Tonight I am very excited to be joined on the blog for Friday Night Drinks by fellow RNA Member and hugely inspirational author… Jeevani Charika, who also writes as Rhoda Baxter.
Welcome to the blog, Jeevani. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
Can I have a hot chocolate? I don’t drink alcohol much (I know, shocking for a romance novelist!). I drink copious amounts of tea and would drink my own bodyweight in hot chocolate if I were allowed.
I drink more tea than anything else, to be honest. Yorkshire Tea for preference. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
Possibly an odd choice, but I’d take you to a place that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s downstairs in the Horse and Jockey pub in Oxford (which was turned into flats at the end of the 1990s). It’s a quirky space with lampshades made out of random objects (like cheesegraters!) and walls covered in posters and artwork from local artists. I used to go there for meetings and I loved discovering a new poster or a piece of art that I hadn’t spotted before. I think we’d have lots of fun there.
Back in time, that’s a first on this feature, I love it! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
I think my brain just exploded at the possibilities. I think I’d like to chat to people who made me laugh. So maybe Holly Walsh (I’ve just watched The Other One and Motherland) and Bill Bailey.
Great choices. I love Motherland. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
I’m writing a book about two people who are put in a team together for an online game competition. They don’t know each other’s secret identities. He’s in love with her in real life. She’s in love with him online. It started because I started watching Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir with my daughter a few years ago and got completely hooked. I wanted to write something with a similar love … quadrangle? Parallelogram? … you know what I mean. Where do I want it to go? Well, to ‘the end’ as fast as possible, please. I still haven’t worked out how to make the books write themselves, so I guess I have to do it the old fashioned way and put words down on paper.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
My favourite moment was when I read a review of A Convenient Marriage which said ‘I feel seen’. It made me so happy that I had a little cry. My biggest challenge is being consistent with my marketing. I know I have to wave my arms about a bit if I’m to sell any books, but I don’t particularly like doing it and I often forget.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!
I want my books to be turned into a film or a series that’s huge on Netflix so that people will buy lots of copies of my books and make me rich! It’s a fairly common dream, I’m guessing.
I’d like to have so much money that I could seriously consider paying to have a commercial jumbo jet painted to look like a blue whale. I have no reason for wanting this apart from the fact that I like the idea of a whale flying around the world. I might ask the artist to add a bowl of petunias, too.
That might be the best ambition anyone has come up with yet and, as a massive Douglas Adams fan, I am on board with it! What have you planned that you are really excited about?
I’m quite excited about the book I’m writing. I’m also drafting a course on Point of View for writers. I like teaching creative writing. Most creative writing advice is basically saying the same thing but the way you say it can resonate differently with different people. I’ve read so many writing books and I’ve learned different bits of things from each one.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
I don’t have a bucket list. I tried it once but I kept changing my mind. I have a sort of mini list of goals instead. As for travel – my dad is an engineer (not retired) and he took jobs all over the world, so I’ve lived in Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Yap (in Micronesia) as well as Yorkshire. I would really love to take my family to Yap. I’m sure it’s changed a lot now, but I have such happy memories from my time there, I’d love to go back and see it again.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.
I once banged my head on the top of a doorframe. This is not surprising for tall people, but I’m only four foot eight. We were on a tour of Canterbury Cathedral and had to go through a low door. The guide said ‘mind your head’ and, since I’ve never had to mind my head in my life, I ignored him. Someone said something and, distracted, I walked smack into the doorframe. I was knocked flat on my back and no one helped me up because they were all laughing so hard.
Ouch! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
I’d give you Nation by Terry Pratchett. Partly because it ties in quite nicely with my nostalgia for Yap, but also because it’s a wonderful book. It’s not set in the Discworld, but on a tropical island. I have re-read it many, many times.
Prepare for the world to be turned upside down . . .
For Mau, halfway between boy and man, it happens when a great wave destroys his entire village. For Daphne, it’s when the same wave crashes her ship into the island that was once Mau’s home. Everything they once had is now so far away, lost to distance and time.
But when Daphne stops trying to shoot Mau (she did apologise for it), and instead uses a salvaged invitation card to invite him to tea, they discover a new home can be theirs.
And then people start arriving on the island – some very good, some very bad. And it’s soon clear that Daphne and Mau must fight for their Nation.
Then a discovery is made that will change the entire world forever . . .
I love the Discworld books but I haven’t read this by Terry Pratchett, I will have to check it out. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
Does anyone have a failsafe plan to avoid a hangover apart from ‘drink less’? Thinking back to when I used to drink – I found spicy chicken wings were a brilliant hangover cure. Chilies and protein. Perfect.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
At home, with a cup of tea, some dunkable biscuits and a good book! (I don’t often get this because the children are at home, but it would be the perfect way to spend the weekend).
Thanks for the fantastic chat, Jeevani, I have really enjoyed my evening.
Jeevani’s latest book is A Convenient Marriage, the story of a gay man and a straight woman who get married to escape pressure from their traditional Sri Lankan families. They have the perfect marriage, until they both fall in love with other people. A Convenient Marriage was shortlisted for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel award in 2020. You can buy a copy here.
It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.
Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.
Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding
When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow
Will they choose love, or carry on living a lie?
Jeevani Charika writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with a hint of British cynicism. (In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Jeev-uh-nee.)
There’s a whole lot of other stuff she could tell you – but mainly: she’s a former scientist, an adult fan of Lego, an embarrassing mum, a part time geek (see ’embarrassing mum’) and a Very Short Person.
She also writes romantic comedy under the pen name Rhoda Baxter. So why the two names? Well… Jeevani writes about British-Sri Lankan main characters. Rhoda, not so much.