Ritu Visits the Bar – SoCS

David here: It’s Saturday. We’re at the bar, but rather than have you listen to Dan, ramble on mindlessly. “Um, it’s called Stream of Consciousness Saturday, David – not ramble on mindlessly Saturday.”

“Yes, Dan, I know. In any case, we have a guest, so I know you broke the ‘not a lot of planning’ rule, so I wanted to get credit.”

“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is ‘—amble.’ Add letters to the beginning of ‘-amble’ to make another word or use it as is in your post. Enjoy!”

“Dan, did I hear right? Did you invite Ritu Bhathal to join us today?”

“Yes, David. I invited her. Why?”

“You know what weekend this is, right?”

“The Fourth of July. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Ritu’s from England. Don’t you think it’s a little…”

“…Dangerous? Are you worried that she might be a spy in service to the crown?”

“No, Dan. Don’t be silly. I just meant that maybe she’d be more comfortable visiting on a different weekend.”

“Well, the treaty ending the War of eighteen-twelve was signed on December twenty-fourth. She has kids, I don’t think she could make it on Christmas Eve.”

“You two clowns better put this to rest, I just saw an auto-rickshaw pull into the upper lot.”

“I’m sure we’ll be fine, Cheryl. You know how David worries.”

“Am I the cause of worry and concern?”

“Hi Ritu. No, you’re not. David was just worried about the date and whether you might be offended.”

“The Fourth of July? Doesn’t bother me, Cheryl. As an Indian born and bred in Britain to immigrant parents, who were born, themselves, in Kenya, I don’t get upset over the history between our two countries. Besides, who hasn’t been at war with England at some point?”

“Haha, that’s true. What can I get you to drink?”

“Well, as it isn’t a school night, I would love a pink gin and lemonade, please. A lovely berry concoction if you may.”

“Gin and lemonade? I can make that. I have some Pink Gin, and a fresh pitcher of pink lemonade. It will be a fun change from the gin and tonic orders I normally get.”

“I can’t do tonic… it reminds me of the quinine we had to drink when we holidayed in Kenya, as a malaria medicine!”

“OK, here’s your gin and lemonade. Dan, here’s your Corona, and David, your collection of beverages.”

“Um, Cheryl…”

“Yes, David?”

“There’s only one cherry in my John Howell’s Bourbon.”

“One if by land, two if by sea…correct? She came by auto-rickshaw, just like Aashi, but alone on the seat, not crammed in with a crowd.”

“You read my book, Cheryl, thank you!”

“I read it in twenty-twenty, but I still remember that scene.”

“Wait, now I’m confused.”

“Maybe it’s the bourbon, David.”

“I’ve only had a sip, Dan. Ritu, I ordered your book at the end of May, when Dan said you’d be visiting. Amazon sent me a message saying my ‘pre-order’ was successful. If Cheryl read ‘Marriage Unarranged’ two years ago, why was mine pre-ordered until June 1st?”

“This is quite the story, David. So, initially Marriage Unarranged took birth after many years of gestation in twenty-twenty when I self-published it. I had gone down the querying route, and though I got many encouraging replies, none said ‘Yes, please!’, so I took the bull by the horns and decided to research the process and go it alone. I was more than happy with the result, having found a wonderful editor, and several friends who have the know-how, to copy edit and proofread, as well as a brilliant cover designer, who managed to create exactly the cover I wanted. Then, as we all know, Covid-19 struck, and all the hopes I had for publicity, etc., went down the drain.”

“No in-person book signings or readings. You could have come here, Cheryl was sneaking Dan and me in the back while this bar was closed.”

“I remember reading about that. Still, the book did quite well, as it stood. Fast forward to the Christmas of twenty-twenty-one, and I was contacted by a publisher. Not a vanity one, but proper, small traditional publishing house, Spellbound Books. One of the founders of the company had read my book and loved it, and she heard on the grapevine that there may just be more to come, so without hesitation, they offered me a three-book deal, including rereleasing Marriage Unarranged under their banner! This was why it was there, then not, and is now out there again!”

