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Interview with Author Sara Desai


Sara Desai is a published author residing in Vancouver Island with her husband and three daughters. Her romantic comedy novels include The Marriage Plan, The Dating Plan and The Singles Table (coming Nov. 2021).


We had the honor of having Sara as a guest on our podcast, where we got to pick her brain a little bit about The Dating Plan and her inspiration behind the book and it's characters. Read the interview below or listen to it here.



M:

Sara, thank you so much for coming on the podcast with us.


S:

Oh, thanks very much for having me.


M:

To start, tell us a little about where you're from and just a little bio about you.


S:

Okay, I live on Vancouver Island in BC [British Coumbia]. So we've already got our spring here, we have our daffodils up and our snow drops. We had our one day of snow so that was very exciting. I've been writing for quite a while, I used to write under a different pen name. I wrote more racy, suspense type, gritty books. I wanted to be able to take my sort of heritage with moving into something lighter and fun. So I started writing romantic comedy as Sara Desai and it's been super fun, I've been really enjoying it.


M:

So I read that you used to be a lawyer, a radio DJ, a bouncer, all kinds of things. So tell us how you kind of transitioned from that into writing and why you got into writing.


S:

Before I started writing seriously, I'd always been writing, but before I started writing seriously I was a lawyer and I had been working in England and London, and we moved back to Canada. I was going to go back to being a lawyer, but I got ill and it took me a long time to recover. While I was recovering my husband said, "well you know you've always wanted to write a book, why don't you do that? Because you can't go back to work right now." So I thought, oh everybody said you write what you know, so I knew law, and I loved romance, so I thought 'oh I'll put those two things together.' So I wrote a romantic legal thriller, and it turned out - I entered it into a whole bunch of RWA contests and it did really well. I got an agent, I got a contract, then I got another contract and I thought 'oh, I'm not going back to law'.


M:

You mentioned that you used to write gritty thrillers, do you think you'll ever write a different genre than romantic comedy, what you're writing now?


S:

Well, I did sort of go through, I did suspense, I wrote about bikers and MMA fighters, the mafia, um, I did one series that had cops and lawyers and stuff, so I've sorta been through all of those. I haven't done any historical romance....


M:

Okay, yeah, I read that you used to be a historian, so.


S:

Yeah, yeah. But I really love romantic comedies, I think they're fun, light and you know it's very uplifting so I'm really enjoying that right now.


M:

Yeah, we came off of This Close to Okay, is the first book we read, which is really deep and emotional. Switching from that to The Dating Plan was really uplifting and kind of a light switch for us. So we're glad that we chose this one.


So, what genre do you prefer to read?


S:

Oh, I stay in romance, I mostly read romance. I have a friend who, she's been my friend since grade 4, And every year she sends me, at Christmas, a book that she's read during the year that she loved and I send her one. So, she's the one who always gets me out of romance.


M:

I love that idea! That's neat.


A:

Absolutely, gives you a little inspiration.


S:

Yeah, so she always picks, like one was a Pulitzer prize winner, or one that just really resonated with her. So, other than romance, I'll read her books, but I stick with romance.


M:

One thing that's really important in your books is the multicultural aspect. Why do you choose that as a staple point in The Marriage Plan and The Dating Plan?


S:

Well, because it's half my heritage. And it's something that - you know when I was growing up, there weren't a lot of books with Indian heroins in them, or you know people where the culture was reflected in there where I could read them and say 'Oh those are like my aunties, or you know I had a meal like that, or you know something really authentic.' And it seemed that things in the romance genre were moving ahead, and people were being more open to own voices types of books, and I thought it was a great opportunity to let those voices be heard.


A:

Yeah, I loved reading it because it's so different from anything that I grew up with. You know, my family is all from Ireland and Britain, and so I related to the Irish heritage in the book, but learning about a whole new culture, it was really interesting. So I loved that aspect of your novel.


M:

Yeah, and we talk about recipes a lot on here too, so we loved the recipe and food aspect in there as well.


S:

There's a funny story about that, because I didn't want to put anything in the book that my family hadn't tried. Some of those are just very traditional and favorite recipes and food that people eat, but I thought you know, I have to make sure if I'm doing a description of how they were cooked or how they tasted, so my family had to try a lot of recipes. And some of them worked and some of them didn't.


M:

I want to talk about the cover a little bit, really all of your covers, The Marriage Plan and The Dating Plan, they're so bright and beautiful. Take us through the process of kind of designing the covers and where you get the ideas from.


S:

Oh, I wish I could take credit for the covers, but it's the design team at Berkley. They made the covers, they came up with the concepts and they just did such an amazing job. They sent me a cover to say 'what do you think?' And I was just like do I have any changes? NO.


M:

It's beautiful. I mean they're all so bright and pretty, it's just very eye-catching.


A:

I like it a lot. I'm actually going to take us a little bit into the questions about the book. So, what is your writing process like? Can you talk to us a little about how you get your ideas for your books, what is your biggest inspiration for them?


S:

Um, I think you just sorta live your life and you have a lot of experiences, and all those things sort of settle over you like a blanket and you sit down and they come out in little bits and pieces of them come out when you're writing. There's always a little bit of fact behind every scene or a comment that somebody has made, and I think that's how it comes out for me.


I'm not a plotter, I cannot plot a novel from beginning to end and then sit down and write it. I'm the kind of person who sits down at the computer and I start to write. I always have an idea of the kind of characters that I want, especially in romance, the characters drive the story so you do have to know who those people are. So I will sit down and sort of make a sketch of these characters, and then I'll sit down and I'll put them in different situations to see how they react and sometimes they don't react well, and that tells me I missed something in their character or I'm not being authentic to them. So that's how it usually goes for me. I usually don't know how the book is going to end until I get there.


A:

How does that process fit into The Dating Plan, so what was your biggest inspiration for The Dating Plan and how did you come up with the idea behind it?


S:

I've got a daughter who's in high school, she's very interested in stem and in becoming a software engineer. So I started researching that with her, you know so we understood, and I thought well, there's not a lot of stem heroins out there, I would love to have my character be in this industry and it's mostly a male dominated industry, and what's she going to be like if she's in there. And I sort of built her character around that.


I wanted a character for her, someone who was very different, someone who was opposite to her. And I felt like the way that they would get together, they had to know each other before, they had to know that they shared something in common. So that's why I decided that he should be her brother's best friend, someone she had grown up with and had that connection. So that, otherwise, I felt that it might not be an authentic connection between them, they were two people who might not otherwise get together, but they did truly know each other, I just had to bring them back together.


A:

I loved all of the scenes of her being, you know, the stem student and the not your typical heroin and then taking her and putting her in a tech conference. So you know, I loved seeing her in real life situations like that.

Where did [Daisy's] quirkiness come from? You know, her Marvel underwear, and her, I think it was the Hulk bra, and everything. What were your inspirations behind that sort of thing?


S:

I was just on the internet. I knew I wanted her to be a big Marvel fan, my daughters a big Marvel fan, you know, we have the figurines everywhere, we've seen all the movies. So I knew a lot about it, and I was just sort of going through the internet and I came across the underwear and I just thought 'you would have to be a true fan to be wearing this underwear.' So you know, I thought I wanted her to have it.


A:

Another thing we really enjoyed about Daisy's character is the company that she worked for, Organicare, was there a specific company you were basing it off or can you tell us a just little bit about her company and building that.


S:

I wanted her, because she was in a male dominated industry doing something that, you know, women are getting into that field, but I wanted to bring something that was very female-eccentric into the company that she was working for. I wanted it to be very forward thinking, I wanted it to be about women and that one seemed to fit.


M:

I specifically loved, you know, as you say, it is definitely a male dominated company as we can see, but when they pitch the unicorns and rainbows campaign they want to run, and she's like this just isn't it. That's not how we feel. I loved that, and I loved that they took her serious and offered her a promotion after that.


A:

Absolutely, it was super relatable, because I remember even in college being in business classes, you know getting paired up with a group of men, and feeling like my opinions weren't heard or they thought it was too girly or something - you know, unicorns and rainbows. So, I just loved seeing her in different industries like that.


I especially liked all of the people she worked with, her co-workers. Can you tell us about building side characters and what the writing process looks like when creating a main character or creating side characters?


S:

I wanted side characters that she could sort of bounce ideas off, somebody that would support her in different ways, but also open her up. Her character at the beginning, she's got her family and she's very close with her family, but at work she's quite isolated, she puts herself in the corner, she puts on her headphones. I needed to give her some characters who would drawl her out, because she's a very giving person.


You know, each character had sort of a need that she was able to fill, she as able to help one of her side characters with her childcare, she was able to help another one with another issue. So it was a way for her to be drawn out of her little corner, and take off the headphones and work with the people around her and integrate with them. In the end I did know I wanted her to be leading the company and to do that you need to know the people and you need to be involved. So, I created those characters just to do that for her.


