In this week’s episode, Marissa chats with Ananya Devarajan about her debut YA romance, KISMAT CONNECTION. Also discussed: using platforms like Wattpad to practice writing, writing as a coping mechanism, balancing the demands of college and being a new author, using neuroscience to help draw realistic characters, recognizing parts of ourselves in our characters, and so much more!
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[00:10] Marissa: Hello, and welcome to the Happy Writer. This is a podcast that aims to bring readers more books to enjoy and to help authors find more joy in their writing. I am your host, Marissa Meyer. Thank you so much for joining me. I have kind of a bunch of announcements make since we were gone for a few weeks and so in case you missed, a lot of big news coming out on the social media lately. Number one, we have finally revealed the COVID of my next book. It is called with a little luck. It is a companion novel to Instant Karma, all about Prudence's twin brother Jude. So that book is coming out next February. It is now available for preorder and the COVID is beautiful. The art was done by Jeff Ostberg and I love it. I hope you will go check it out. You can see it on Instagram or wherever you like to shop for your books. We also now have merchandise on Etsy, so that makes three different places you can get your Happy Writer goodies or your Marissa Meyer goodies. We've got stuff on Etsy T public or the Spring store on Instagram. All of those links are in our bio on Instagram. Number three, Heartless the Musical is happening again. If you've been listening to this podcast for a while, you probably remember me gushing about this like all last year. I will do my best to reel in some of the gushing, but OMG, I am so excited that they are putting on this show again and it's going to be in a much bigger theater this time. So if you tried to get tickets last year and you couldn't because they sold out in like an hour, there's a much, much better chance of getting some this time around and I really hope that you are able to come and see it. It's such a cool show. The teens who are producing it are just amazing. That is being performed in Provo, Utah, so not far from Salt Lake City from August 10 through 12th. So there's going to be four different shows. I plan on being there for all four shows. So mark your calendars and follow Heartless the Musical on social media and be ready to grab your tickets when they go on sale. Okay, last thing and the thing that's making me happy this week all of these things are making me happy, of course. But the one big thing that I haven't mentioned yet is that if you missed it, there has been movie news regarding the Lunar Chronicles locksmith Animation just announced that they have partnered with Warner Bros. To make these movies a reality. My fingers are crossed. I hope, I hope this happens. I want it to happen so bad and I know a lot of you do too. So they've partnered, they have writers attached and working hard. They have a director attached. So things are happening and just keep sending good vibes toward Hollywood, and maybe we'll get there. I'm hopeful. Okay. I know that was a lot. I'm breathless and exhausted, but I am also so happy to be talking to today's guest. She is currently attending no, that's wrong. I just learned that she just graduated from the University of California, Irving, where she pursued a major in neurobiology and behavior as well as a minor in English. Of course, she's also a writer. Her debut. Ya romance. Kismat Connection came out last month. Please welcome Ananya Devarajan.
[03:58] Ananya: Hello. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.
[04:02] Marissa: I am so excited to have you as well. How did I do on your name pronunciation? Are we good?
[04:08] Ananya: You were perfect.
[04:09] Marissa: Okay, well, thank you so much for joining me. Congratulations on your graduation, which just was, like, two days ago, you said yes.
[04:19] Ananya: It was really soon. It's been a whirlwind. And congratulations on your movie. That's incredible.
[04:24] Marissa: Thank you. Thank you. This is the fourth time that Hollywood has been like, we're going to make The Lunar Chronicles into movies. And so I'm, like, try to take everything with a grain of salt, but I also feel like this is the farthest it's ever gotten in the process. This could be it. This could be the time it happens. So I'm very optimistic.
[04:47] Ananya: I'm hopeful for you, too. I'm sending you all the good vibes.
[04:49] Marissa: Thank you. So you just graduated, and a week ago you had your debut novel come out. So I bet this has been kind of a hectic nutty week for you. How are you feeling?
[05:04] Ananya: I'm feeling just so great, so grateful for how this week has gone for the people that have shown up and shown their support for Kismet Connection. I've been lucky enough to be going on tour in the last week, so I was in Tustin, San Diego, and New York, and I'm about to be in La. This week just promoting this book. And people have been so lovely and so kind and so receptive, and I would not change a thing for the world.
[05:30] Marissa: That's amazing, and I'm so happy for you. Did you fly back and just to go to your graduation ceremony, or did you have to miss your graduation ceremony? Like, how are you even balancing all of this?
[05:41] Ananya: Yeah, so I actually did fly back a day before my graduation ceremony. My publisher, they know when they bought my book, I was 19, so they kind of saw this coming two years in advance. So this week they're like, hey, we're going to send you on tour. You're going to be in New York on Thursday. We're going to fly you back Friday night. You'll be in California again at like, 11:00 p.m.. Friday night. And I had Saturday to recover, and I graduated 08:00 a.m. Sunday morning.
[06:08] Marissa: Oh, my gosh, what a whirlwind.
[06:10] Ananya: It's been so fun. I would not trade a thing.
[06:13] Marissa: Glad that you seem very upbeat about it. I know a lot of people would be like, I am dead on my feet. I don't even know how I'm handling all this. But you sound like you're just taking everything in stride.
