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Please welcome Sonali Dev to our blog today!!  Sonali is a Single Title finalist with her entry “The Bollywood Bad Boy”.    A child bride grows up and finds out she’s married to the wrong man. Unfortunately the right man is her husband’s brother. And he’s only charming the pants off her to help his brother […]

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2013 GH Finalist: Sonali Dev

Posted by on Jun 17 2013, 12:01 am

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sonaliprofile1Please welcome Sonali Dev to our blog today!!  Sonali is a Single Title finalist with her entry “The Bollywood Bad Boy”.   

A child bride grows up and finds out she’s married to the wrong man. Unfortunately the right man is her husband’s brother. And he’s only charming the pants off her to help his brother get rid of her.

My Writing Journey- A Series of Very Fortunate Events.

Ever since I finaled in the Golden Heart and got my book deal with Kensington, the question I get asked most is what my writing journey has been like. And boy do I love that question. Because it makes me feel like such a writer. And although I’ve written and loved to write for as long as I can remember, I still can’t believe that I am a writer and I have a contract to show for it. I even have the black and blue pinch marks to show for how insanely incredulous I am about the fact that my book actually comes out next year. And I will be able to photograph it on bookshelves and post the pictures to Facebook like a for-real-for-real writer.

As for the journey, I’d love to sound all brooding writer and say it’s been long and arduous, but really it’s been crazy fun, and in tracing it back, I see that it has been the perfect little medley of accidents. Starting off with the flu ten years ago, when in a horrific turn of events I ran out of things to read. I mean, what kind of person can be horizontal without a book in their hand? Like the distressed damsel I was, I turned helpless eyes upon my gallant husband and sent him off in his noble Honda to the library. And despite how terrified he is of the fiction section he did what any hero would do, he retrieved the very first book he found on the display shelves and then raced right back home bearing the fruits of his campaign- Catherine Coulter’s Rosehaven. I took one look at it, bared fangs I didn’t possess and went, “You’ve  been married to me for gazillion years and you brought home a ROMANCE??”

Needless to say, I had never until then read a true blue romance. I’d just been a romance-hunter within mainstream fiction. Which is to say when I read, say, My Sister’s Keeper I read all of Campbell and Julia’s parts before I went back and read the rest of the story.

So, after I’d projected the heat of my fever into undeserved wrath and volleyed it at his unsuspecting head for a bit, I opened the dreaded book. And then didn’t put it down until I had consumed the last word, one sleepless night and several heart-to-belly zings later. You know that feeling of coming home after seven days of camping in the cold rain with sand pricking in your every crevice? And taking a hot shower and finding your warm bed? Bingo. I read everything Catherine Coulter had ever written and then discovered Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and on and on it went. I was hooked, lined and sunk.

Even as I consumed romances, I continued to write columns and blogs, and drive myself crazy trying to figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be. In that phase when I was trying to decide between journalism school and an MFA, I got on the phone for my daily chat with my best friend. This was accident number two. It might help to mention that my BFF and I have been BFFs for, well, forever. We grew up in the same apartment building in Mumbai two decades ago and living on two different continents with an eleven hour time difference is no reason to break the habit of a daily chat.

She’s a movie producer (another thing I never ever get tired of saying). She had just completed an award-winning film and she had been reading through an endless supply of scripts that just weren’t exciting her. We’ve both always been film buffs and we both love commercial Bollywood films. After an awfully satisfying whine session about all the sucky films we’d recently watched (at this point I must share that the best part about Bollywood films is that they’re almost as much fun to make fun of as to watch). We wondered, in one of our signature moves of saying things simultaneously, why it was so hard to write a good film. At that moment the light bulb flashing over her head sparked all the way across eight thousand miles as she said, “You should write me a script!”

Instead of laughing it off, I actually had the arrogance to say, “You know, I’ve been reading these books (my newly discovered romances) and reading them is exactly like watching Bollywood films. They have the exact same structure.” (Yup, we’re just fancy enough to pepper our conversations with terms like ‘structure,’ ‘method,’ etcetera.)