“See, Dan. That’s how you’re supposed to publish three books.”

“I don’t have a publisher, David. But that does segue into my question. Ritu, was it always your intention for Marriage Unarranged to be part of a series?”

“When I first started writing the book, it was a story called ‘Wedded Stress,’ and though I hoped for it to become a novel-length book, I had my doubts. So, no, a series was not even thought about at that earlier stage.”

“What changed your mind?”

“Some of my secondary characters started whispering to me, about what they wanted to do, next, and the plan was cemented when I had several beta readers who were also intrigued as to what might happen next for some of the others in the story.”

“Isn’t it amazing how your characters start to decide things about your story. How did you decide on the series name?”

“The name of the series, The Rishtay Series, was decided when I signed with the publisher. Rishtay means relationships in Punjabi and my stories are filled with them, both romantic and otherwise.”

“Here’s a couple more cherries, David. Have you started reading Ritu’s book?”

“I have, but I haven’t gotten very far. When I bought it, I didn’t know Dan’s book was coming out the same day. Did you like it, Cheryl?”

“I did! Marriage Unarranged is a romantic comedy, but it’s deeper than that, isn’t it Ritu? Can you fill us in on what your intentions were when you wrote it.”

“Absolutely, Cheryl. I have found, through my experiences in blogging as well as novel writing, that you can bring important issues to light, through a little light humour. When I started it, I’ll be honest, I really had no idea, but as I matured, I realised I had a vessel that could be used to convey thoughts and situations that aren’t always discussed. within the Indian, and especially British Indian, community. The series is set at the beginning of this millennium. It starts in Two thousand. Marriage Unarranged looks at the stigma that sticks to a girl whose engagement is broken, through no fault of her own. Though in the book, there are other scenarios involving cheating, children out of wedlock, as well as the hint of an issue which is explored further in book-two.”

“I learned a lot about the Indian culture.”

“I have been told that it was eye-opening for many Western readers, and equally, other British Indian readers have sympathised with the characters, and nodded their heads at the situations mentioned. There is a difference in how some of the issues are handled now, over twenty years on, but at that time, so much was taboo, swept under the carpet, and/or frowned upon. It’s almost modern historical!”

“We don’t often think of twenty years ago being part of history, but it starts to define a new generation.”

“That’s true, Dan. My children are part of that generation.”

“That brings me to a question I’ve always wanted to ask. You are married. You and Hubby Dearest have two children, and other family that you visit on occasion. You teach and (I think) handle some other work in a school. Ritu, when do you find time to write?

“Please, don’t forget the attention-seeking, sleep-depriving Sonu Singh, my Punjabi cat, to the mix!”

“Forgive me. I’m sure MiMi and MuMu are smiling now. Still, it seems you have a very busy life.”

“Yes, I do lead a rather full life, especially during term time. I am a Reception teacher, teaching four-to-five-year-olds, as well as the Early Years Phase Leader in my school, so I am on the management team. I have a huge responsibility of a large team of staff, as well as around a hundred children within my department. it is exhausting but very fulfilling. Add to that, my home life. Yes, I am happily married to long-suffering Hubby Dearest, with two teenage children, who I lovingly refer to as Lil Man and Lil Princess on the blog. They really aren’t Lil anymore. In fact, Lil Man is now taller than me! He keeps me uber busy with his cricket, especially in the summer, when we are ferrying him around to training and matches. Good reading time, though! I tend to do my bulk of writing during the school holidays, when the rest of the household like to sleep in, and I get a quiet house for a few hours. That’s when Sonu Singh and I pop up to my writing room and get creative. Other than that, depending on the time of the school year, I try to squeeze words in when I have the mental capacity to. This is why it takes me an age to write a book!”

“Cheryl, I think we could use another round, and I want to revisit something Ritu said earlier while answering your question.”

“OK, David. But wait until I bring the drinks, I want to hear her answer.”

“David, if you don’t mind, I’m going to sneak in here. Ritu, your book tour included a few Tiktoks. I am unfamiliar with that social media. How long have you been there? Would you recommend it for people accustomed to (this sounds odd) more traditional social media?”

