Please welcome our guest Monica Bhide whose first novel Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken released earlier this year! Monica’s work has appeared in Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Saveur, The Washington Post, Health, The New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, AARP The Magazine, Parents, and many others. Her books have been published by Simon & Schuster and Random House (India). The Chicago Tribune named Bhide one of the seven food writers to watch in 2012. In April 2012, Mashable.com picked her as one of the top ten food writers on Twitter. Connect with her there and on Facebook.
***Monica has generously offered to give one lucky commenter a signed copy of her novel Karma and the Art of Butter Chicken! To be entered in the contest, please leave a comment and we will select a winner at random.***
Creating Authenticity from Estate Sale Treasures
Disclaimer: I have not revealed any personal information here or in my book from any materials I found. Even the words in the letters mentioned below have been altered a bit to respect people’s privacy.
One of the things I always look for as a writer is inspiration to create an authentic sense of place, time, and character.
My most recent book, my debut novel, released earlier this year. That book is set in a monastery in Delhi, and for that I traveled to Delhi and was able to go to several monasteries and talk to many monks. While this endeavor cost time and money, it was doable since monasteries are public places and I could go inside and ask questions quite freely.
My current novel is based in Washington, DC, and the suburbs of northern Virginia, where I live. I am currently working on creating characters who were born and grew up in this area. I have lived here for many years and know much of the area well, but the locations I selected for my book aren’t those I am familiar with. (This was deliberate, to force myself to learn new things.) I was really struggling with trying to get a deep sense of what it must have been like for families living here in, say, the 1960s through now. I did not want to use Google or the libraries – I was looking for something more firsthand. I wanted to find a different way.
Of course, one easy way was to talk to people who live in the places I was focused on. So I began to visit the areas regularly and talk to owners of stores, people walking their dogs, and so on. Then, quite by chance, I was invited by a friend to an estate sale in one of my places of interest. Visiting the house where the estate sale was being held, I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I found amazing things in the house: old letters dating back to the 1920s, beautiful postcards from that time that the person had collected. The house and its contents revealed so many stories.
Here is what I learned from visits to various estate sales as ways to create an authentic sense of time, place, and person. [Read more…]