Coffee Time Romance & More

 

 

 

 

 

Hello to all of the readers out there!  I was lucky enough to be able to interview Shoba Mano about her career and her newest release.  Can you please tell us a little about your background?

I was born into a working-class family and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I currently live. Generally, writing is not considered a lucrative career option in Asia.

So I focused my energies on working to save enough money to pursue my law studies. Meanwhile, I met my husband in 1987 and we married three years later -- in December 1990. Two weeks after my wedding, we left for London, England, where he pursued his studies. We lived there for five years.

While in London, I worked full time to support my husband, especially in the initial years. I studied for my law degree in between tending to the switchboard at a business centre. Food breaks were made up of packed lunch from home. I prepared for my first two year's exams without attending a single class.

Despite this, I got through my exams in single sittings. In my final year, the British Government offered me a scholarship to study at the University of East London in Barking, from where I had graduated.

How did you get started writing?

I think it was my disappointment with the practice of law as a profession that reminded me of my real love, which is writing, and propelled me towards a new career. I had practiced Corporate Law for several years in Malaysia before joining the Singapore branch of New York law firm, White & Case, Collin, Ng & Partners, where I practiced Intellectual Property and Cyber Law.

But no matter which branch of law I practiced, I did not feel fulfilled, and before long, my thoughts returned to writing. In my early teens, I used to spin tales right off the top of my head for the benefit of my younger cousins. They would gather around me like weary travelers sitting around a camp fire, spellbound by my stories. By the time their parents dragged them off to lunch, I'd make sure I ended with a cliff-hanger so they would all come charging back for more.

An uncle quite unwittingly instilled in me, this love for telling stories. While only about seven or eight, I used to follow him all over the garden as he picked flowers. As he did so, he would narrate wonderful stories which he seamlessly joined together so that it ended just in time to decorate the Hindu altar with the flowers he would have picked.

In the two years he lived with my family, I marveled at how he never ran out of stories to tell me every single day.

I've also, always been an avid reader, to the point of shunning people. When my husband teased me about not having many friends, I would indignantly take him to the local bookstore and introduce him to Mr Pink Whistle, Mr Meddle, The Secret Seven and other characters of Enid Blyton's books as my friends. She is still my all-time favorite author.

I had also won many writing competitions in school and had my articles published in national newspapers in Malaysia. My husband's encouragement was the final nudge that got me to switch careers and seriously pursue writing, which had always been my one true love.

What are your most important writing influences?

If you mean what inspires me to write, I'll have to say it's the Bible. Believe it or not, it is the greatest love story ever told. The Bible is all about God's endless pursuit of the heart of man, and there's everything in it for the romantic. It's got heroes and villains, triumphs and tragedies, heartaches, sacrifices and above all, epic dramas that will keep any romantic enthralled.

Most romance authors are also avid readers. What is your favorite reading material?

What appeals to me is so wide and varied that there could never be enough pigeon-holes for me to slot them all in. One favorite is Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapiere, a true account of the final moments leading to India's Independence. Favorites in the romance category are Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough and A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Other favorites are Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things, The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis and Monsoon Country by Pira Sudham.

Who are your favorite authors?

Dare I say Enid Blyton? (laughs). Well, I also like many of Kathleen Woodiwiss' books.  

What do you like to write the most? Is there any genre you are uncomfortable attempting to write?

So far I've written two romance novels and am working on my third. I suppose romance is what I like to write most but I am not sure about the future. I have a great love for the environment, Asia's tropical forests and animals. In the future, I may write articles and books that encompass these subjects. Only time will tell.

Asians are notorious for their indifference towards animals and the environment and I would love to be part of any writing project that can lift their awareness and teach them to respect and love nature and jealously guard it as an inheritance for their children.

I am only uncomfortable writing anything that would have a negative influence on society, especially young people.

Your first book, Love's Treacherous Terrain is said to be the world's first inspirational romance with an Asian setting and Asian characters, written by someone of Asian descent. It was published in India by OM Books, are there any plans to distribute the book in the US?

Possibly, but I am working on a re-sale to an American publisher first. The re-release could be a slightly different version, but it is still too soon to tell. It would be exciting to see it released in the US though as the story is set in my own country, Malaysia.

Prodigal Child, published by Treble Heart Books, is set in Vietnam. What sort of research did you do for this book?

Believe it or not, I've never been to Vietnam. I thank God for my legal training as I feel it has enhanced my research skills.

I read everything I could on Vietnam from travel brochures, newspapers, periodicals and books. I watched documentaries on Vietnam and Amerasians. I visited exhibitions that focused on Vietnamese culture and lifestyle.

I studied photographs of their streets and maps. In fact, Hang Quat Street, which I had prominently mentioned in my book, actually exists even today.

That is why I feel particularly gratified when people who have read Prodigal Child tell me that they can visualize all the scenes of Vietnam.

Prodigal Child has a very strong inspirational element, is this something that is a part of all of your books?

Yes, it is. I am committed to writing material that will make people contemplate serious issues God willing, even long after they've put the book down.

So while my stories serve to entertain, they also inform and enlighten. I was pleased about a comment from an American acquaintance who said she had never heard about the plight of Amerasians until she read my book, and was surprised to learn that they are the half-American children who were left to fend for themselves on the streets of Vietnam when the American GIs pulled out of that country at the end of the Vietnam War.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you have?

I am now in the midst of writing my third book called Echoes of Angels. It's a cross genre between inspirational and the paranormal, and is set partly in Thailand and partly in Cornwall, England. I am very excited about this project and just returned from seven days in Thailand where I had spent part of the time researching material for the book. I have some beautiful photos of the trip uploaded onto my website www.shobamano.com.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Success never comes easy, and I've had my share of rejection letters to show for it. The most important thing is to ask yourself if you are really determined to succeed, or if writing is just the fad of the moment. If in the final analysis you really want to be an author, than keep at it. Don't let anyone destroy your confidence, and most of all, don't lose heart in the face of rejection.

Alex Haley received 200 rejections before having his Pulitzer Prize winning bestseller, Roots, published. Writing is not for the faint-hearted, so if you're meant to write, then you just won't be able to ignore the calling, no matter how painful the road to success.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and answering my questions.   If you would like to find out more about Shoba Mano, please feel free to visit her web site and see her upcoming releases at www.shobamano.com

Susan
Interviewer

 

 

 

 

 

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