One of my previous guests, Sonia Saikaley, shared Anita’s latest novel – Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters - on her Facebook pages, with high praise. I was impressed with both the great cover and the story. I've recently started to read this story and I'm captivated.
Her earlier novel - Side by Side - has received the silver medal from The Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2019
Sonia kindly introduced us and Anita has graciously agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an Excerpt from her novel.
Anita Kushwaha grew up in Aylmer, Quebec. Her road to publication included a fulfilling career in academia, where she studied human geography at Carleton University and earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers creative writing program, her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Quill and Quire, The 49th Shelf, Open Book, Word on the Street, and Canadian Living among others. Her first novel, Side by Side, won an Independent Publisher Book Awards' Silver Medal for Multicultural Fiction in 2019. She is also the author of a novella, The Escape Artist. Her latest novel, Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, released in January 2020 by HarperCollins Canada, was named a “Books With Buzz” by Canadian Living, chosen as Word on the Street’s March Book of the Month, and a Most-Anticipated Spring Fiction selection by The 49th Shelf and Savvymomdotca. She lives in Ottawa.
4Q: Please tell us about Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters. It looks like a must-read.
AK: I appreciate that, thank you, Allan! And thank you for hosting me on your blog, I’m honoured!
Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is a mother-daughter story told in alternating timelines, that of Asha and Mala. The story begins with the revelation that Asha’s parents have kept the truth about her adoption a secret for her entire life. But why? As Asha is thrust on a journey of self-discovery, the reader is introduced to Mala, and the choices and secrets that end up shaping both their lives. More broadly, the book is about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together, and the secrets that tear them apart, and the particular social and cultural pressures faced by the South Asian characters in the novel.
4Q: This is your second novel. I detect from the descriptions of the books that a common thread is family. Is this so? Is family important to you?
AK: Family is definitely important to me. It’s where I’ve learned the most about life and people. But it’s also complicated. I think especially when you come from a broken home, family can be a source of pain as much or even more so than it is a source of joy, which is unfortunate but happens to so many of us, and can have far-reaching impacts in our lives. I write about the things I’m still desperately trying to understand. For me, it starts with family. Why we treat each other the way we do, what gets in the way of people being good to each other, the impacts of expectation and silence – these are some of the topics I keep wondering about and exploring in my writing, among others such as immigrant experiences, the lives of South Asian women, and mental health.
4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
AK: I did this below, keep reading!
4Q: If you were to write a biography of anyone, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
AK: Definitely my grandparents. I never got to meet them.
4Q: What are you writing habits and where is the special place where the words flow most freely?
AK: I’m the type of person who likes to feel productive every day and who also loves structure. I suppose my approach to the day is my habit. A typical writing day starts early with a cup of tea. I try my best to stay away from social media until I’ve gotten a couple of solid hours done. Then I usually like to go for a run or a walk. After lunch, I’ll either write for a couple more hours or review what I wrote earlier in the day. Not glamorous, but it gets things done. In terms of where I write, I like to give myself the ability to wander, but having said that, I do most of my writing at our beautiful handmade dinning room table, mostly likely in the company of our cat, Noodles.
4Q; When did you experience that defining moment when you knew you wanted to… needed to… write.
AK: I think for me it was always more organic. I was playing make-believe and telling stories long before I could read or write, and often got into trouble for it, which is something I have in common with my protagonist in The Escape Artist. Next came a fascination with constructing my own books and journals out of old cereal boxes and envelopes. I always loved the feel of books, and still feel delighted when I pick up a new book or journal, anticipating what I’ll discover inside, and what it will reveal about myself. Having said that, a defining moment for me goes back to when I was nine years old, the day that I took one of the poems I had been working on from my journal and writing it on the back of my bedroom door with a Sharpie (I didn’t know what indelible meant at the time, ha), underneath a poster of a band that shall not be named. 😉 That was the day that I knew I wanted to share my work with others, but the memory is also quite indicative of how challenging it is for me to make myself vulnerable and put myself out there. Classic introvert.
4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
AK: Thanks for the opportunity. Well, this is such a challenging time for us all with the advent of COVID-19. As an author, it’s also been quite disheartening to have the events that I was relying upon to give the book a boost either cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Many of my writer friends are in the same boat. After years and years of work to birth our art, and all the hurdles one must jump to become a traditionally published author, this wasn’t the debut we were expecting. I’ve been trying to support my fellow authors and indie bookstores online. I’m hoping that people will turn to books for community and connection during these trying times. There’s a lot readers can do, from purchasing books, to posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, to engaging with authors online, or helping spread word of mouth on platforms like Twitter, FB, and IG. I’m hoping we’re able to help each other weather the storm together.
Thank you again for having me, Allan, and I hope we all keep safe and healthy!
An Excerpt from Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)
For readers of Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s "Secret Daughter" and Nancy Richler’s "The Imposter Bride," a breathtaking novel from Anita Kushwaha about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together and the secrets that tear them apart.
Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—when the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly to Asha, the young woman on the cusp of adulthood who links them together.
On the day after her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness, leaving Asha with only a letter.
Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.
Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.
Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life. Three mothers, bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all.
Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.
HarperCollins Canada: http://bit.ly/2rGoHcm
Amazon Canada: https://amzn.to/2OHMx0m
Indie Bound: http://bit.ly/2OSSHuV
Other novels by Anita.
Side by Side (novel)
Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found. Her world is devastated. She finds herself in crisis mode, trying to keep the pieces of her life from falling apart even more. As she tries to cope with her loss, the support system around her begins to unravel. Her parents’ uneasy marriage seems more precarious. Her health is failing as her unprocessed trauma develops into more sinister conditions. Her marriage suffers as her husband is unable to relate to her loss. She bears her burden alone, but after hitting her lowest point, she knows she needs to find a better way of coping. Desperate for connection, she reaches out to a bereavement group, where she meets Hawthorn, a free-spirited young man with whom she discovers a deep connection through pain. After being blindsided by a devastating marital betrayal, she wonders if a fresh start is possible in the wake of tragedy. Will she escape her problems and start over? Or will she face the challenges of rebuilding the life she already has? Side by Side is a story about loss, growth and the search for meaning in the wake of tragedy, illuminated through one woman’s journey from harm to care.
Publisher: Inanna Publications and Education Inc.
The Escape Artist (novella)
The Escape Artist is the story of Nisha, a nine-year-old Indian-Canadian girl whose vivid imagination keeps her entertained in the loneliness she experiences as an only child and one of the few children in her neighbourhood. After her grandmother dies, her aunt Neela comes to live with Nisha and her parents. Neela suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder after having witnessed the death of her father when she was a girl. Neela and Nisha bond over their active imaginations, dreaming up adventures together in the room Neela all but refuses to leave – until an unexpected emergency.
Publisher: Quattro Books, May 2015
Thank you, Anita for taking the time to share your thoughts. All the best in your writing journey.
For you readers, wanting to discover more about Anita and her writing. Please follow these links: