be tweaked in revisions, but you first need something to revise!
And finally, who inspires you to write and what are your favourite stories featuring Muslim characters?
FH: I wish there were more Muslim characters in romance! A few of my fellow debut authors have recent (or soon to be) releases featuring Muslim romance: Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal, and The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem. Both are fantastic books that I highly recommend. I’ve also been inspired by other South Asians writing romance, like Sonali Dev, Alisha Rai and Suleikha Snyder. Until I read books by these wonderful writers, I wasn’t sure there was a place for me in this genre. But I couldn’t be happier that the genre is opening its doors to more diversity.
I couldn’t agree more, and I can’t wait to dive into The Chai Factor for these reasons. Thank you so much for your time, Farah. It was a pleasure to chat with you!
Want to win a copy of The Chai Factor by Farah Heron? Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win this book or a book of your choice from any of the authors featured during #RamadanReadathon! These books will be revealed throughout the month so keep your eyes peeled for more interviews on this blog.
This giveaway is open internationally, as long as Book Depository ships to you.