Saturday, June 18, 2016

Interview with Amulya Malladi, Author of A House for Happy Mothers + Giveaway (US/Can only)

I'd like to welcome Amulya Malladi to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of A House for Happy Mothers from Lake Union!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Amulya! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Amulya Malladi is the author of six novels, including The Sound of Language and The Mango Season. Her books have been translated into several languages, including Dutch, German, Spanish, Danish, Romanian, Serbian, and Tamil. She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in journalism. When she’s not writing, she works as a marketing executive for a global medical device company. She lives in Copenhagen with her husband and two children.

It's my pleasure! It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves in paperback earlier this month:

A stunning new novel—full of wit and warmth—from the bestselling author of The Mango Season.

In trendy Silicon Valley, Priya has everything she needs—a loving husband, a career, and a home—but the one thing she wants most is the child she’s unable to have. In a Southern Indian village, Asha doesn’t have much—raising two children in a tiny hut, she and her husband can barely keep a tin roof over their heads—but she wants a better education for her gifted son. Pressured by her family, Asha reluctantly checks into the Happy Mothers House: a baby farm where she can rent her only asset—her womb—to a childless couple overseas. To the dismay of friends and family, Priya places her faith in a woman she’s never met to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Together, the two women discover the best and the worst that India’s rising surrogacy industry has to offer, bridging continents and cultures to bring a new life into the world—and renewed hope to each other.

What was the inspiration for the plot of A House for Happy Mothers?

The plot is based on real life. My book is about surrogacy, the emotional toll, the business end of things, and the impact on both the biological and surrogate mother. The whole thing started when I saw a documentary on BBC about a British woman using an Indian surrogate. And then the story started to evolve—the biological mother came first and then the surrogate mother—and then they told their own story, one alternate chapter at a time.

How much of your characters are based off people you know in real life?

Characters are always based on real people; it’s never a direct “translation” of personality but a cocktail of real people and my imagination.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out the first line of A House for Happy Mothers, a behind-the-scenes look at how the title came about, and the story to Amulya's publishing journey. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of A House for Happy Mothers, so you don't want to miss that either!

As a huge fan of first lines, I'd love to hear the first line of A House for Happy Mothers. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?
Rock-a-bye-baby on the tree top, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock.... The nursery rhyme played itself in her head over and over again as she tried to fall asleep.
First sentences are important to me, as are book titles. This first sentence emerged on its own. A mother waiting to find out if she was pregnant—in this case if her surrogate was pregnant and she couldn’t sleep.

How did you come up with your characters' names and the title?

A House for Happy Mothers is the story of two women from two very different worlds—two women who have their own struggles and their own hopes—two women whom I fell in love with as I went on this journey with them.

The title of a book and the names of its main characters are important to me before I start a story. They’re my guiding stars. They tell me who these people are and what their story is.

I named the biological mother Priyasha (long for Priya), which means “a dear hope” and the surrogate, Asha, which means “hope.” In my mind the title of the book was The Melancholy of Hope (a title everyone hated) because it was hope that brought these women together, hope that bound them together and hope that equalized them in spite of the difference in their lives.

The final title of the book, A House for Happy Mothers, came from my agent. In the book, Happy Mothers is the name of the surrogacy clinic in India that houses Asha the surrogate and many others like her during their pregnancy. And it is the right title for this story—it’s the story’s guiding star.

Name some novels or novelists who have influenced your life and writing most.

I’ll be honest, I can’t turn around and say this book or this author influences my writing. I’m a character-driven writer who doesn’t plot. But some books more than others have an influence. My upcoming novel, The Copenhagen Affair is sort of influenced by one of my favorite books, Le Divorce by Diane Johnson. I love Murukami and if I write like him I’d have climbed the Mt. Everest of writing.

My favorite book that I go back to ever so often is Catch-22—someday when I’m wiser and a better writer I’ll write a book that I can say was influenced by Catch-22.

That's a wonderful aspiration. Would you share a behind-the-scenes look on how the book came about?

As I see the reviews now some readers have criticized A House for Happy Mothers for ending a little too abruptly. When I wrote the book, the ending was longer—we saw what happens after the mothers go their ways. But during the editing process, it was obvious to my editor and me that we needed to end the book where the story ends and not drag it around. This was one of the biggest changes for me. I thought about it this way and that. But the fact is that I knew from the start that the ending would have to be where it was and it would feel abrupt but that was the right thing to do. Maybe to appease readers, I can put the last two chapters out at a later date.

I'm sure your fan would look forward to that! Tell us about your publishing journey: how you first queried, your call story, and things you picked up along the way.

It took me two years, three manuscripts, and 93 reject letters from agents to find my first agent who said, “Maybe.” That was my first book, A Breath of Fresh Air. I was twenty five. I got a two-book contract from Ballantine Books. I felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest in my shorts.

I published five books, one after another and then suddenly, I couldn’t sell a book. The Sound of Language, my fifth book, was published in 2007 and my sixth novel, A House for Happy Mothers was released in 2016. This was a hard long slog of believing in myself and my book and finding an agent who fought for me. It was a good day when I got an offer from Amazon Lake Union for A House for Happy Mothers.

What a rollercoaster ride! How did you come up with the book's setting?

I wish I could say I chose the setting but my characters decided where they lived. Asha, obviously, since she was a surrogate, lives in India but specifically in the state of Andhra Pradesh, maybe because I’m from there.

Priya lives in Silicon Valley because she’s half Indian and half American, married to an Indian. The characters decided where they were from.

I find that fascinating, and definitely understand what you mean now, by saying you are a character-driven writer. What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Watching Bollywood movies!!! No one in my family watches them so I usually download a movie or two onto my iPad and watch them on long-haul flights. Or on a Saturday afternoon, lying on a couch, alone at home, I rent a Bollywood movie and if it’s one of those tear-jerkers, I cry my heart out. You can take the girl out of India but you can’t take the Bollywood out of her.

Well put! We all have our guilty pleasure movies :) Where can you be found on the web?

Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

What compels you to write a review for a book you have read, whether good or bad?

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Amulya! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of A House for Happy Mothers—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Amulya's question in the comments below:
What compels you to write a review for a book you have read, whether good or bad? Whether you're a blogger, Amazon reviewer, or just a voracious reader, I would encourage everyone to answer this question!
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Amulya and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

As a reviewer, I receive many review copies from publishers and publicists, but I'm selective about the ones I actually choose to read. I review almost every book I finish (it seems like the least I could do to thank publishers for sending me such a wonderful read!).

Of course, positive reviews are much easier to write, but I don't shy away from critical reviews (as most of you may know). I actually enjoy being able to weigh out the pros and cons in every book I read, and hope that the particular characteristics I point out will be helpful for any reader deciding whether they'd want spend their time, money, and effort on it themselves.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at TLC Book Tours and Lake Union Publishing!
Giveaway ends July 2nd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!