That was it. I wrote her a script. It had a hero and a heroine (actually two pairs of them) and they were these gorgeous people at the lowest points in their lives, only they didn’t know it. And they had all these awful things keeping them apart, but the only way to fix these awful things was for them to heal each other and themselves, and then live happily ever after. There was much witty conversation and even some socially relevant issues. I didn’t know it then but I had just written my first romance!

The script never got made into a movie. The three scripts I wrote after that never went anywhere either. But boy were they fun to write. And once I had lived with the characters I had created there was no getting clean from that addiction. There was no more wondering about what kind of writer I wanted to be. I wanted to write stories. And since I had no idea which genre my stories fit into I figured I was writing literary fiction.

My first attempt at a novel was a rather complicated plot of four (yes, four) couples from four strata of Indian society with all sorts of mangled inner and outer worlds. I spent a year chiseling away at my genre-less story trying to make sense of it. I took writing classes, joined critique groups, really got into the whole Starbucks-and-wine writer thing. And then accident number three happened. In the form of Tuberculosis. When your friendly neighborhood TB came a-knocking and locked me up in the house for six weeks of quarantine, I thought, Yay! I can finally finish my book. But with all that coughing up my lungs, I needed something life-affirming, something escapist, something that went straight to my ovaries and made them cramp with hot emotion. I finally, finally, had to write what I loved to read. And I did. For all the trouble I’d had finishing my previous story, The Bollywood Bride, which had been revving in my brain for years, shot from my fingers with a force I couldn’t control. And except for minor hiccups, it didn’t stop until I had typed ‘The End’.

The number of slips and herculean pushes that it then took to spit, shine and sell it, is an entire different blog post. But my first complete manuscript, the one that will finally fulfill my lifelong dream of having a book on the shelves that people not related to me can buy, was the result of not just these but many many random accidents. I believe with all my heart that the universe gives you what you desire. But the trickster that the universe is, you never know which nudge will start the cascade of dominoes. All I can say is that you can help it along with an open mind and the readiness to jump on a bus as it goes by. Where you end up might be exactly where you’ve always wanted to be.

20 responses to “2013 GH Finalist: Sonali Dev”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Woo-hoo, Sonali!! The universe has been conspiring to get you to where you are. Congrats!!

    Can’t wait to read the books!

  2. Jean Willett says:

    Welcome to the Firebirds blog! Thank for sharing such a wonderful story. Your excitement is evident and we love enthusiasm.

    Congratulations on being a Golden Heart finalist and selling. What a year for you to celebrate!!

    Good luck and be sure to stop back and tell us the rest of the story when the book comes out!

    Enjoy the moment and we’ll be cheering you in Atlanta.

  3. oberonwonch says:

    Hi, Sonali! I loved hearing about your writing journey. Like you, it took me a long time to realize that I wanted to write romance. And wow–Coulter’s Rosehaven had a huge impact on me as well. Loved that book.

    Congrats on your GH final AND your contract! Fabulous luck to you with everything.

  4. Sonali Dev says:

    Hi Oberon,

    You just gave me goosebumps! Congrats and Good Luck to you as well!


  5. AE Jones says:

    Sonali –
    How awesome that these ‘accidents’ happened for you! It’s amazing how many of us ‘fell into’ writing romance. I have been writing for as long as I remember, but it wasn’t until a about 4 years ago that I picked up a romance and read it (always thought I was above it – stupid right?). Anyway, my romance had fangs and I was hooked and have been writing paranormal ever since!


    • Sonali Dev says:

      Hi AE, I just ‘devoured’ JR Ward’s entire Black Dagger Brotherhood in just about a month. So, believe me when I say I LOVE paranormal romance. Can’t wait to read yours!


  6. “And they had all these awful things keeping them apart, but the only way to fix these awful things was for them to heal each other and themselves, and then live happily ever after.”

    Sonali, this sentence encapsulates every great romance I have ever read! Thanks for putting it down in plain English for us.

    I’ve read and devoured everyone you mentioned above except CatherineCoulter!! How could I have missed her? I’m going to order Rosehaven right now!!

    I love your enthusiasm and passion–it’s apparent in every word you write and this is just a blog post!!! I think you’re headed to the stars, honey!!

  7. Amy DeLuca says:

    “You know that feeling of coming home after seven days of camping in the cold rain with sand pricking in your every crevice? And taking a hot shower and finding your warm bed?”

    YES!! You nailed it. What a wonderful story. I read constantly from age 5 up until finishing college, then when work and real life piled up, it was harder to make time. I found myself half-heartedly reading all those literary and critically-acclaimed books I was “supposed” to read, taking forever to push myself to finish one. Even after quitting work to stay home with my babies, I read mostly how-to books and little fiction because it just didn’t excite me. Then a few years back I found romance and BOOM! Hot shower, warm bed. Ahhh. And as my lifelong love of reading returned, my lifelong simmering desire to write was reawakened, and I just did it. Thanks for sharing your journey with us– entertaining AND inspiring.

    • Sonali Dev says:

      I love it, Amy. You hit it on the head. So many people read what they’re supposed to, probably explains why so few people read. I do love me some good gut-wrenching literature every once in a while. But my best head travels happen when I escape the real world.
      Can’t wait to see you soon!

  8. India Powers says:

    Thanks, Sonali, for sharing your series of fortunate accidents with us! I loved reading how you fell into writing romance! I’ve read Catherine Coulter, but never Rosehaven. Like Miranda, I’m going to rush off and read it now too!

    I actually grew up reading romances. I’ll never forget being a young teen, walking into the grocery store to buy some Ivory dishwashing liquid and finding a free Harlequin Presents book attached. That was one brilliant promotion, because it hooked me on romances for life! The book that hooked me? Anne Mather’s No Gentle Possession. I still have it. 🙂

  9. Sandra Owens says:


    I believe sometimes things are meant to happen in a certain way at a certain time to achieve a certain result. Your journey to becoming an author is a great story and sounds like things happened for you exactly the way they were supposed to.

    Congratulations on your sale to Kensington, and I know we’ll be seeing many books with your name on the cover. 🙂

    • Joanne Lockyer says:

      Oh! I am ditto to both of you on that (certain way, certain time, certain result). Loved reading your story Sonali!

  10. Sharon Wray says:

    HI Sonali,
    What a wonderful story. I’m so glad everything worked out they way they were supposed to and that you ended up as a Lucky 13 and at Kensington (with a few of my other GH sisters!).

    I too started writing after a long illness, then my father’s terminal illness. And after going through everything in the house, I found a romance in the CVS pharmacy while waiting for a prescription to be filled. It was a Suzanne Brockmann and I’ve been hooked on romantic suspense ever since!

  11. Chris Taylor says:

    I must admit, I’ve ALWAYS loved reading romance stories. Even as a twelve year old, I remember sneaking Silhouette Desire romances into my library bag and praying my mother wouldn’t find them amongst my other more appropriate books.

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Sonali. It was great to get to know you a little better.

    See you in Atlanta!

  12. Kay Hudson says:

    What a story, Sonali! Once in a while I wish someone would lock me up for six weeks, but I’d probably catch up on reading (and/or sleeping) instead of writing. I am so looking forward to reading your Bollywood stories, and to seeing you in Atlanta.

  13. Sonali,
    What a wonderful journey you’ve had. It must make your best friend feel so invested in your career to have been there for accident #1. 🙂
    You must be a believer in The Secret. Whether it was during sickness or not, the universe gave you what you believed you could achieve, what you wanted.
    Good for you!
    Your book sounds awesome. No wonder it was snatched up lickety-split. 🙂
    Good luck to you, my Lucky 13 sister! Can’t wait to see your book on the shelves.

  14. Nikki McIntosh says:

    Sonali … love the idea for your book! I read the book The Alchemist and it’s kinda the same thing … the Universe is listening. Always loved that story …

    Thanks for being here today!!!!

  15. Leslie Lynch says:

    Wow, Sonali! Talk about blessings in disguise! Who would ever think that getting TB could focus your life’s work in such a way?!! That sounds like a golden lining to a cloud, not just a silver one. 🙂

    I picked up my first romance novel nearly twenty years ago, and I will admit to having felt ‘above’ them. In the years since, I tried really hard to be impressed with Oprah’s Book Club books, but after the second or third terribly depressing one, I quit those and went back to romance. And am much happier!

    Looking forward to meeting you in Atlanta!


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