In honour of the RNA’s 60th Anniversary we’re interviewing some of the many volunteers who work hard behind the scenes to keep the organisation, website and blog running smoothly. Today, Rhoda Baxter, the website coordinator is in the Hot Seat. Rhoda looks after the day to day updating of things, like the news feed, events pages and policy documents. Rhoda is talking to us today about her latest novel, A Convenient Marriage.
What was the inspiration behind your book? Can you tell us a little about it?
I write under two names – rom coms as Rhoda Baxter and women’s fiction as Jeevani Charika. My latest book is a Jeevani Charika one. A Convenient Marriage is about two Sri Lankan Brits – a gay man and a straight woman – who get married just to get their families off their backs. It’s also about love and friendship.
It was inspired by the conflation of a few things. A story I heard about a man who was afraid to come out as gay because he thought he might lose access to his kid; a woman who felt she had to get married because she was tired of being pitied by her family; the presistence of the idea that mental illness and being capable were somehow mutually exclusive… all of these things melded together and became the idea behind A Convenient Marriage.
How did you decide on the names for your characters and the setting for your book?
Gimhana showed up fully formed in my head and pretty much told me his name. Gimhana means ‘springtime’. Chaya took a while to name. She was originally called Maya (meaning ‘illusion’), which worked pretty well for her character, but then I kept reading books with characters called Maya and I realised it was a go to name for Asian characters because it was easy to pronounce and familiar to a Western reader. So I changed her name a little to be Chaya (meaning ‘images’).
The setting came out of the story. I decided to use locations that I already knew in real life, so that I was less likely to get them wrong. The story moves from Oxford to Colombo to London.
What is your writing day like?
It’s pretty much like a normal day, really. I get the kids off to school, have breakfast, pootle around doing chores, because nothing screams authorly glamour like cleaning toilets and sorting the laundry. Then I try and write for an hour or so. The rest of the day gets frittered away doing bits for the day job (think of the money, think of the money) and various bits of admin, until the kids come home. At the end of the day, once the youngest is in bed, I pull out my laptop and get another hour or two done. To be honest, I’ve used those 2 hours post bed time to write for so long that I find the words come most easily at that time.
Who were your favourite childhood authors?
I loved Enid Blyton. I read everything I could get my hands on. I also loved the Teddy Robinson books by Joan G Robinson – they were stories about a bear and his friend. I read them again a few years ago when my daughter was the right age and they’re still wonderful. The Milly Molly Mandy books are similarly lovely. As an early teen, I read Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Doolittle and Willard Price’s ‘Adventure’ books (starring the brothers Will and Roger Hunt). I loved them at the time, but reading them more recently, I found that the racism in them was really hard going. It didn’t even register when I read them as a child!
If you could give your younger writing self any advice, what would it be?
It’ll happen. I know it seems like writing a book or having a writing career is impossibly far away, but it will happen. You might have to change tack a few times, but don’t give up. Oh, and always get your contracts checked by the Society of Authors (or Alli).
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Don’t worry about making it perfect. Just get it written. You can always edit it later.
Can you tell us what you are working on now?
I’m just finishing a Rhoda Baxter novella – a rom com about a small town heroine, who goes abroad (to France) for the first time and starts to see her life from a different perspective. It’s very different from A Convenient Marriage, which is deeply emotional women’s fiction. I like alternating between the two sorts of books because they stop me feeling trapped in one or other sub genre.
Thank you for talking to us today, Rhoda.
You can buy A Convenient Marriage here:
Rhoda Baxter writes light hearted romantic comedies about sharp women and nice guy heroes. She especially likes it when they make her laugh.
Her books have been shortlisted for the RoNA awards, the Love Stories awards and the Joan Hessayon award. She is a member of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.
She also writes multicultural women’s fiction under the name Jeevani Charika.
She loves all things science geeky. She also loves cake, crochet and playing with Lego. You can find out more about her (and get a free story by signing up to her newsletter) on her website, www.rhodabaxter.com.
You can find out more about Rhoda/Jeevani here:
Bookbub profile link: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rhoda-baxter
Facebook page: https://en-gb.facebook.com/RhodaBaxterAuthor/