“I have used TikTok, on and off for a couple of years. Initially, it was with my daughter, in the lockdowns, doing silly dances and lipsynching to funny skits. More recently, I was told that there is a huge market for #BookTok on the platform, so I thought I would give it a go. I would say I have been active for a few months on it as an author. However, it is not an easy platform to conquer. I use it because I have fun, but I haven’t got as much engagement from it, yet. I think if you have the time to devote to it, which could be quite a while, you can establish yourself, but it can equally be a rather entertaining wormhole, too!”

“OK, here we go. A fresh round of drinks and an Old Fashioned for me. Skippy came in early, so I knocked off.”

“Cheers Cheryl, and thanks for another round of cherries.”

“Your question, David?”

“Oh, right. Ritu, you mentioned the difference between western readers and British Indian readers. How much did you think about writing for audiences in different cultures?”

“As I mentioned, I was born to immigrant parents, so, I have quite a wide range of cultures to refer to. But I am also aware that not everyone will fully understand the viewpoint I am writing from. I have tried to, without overexplaining, create ways within my writing which allow someone from a similar background to my characters, to fully immerse themselves within the story, and for those of a different background to treat the book as somewhat of an education, filled with descriptions and scenarios that teach them about the culture I write about.”

“Well, it seems to have been successful. At least it worked for me.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Cheryl, but there is one set of people who don’t always ‘get’ my writing. I have found the younger generations of Indian-born Indians don’t always understand what I am writing about. Many haven’t looked at the time setting of the story, and don’t realise that the India I am writing about is from over twenty years ago and that the reactions my characters have to India are those of British Indians, not Indians born and bred. They almost take offence to some of the aspects of my writing, not realising its context. Still, you can’t please everyone!”

“I’m still struggling with the notion that twenty years is historic – I’m almost four times that many years old.”

“You’re not old, as long as you can visit the bar, David. Ritu, I realize you might be under restrictions as to how you can answer this question, but a lot of readers might want to know. What are the differences between self-publishing and working with a publisher?”

“I can share my thoughts on this, Dan. The biggest difference is that with a publisher, you work to a deadline. Initially, this worried me, as, with my day job as a teacher, and also on the management team in my school, time is of the essence. However, after speaking to my Publisher, we found a deadline that was reasonable, and would allow for sufficient time to pass between the books and time for me to write them, too!”

“I find my self-imposed deadlines hard enough to deal with. I’m assuming they help you with some things.”

“Yes, that’s another biggie. They handle the editing, the formatting, the publicity… but for some, there are decisions taken out of their hands, too. Creative control is fully yours when you self-publish, as are all the royalties. But you relinquish a bit of that as a signed author. Still, it feels worth it to me, what with everything else I have going on in life!”

“When I bought this book, I noticed that you also published a book of poetry. Can you tell us a little bit about that?”

“Yes, David. I do indeed dabble in a little poetry. In my youth, I enjoyed penning verses, and I collected some in a notebook. As I became immersed in the blogosphere, I started to become more and more involved in poetry challenges, which opened the poetic floodgates once more. My poetry anthology, Poetic RITUals, started, purely because I thought I would never see a book with my name on the spine, so I thought I would collate some of my verses and self-publish a book. I had even less of a clue about publishing at that time, but I did it! I love writing poetry about life, experiences and current affairs that touch a nerve with me. One of my longer poems was called From Twinkle to Reality, a poem about my journey to become a mother, and overcoming fertility issues. It was penned in ten minutes but held a meaning so deep it became a favourite of mine.”

“Do you think there will be more poetry books in your future?”

“Right now, I haven’t got a plan for a new poetry book. I mean, what with my life, and everything, but never say never!”

“Thanks for joining us today, Ritu and you have our best wishes on hitting those deadlines, on the successful rerelease of Marriage Unarranged and on the success of your future books.”

“Thanks Dan. This was great fun. I better get back so I can feed that cat.”

And if you would like to purchase a copy of Marriage Unarranged, click here!


