Today I want to welcome Nillu Nasser. Nillu is introducing her book All the Tomorrows and telling us about her love for the Other Woman.
All the Tomorrows, to be released on 6 November 2017 by Evolved Publishing, tells the story of newlyweds Jaya and Akash in Mumbai, India. The novel is about second chances, the weight of tradition and gender, and the line between happiness and selfishness. It will appeal to readers of literary fiction, those who like foreign travel and family sagas.
Sometimes we can’t escape the webs we are born into. Sometimes we are the architects of our own fall.
Akash Choudry wants a love for all time, not an arranged marriage. Still, under the weight of parental hopes, he agrees to one. He and Jaya marry in a cloud of colour and spice in Bombay. Their marriage has barely begun when Akash embarks on an affair.
Jaya cannot contemplate sharing her husband with another woman, or looking past his indiscretions as her mother suggests. Cornered by sexual politics, she takes her fate into her own hands in the form of a lit match.
Nothing endures fire. As shards of their past threaten their future, will Jaya ever bloom into the woman she can be, and will redemption be within Akash’s reach?
My Love for the Other Woman
All the Tomorrows is written mostly from the perspective of newlyweds Jaya and Akash. It’s their story most of all, but there’s another character who gets a scene from her own perspective once or twice, and that’s Soraya, the other woman.
I fell in love with Soraya as I was writing her, although I didn’t at first want to feel sympathy for her. She is tough and uncompromising. I saw her as a cold beauty, full of pride, but by the end of the novel, I realised this was a woman who embodies freedom in a culture which can be restrictive for women. She holds her head up high although she has made mistakes, and I love that about her.
I had a couple of conversations about Soraya with my editor. We discussed whether the structure of the novel – predominantly dual narrative – left room for Soraya’s point of view. Her scenes are jarring, but for me, that is precisely the point. I wanted readers to see how the story wasn’t just about Jaya and Akash. It is about how our choices can explode, and spiral out, and have an impact on all those around us.
What is more, for me, the scenes from Soraya’s point of view show such strength. She is preoccupied with living, not with how a man might make her feel. She’s probably my most ambiguous character. She’s a mix of privilege, selfish choices and bravery. The other woman is often blamed and ostracised, both in everyday culture and in literature. Part of me thinks she’d be let off the hook more if she was a man. It’s going to be interesting finding out if readers warm to her as I did.
I want the same for my female characters as I do for the male ones. They don’t have to be strong in the traditional sense of the word. I want characters with agency, who make decisions that drive the plot. I want nuance rather than stereotypes, female characters who embrace their sexuality but are not enslaved by it. I want to see flaws and authenticity not cardboard cut-outs, for them to have their own story arcs even if they are not the protagonist.
When I set out to write All the Tomorrows, the question I asked myself is can a literary novel with romantic elements, set in India featuring a male protagonist, be a vehicle for strong female characters? I hope the answer is yes, and that you’ll grab a copy to find out.
The two women walked down the winding staircase, leaving the cool air-conditioned house for the sticky heat outside. A light breeze played with the hem of their salwar kameez as they meandered through the landscaped gardens towards the vibrant blue swimming pool. Soraya sat on deck chair and Muna followed suit, kicking off her sandals and pulling her legs up onto the freshly-washed cushion.
Soraya’s face clouded with thought. “My father sent me away to an aunt when he discovered I was pregnant. He was angry at first, my mother too. She came from a more traditional family, you see, and it wasn’t the future she envisaged for me. But when you have only two daughters, you fight harder for them than if there is a son to take all the glory. And my father…Indira Gandhi had swept into government again on a wave of popularity…it gave him hope. She was strong and determined and unafraid, and he wanted that for me.”
“I can see that. A woman in the top job. India dominated South Asia under Indiraji. It’s impressive,” said Muna.
“Oh, she had a dark side, Muna, but don’t we all? The tragic glamour of that family means their flaws come under less scrutiny. But, who said women have to be good? Who said we have to be full of light and laughter? We are only human.”
Nillu is giving away two e-books of All the Tomorrows to readers who subscribe to her newsletter (http://nillunasser.com/mailing-list/) and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org guessing how many times the word ‘mango’ appears in her novel. The closest two guesses will receive a mobi or epub of the novel. Winners will be announced in the comments on 6 November.
Nillu Nasser is a writer of literary fiction novels. She also blogs, writes short fiction and poetry.
Nillu’s short story ‘Painted Truths and Prayer Beads’ was published in May 2016 in Mosaics 2: A Collection of Independent Women. Another short story ‘The Tombstone Man and the Coming of the Tigress’ was published in June 2016 in UnCommon Origins, an anthology of short fiction. In 2017, ‘Tombstone Man’ reappeared in UnCommonly Good.
Nillu has a BA in English and German Literature and an MA in European Politics. After graduating she worked in national and regional politics, but eventually reverted to her first love.
She lives in London with her husband, three children, one angelic and one demonic cat, though she secretly yearns for a dog. If you fly into Gatwick and look hard enough, you will see her furiously scribbling in her garden office, where she is working on her next story.
Nillu’s first novel, All the Tomorrows, is due to be published by Evolved Publishing in November 2017. Her second novel, Hidden Colours, is due to be released in late Autumn 2018. To find out more about Nillu and get the juice on her latest books, read her blog, send her a tweet or sign up for her newsletter at www.NilluNasser.com.
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