A:

If you could pick any character in the whole book, who do you think you would be best friends with in real life?


S:

*laughs* I would like to be friends with Liam. I really enjoyed him.


M:

Me too! Be best friends, maybe date, I don't know. I love the bad boy, the leather jacket, I just loved it all. And I loved that they're polar opposites, it just made so much sense to me.

And a lot of the reviews I read on Goodreads too, they not only loved Daisy and Liam's character but the side characters as well. I saw a lot of very positive reviews about how the side characters really brought it all together.


A:

And speaking of Liam's character, I loved the scene where you wrote about them taking the motorcycle trip down the coast and stopping at every place that he loved. I could see it happening and I thought it was such a great way to show his character and who he was before, when he came back into Daisy's life.


I know that some people were confused about how the conflict for Daisy and Liam, it all originated back into high school. So can you tell us when did you decide to make her conflict about prom night, because you know, some people think prom night is this huge monumental thing, and then some people can't really relate to it, it might just be with a group of friends. Tell us a little about creating that conflict for the story.


S:

She needed to have some conflict, some way to break with Liam. And I didn't think that it was going to be enough that he just left. You know, that was a big break for her brother, because they were best friends. But, she didn't have the same kind of relationship with him and so it had to be something that would really wound her and drive her forward and make it difficult for her to get back together. And because she was a bit geeky in her high school, she wasn't that popular, she was very much her own self, but apart from the rest of the school, just like she was when she was at her work, right? A little bit separate and different, and so for her to have, first of all, the guy she had the hugest crush on ask her to go. That she would even have a date for the prom, thinking that she would be the kind of person who wouldn't have a date for the prom. I thought those two things would make it a very important time for her and something she was super excited about and that she would get very hurt if he wasn't there.


A:

Me and Madison were actually talking in the first discussion a lot about how it's such a relatable topic, you know, growing up and having a crush on your older brother's best friend or going over to friend's houses and having a crush on the older guy, so I definitely think it resonates with a lot of people, being left like that. Is there any other comments you want to talk about before we move into our closing questions, about The Dating Plan, or any of the characters or the writing process?


S:

The motorcycle that he drives, my husband has had quite a number of motorcycles over the years, and the one that she is riding on is one of his, and I had never ridden on the back of a more uncomfortable pillion seat, that was so uncomfortable. And the process, that was very personal, the process of, you know, I'm sitting there thinking 'this is awful. What do people say about this pillion seat?' So I went online and I saw those pictures that I put in the book, of this beautiful woman perched on the seat, and her hair is blowing in the wind. I was, you know, clawing onto him, and we were bumping up and down and it was just a painful ride. So I thought I had to put that in the book.


A:

That makes sense why I could see it, you knew exactly how to describe it. Well, we thoroughly enjoyed reading The Dating Plan, we picked it for our February month to be kind of like a Valentine's Day, a fun romance comedy.

I see that you also have a new book coming out, The Singles Table, what do you want our listeners to know about the book, when it's coming out, what's it about, all the details.


S:

Oh, it's coming out November 16th of this year. It's sort of a grumpy military hero and sunshiny character pairing. And um, what else can I tell you? *laughs* It's still in progress. But it's really fun, they're very different, very different characters, but I'm really loving the heroin in this book, she's just a really fun, positive, optimistic person and she's going to drawl out this really grumpy guy and change his life.


M:

So, what's the most rewarding part of being a published author?


S:

I love the idea of having a story that brightens people day, or you know, uplifts somebody. I really enjoy that aspect when I get emails from people saying, I love this story, I was having a terrible week or something and I picked it up and it made me feel great. That is very rewarding.


M:

So, I saw on your website that you're a fan of nachos. I think we all are, everybody should be. One thing we do is we like to share some recipes, is there a family recipe or any kind of recipe that you make often that you would like to share?


S:

*laughs* That's kind of hard off the top. Well, I've got three girls, and they're favorite dessert which we make quite often, it's a chocolate cream trifold. So, it's got a layer of chocolate cake, then a layer of chocolate pudding, then a layer of whipped cream, and then a layer of crushed Oreo cookies, and then we repeat it. Then we cover the top with flakes of chocolate.


M:

See, we always save the recipes for last because we know we're going to be so hungry afterwards.


Thank you so much Sara, we loved interviewing you, you're our first guest, so we hope it wasn't too bad for you. *laughs*


S:

No it was super fun! Thank you very much.

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