If you like speculative fiction with suspense, action and a bit of family sarcasm, you will enjoy these books:

Knuckleheads
The Evil You Choose
When Evil Chooses You

Series page on Amazon

My profile page (and books) on Lulu

111 comments

  1. Hey Dan great to see my dear Sis at the bar. A great interview and great to see Cheryl and David joining in.
    I do love Marriage Unarranged and was a beta reader, such a great book!
    Dan you can tell David I have version one and two of Ritu’s book. 😉.
    As always it was a pleasure to visit with you guys 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was a wonderful read and I felt like I was sitting in back of the room…. without my own drink but hey, I didn’t want to disturb.
    Now I am intrigued by the book and might have to break my new self-imposed rule of no more new books for a while!!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I am glad your ramble took a gamble and brought a book into a perfectly good bar. Imagine cerebral speculation in a drinking institution. Just what is this world coming to ? Nice to meet you Ritu. And best of luck with the second go round of your book and the sequels.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Great interview! Ritu, congratulations on being discovered by a good publisher! I look forward to reading your novel! Dan, that underpass mural is very cool. I’m glad they have a place to park and look at it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a great visit to the bar. It was great to learn more about Ritu outside of the Ritu I recognize through blogging. Congratulations on garnering the attention of a publisher and good luck on your upcoming novels!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Your writing buddy looks almost wistful. I think it’s entirely possible she wishes she had a keyboard because of all the thoughtful conversations recently among authors. The Island View Cafe is really quite a remarkable place; I especially approve the way it seems to promote snark. Such a nice literary touch!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What a cute photo of MuMu watching you chase away the squirrel. Bad Dan! Girls just want to have fun! 😆
    Ritu–that must be the most exciting thing when your secondary characters start whispering about what they want to do next. I imagine a lightbulb moment oh, I never even thought of that! So glad to meet you at the bar!
    Another great weekend visit, Dan. Enjoy the weekend. Oh, wait–we’re retired! Every day is a weekend! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • I laugh every time I say “I hope you have a great weekend” to a retiree. The only difference is avoiding shopping the day before and buying enough stuff to make sure I don’t have to go again until after the holiday is past.

      MuMu was not happy about the squirrel. They come up on the porch when we open the door. They’re expecting peanuts, not a cat. I was coming home from my walk, so I tossed it a couple peanuts. Bad Dan!

      Thanks for visiting with us today, Lois.

      Liked by 3 people

    • It is exactly like that, and, well some aren’t exactly quiet, so less whispering, more constant shouting, meaning I have to listen!
      Lovely to meet you, too 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  8. It’s great to see Ritu here and I’ve learned a lot more about her life and her writing. Thanks, Dan, David and Cheryl, and thanks to Ritu for her informative post. Good luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. What a fun day in the bar!! Congrats to you, Ritu, on your publishing deal. Even though self-publishing is much more freeing, it’s kinda nice to have someone else pay the bills for a change. I love what you said about secondary characters whispering to you. No one but a writer could understand that. Thank you, Dan, for hosting Ritu here today! Fabulous!!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Ritu, your book sounds fascinating. I’ve read all M.M. Kaye’s books, including her three book autobiography as well as Rumer and Jan Godden so I have a bit of an idea about India and what was going n. Even though they were white, they all loved India and its people and were involved in the culture. Your book seems like a great read from the other side. Congratulations on scoring a real publisher and on the series.

    Dan, I love that underpass. Arizona has some of the best decorations for underpasses, sound walls, etc. but this is also excellent.

    janet

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks for the terrific time at the bar. It felt like I was there too. I need to buy both Ritu’s book and Dan’s ASAP. My TBR stack is huge, but some thing’s just call out to me. Thanks for sharing your terrific conversation with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Dan and Ritu I’m late to this party, but better late than not at all. Ritu was one of the first bloggers I met in 2016 and I found her through Sally Cronin’s blog. She was writing a lot of poetry back then and I was just starting as a poetry blogger. Gosh, we have evolved a lot over the intervening period. I have read and loved Ritu’s poetry book and her novel and look forward to the next book in the series.

    Liked by 2 people

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