By Katherine Valdez
Sandhya Menon started writing when she was “really little.”
“I would write on my mom’s cabinets, the floor, my jeans,” she told the audience at Old Firehouse Books on July 13, where she was promoting her New York Times bestselling debut novel, When Dimple Met Rishi.
“My mom realized, ‘Oh. I can just buy her a notebook.’ ”
Later, when Sandhya was older, her parents wanted her to become a doctor. She chose psychology and continued writing, eventually self-publishing books in various genres that were “decently successful.” A literary agent downloaded her one contemporary novel and contacted her to see if she’d written any others in that genre.
Fast forward to today, and Sandhya has just returned home to Colorado from her book tour for When Dimple Met Rishi, a young adult romantic comedy based on Sandhya’s experiences. It follows two Indian-American teenagers whose parents conspire to arrange their marriage.
Arranged marriage is not what you think, she said. It’s not about pairing a young girl with a man 40 years older. Parents in her community – she moved to the U.S. from India when she was 15 years old – try to match their children according to age, personalities, and interests.
“I wanted to show a more positive portrayal of arranged marriage,” she said with a smile. “It’s not creepy at all. I promise.”
Sandhya didn’t have an arranged marriage herself. Her husband is “a white boy from the South.” They and their two children moved to Colorado from Charleston, South Carolina a couple of years ago. (“It’s not as hot here, and people don’t say y’all as much,” she joked. “We love it. We’re staying.”)
The novel’s humor comes from her love of Bollywood movies and rom-coms such as You’ve Got Mail, which she said explains her penchant for breaking out into song and dance, and her love of happy endings.
Sandhya answered audience questions about her writing routine: she’s a “plotter” who works from an outline, and usually writes 2,000 words a day, five days a week. But she said it’s important to take breaks so you can return to writing “fuller and fresher.” She also discussed her second book, From Twinkle With Love, about an aspiring filmmaker; it’s scheduled to be published next year.
Once her debut novel hit the New York Times Bestseller list, her publisher and agent said she’d have to choose one profession. At the time, she was working toward her Ph.D in psychology.
The decision was a no-brainer:
“I actually like writing way more than anything else.”
Katherine Valdez also loves rom-coms and happily-ever-afters. Some of her favorites are 50 First Dates, Music and Lyrics, and Warm Bodies (a zombie rom-com). Follow her at Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, and Medium.
Bonus fact: Sandhya had never visited San Francisco (featured in When Dimple Met Rishi) until her book tour. She used Google to research the city.