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Hello everyone! Today I have the uber-talented author, Zeenat Mahal, all the way from Pakistan in South Asia. Zeenat writes contemporary romance set in South Asia, specifically Pakistan. To say her books are a literary delight is an understatement. Her books contain all the romantic bits with alpha heroes (ahem, and some rehabilitating beasts too, but we will get to that shortly!) and alpha heroines set in the traditionally rich South Asian backdrop. I, for one, love reading stories set in different cultures and Zeenat’s books, which are quickly occupying the front row in my Kindle, are perfect for a relaxing evening. Her latest book, She loves me, He Loves Me Not, has me swooning over all day. Even more exciting, of course, is the news that her second book, The Contract, has a movie offer from a South Asian filmmaker based out of New York!
 
Without further ado, let me get right into the interview! Welcome, Zeenat! It is an immense pleasure and honor to have you with me. How are you doing today?
 
Hi, Eva. Lovely to be here. I'm very excited to be at Coffee Time Romance and to be talking with you.

You can't be more excited than me! Zeenat, did I tell you I finished She Loves Me, He Loves Me Not in half a day? It is in my all-time favorite list. How did you come upon this story idea? What was the inspiration?
 
Thank you so much, Eva. I'm so happy you liked it. The idea to re-inscribe something traditional and well-loved into a new form or represent an old story in an unfamiliar way is itself a well-established trope. I was intrigued by the concept of setting a fairytale in a South Asian backdrop. Beauty and the Beast came to mind immediately. I guess it was because the world sets great score by feminine beauty, though the ideals of beauty change all over the world, yet I feel, the most lasting beauty is that of a kind heart, which is so often neglected. Also, I felt that in the fairytale, the Beast is under-developed. He is more of a binary, beast and prince, than man, and I wanted to explore Fardeen as a man, flawed but worthy of redemption.
 
Beautiful. Fardeen, in my opinion, was more of a man I would like to marry than date. He was a bit cocky (!) I would say initially. But, as the story progressed, you do see the transformation brought in. Zoella was a wonderful mix of South Asian woman bound by tradition, and yet, dreaming of soaring the skies of individual accomplishment. Was that deliberate?
 
Sigh. I love alpha heroines as much as I love alpha heroes. So no way was Zoella going to take the beast lying down....excuse the pun.
 
Haha. Well that was good because Zoella was delightful. Since your books are all South Asian based, can you tell me more about how your readers across the globe react to the stories?
 
Surprisingly, some of the best reviews I have had are from non-South Asians. I was surprised because one thinks of the western writer as being a global writer and so accessible to everyone, but one doesn't think of South Asian popular literature as being all that easy to “get” for everyone. One would be wrong, apparently. It's another stereotype. South Asian writers are breaking.
 
And Thank God for that! I'm very lucky to have such a diverse and loyal readership. A huge thank you to my wonderful readers for their love and support.
 
I agree. I believe it is the reach and exposure to the culture, but I have often found these books fascinating to read, and I am sure your readers are enjoying every bit of it. You have mentioned before elsewhere about your love for books. Did you always know you would grow up to be a writer? What motivates you to start, and finish, a book?
 
Oh yes. I have wanted to be a writer since I was eleven, because that's when I began to recognize how good it felt when I was writing and how awry I felt when I wasn't.
 
As for your other question, that's really the tricky part of writing. See, I can start a book without any drumrolls or a second thought. I get an idea, and I start writing. The problem is finishing the book. I have three unfinished manuscripts I'm working on.  And maybe that's the issue. I have to tackle them one at a time, but they are all siren calls, and I find it difficult to discipline myself.
 
Tell me about it! Finishing is the hardest part. So, what gets you to "The End"? What tricks do you use to finish the story?
 
Honestly, no tricks. I think there comes a time for me when all the fog and the haziness disappears. When that happens, I know I have to finish the book soon. If, say, I don't finish the first draft soon, the story becomes stale. It loses some of the “magic” for me. So, when I finally reach the stage of restlessness, I know it's time to put in the hours and finish the first draft.
Once I have that done, I can go back to rewrite and edit to my heart's content, or till I get sick of it. That's my cue to send it to someone else for feedback.
 
Good plan, I would say! What other books do you have out there that I shouldn't miss? :)
 
Indireads has published two more novellas and a short story. All of those are romantic fiction. Haveli was the first one they published. Then The Contract, The Accidental Fiancée is also a short story.

I have self-published a short story recently, which I'm very proud of. I wrote it in one of my modules in MFA creative writing last year. It's called The Walled City and is available for pre-order on amazon. I'm really looking forward to how my readers respond to that, because it's not a romance.
 
Congratulations on self-publishing your first short story. I would be stalking it on Amazon now. :)
 
I don't want to take any more time from you today. One last question. Give us a reader review that you treasure!
 
Well, there are far too many! It's difficult to choose only one because every positive review is like a validation of my dreams and hard work. And I'm very lucky to have had so many unforgettable reviews. I treasure each and every one of the reviews from my loyal readers.
 
Many thanks, Eva. I really enjoyed answering your thoughtful questions. And thank you Coffee Time Romance for having me!
 
Awesome. You are welcome! And thank you for your time.

 

 

 

 

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