[06:25] Ananya: Honestly, I'm a very extroverted person and also very optimistic person by nature, which is why I love the name of this podcast, too, because I'm a very happy writer.
[06:33] Marissa: Oh, good.
[06:34] Ananya: Yeah. This has been such a dream for me for my entire life. So my mindset is a little bit of tiredness, never killed anyone, and I'm just really happy. I'm happy to be doing what I love.
[06:44] Marissa: That is such a great perspective to have, and one that I highly encourage you to hold on to. I don't know, we're going on twelve years into my career now, and I feel like that's one of the most important things that I have learned over the last twelve years is to keep focused on how much I truly just love what I do.
[07:06] Ananya: Yes. Hopefully this stays for a while.
[07:09] Marissa: It will. No, it's wonderful. And all good things, and again, congratulations.
[07:14] Ananya: Thank you so much.
[07:16] Marissa: So the first thing that I would love to hear I know you said you sold this when you were just 19. You've been, of course, writing your way through college and also have lots of other things going on in your college career. So I want to know your writer origin story. How did you come to here? We are having your debut book published on the eve of your graduation.
[07:41] Ananya: Yes. I love this question because I feel like I have a little bit of a nontraditional but very gen z way of getting into publishing. I love talking about it, but basically I've been writing ever since I was a kid. But there's actually a video of me, of my grandfather in India, just asking what I wanted to be when I grew up, when I was six years old, and in India, a lot of the books that my family could afford were by Harper Collins Publishers. I didn't really see much of any other publisher when I was growing up, so I was six and telling my grandfather in this video that when I grow up, I'm going to be a Harper Collins author, and everyone just kind of laughed it off and didn't really think much of it. I come from a family of engineers who don't like to read. This is just a kid being a kid, and no one really thought that 13 years later it would actually happen the way I said it would, and least of all me. I really did not expect to be published so early on in life. So that's kind of like the origin. Origin. But I spent most of my life writing. Writing has always just been a coping mechanism for me. I'm a really stem focused individual in my day job life. So sometimes when I want to get away from all that logic and all that science. Writing is just what makes me happy. And so that's how that started. And my outlet was watpad. I was 15, 1617 years old, writing books on this online storytelling platform totally for free, releasing a chapter a week, editing it, just getting really into the zone of writing for the sake of learning the craft, practicing my words, and just kind of getting all of the bad words out so I can maybe write the good book one day. And that was the pality of it. What I didn't expect is for the book that I wrote on Wattpad To, I threw it out into the publishing world. I got rejected very quickly because it was just not a great book. But I had someone who read it tell me this wasn't great, but I really liked the romance, the secondary B plot in this book that you're writing, maybe you should consider doing that instead. And I had just gotten into college at UC Irvine. I had started my degree in neurobiology, which is very intellectually taxing is how I would put it. So I spent most of my freshman year of college, especially that first three months, writing this romance novel because it brought me so much comfort and so much joy. And I think I poured all of myself into it. And again, not expecting anything to come out of it, I threw what is now PISMA connection into the publishing industry again. And I got an agent very quickly, and then I got a book deal very quickly, and here I am today.
[10:17] Marissa: Oh, my gosh. That's amazing.
[10:19] Ananya: Thank you.
[10:21] Marissa: So I'm really curious. So your first go at writing a novel, the romance was secondary?
[10:30] Ananya: Yes. My first novel was actually a young adult thriller. I was a big McManus fan back in the day.
[10:37] Marissa: Still am.
[10:39] Ananya: Still am, yeah. I love all of her books. She's an instant buy author for me, but I was really, really inspired by her. So I was writing this thriller on Watpad, and it was one of the few thrillers out there that had a mostly Indian American cast as well. And I think that's what drew a lot of people to it. Was it good? Definitely not. But I think as someone that always grew up with Bollywood movies and happy romance novels, that it just so happened that that secondary plot of this love story between two characters in a very violent, kind of scary, otherwise story stood out to people more than the story itself. And that's how I ended up writing romance for a living now.
[11:18] Marissa: Yeah, no, that's awesome. And then I'm curious. So on your website, it mentioned that you were planning now into continuing with your education and getting a medical degree. And I'm just curious if now, being a published author, has that changed your educational plans at all?
[11:35] Ananya: It actually hasn't. So I kind of mentioned this earlier that writing is a coping mechanism for me with my Stem life. So I got into medical school in December of last year, right when I was really gearing up the marketing and advertising for Kisma connection too. So the two things were very simultaneous for the last four years, but I had a lot of introspection and a lot of conversation with friends and family because that question came up, do you still want to be a doctor if you are kind of successfully starting this whole author career thing? But what I realized is that I write because I am a doctor in the other area of my life, and I am the kind of doctor I want to be because I'm honing my communication skills through writing. So the two things honestly work in tandem with each other and I think I wouldn't be able to do one without the other. So my plan is to do both and just kind of see where that takes me.
[12:28] Marissa: I love it. I think this is a great plan. I think it's fascinating to hear that for you, the two, which are very different, of course, very different career goals, but that they are working quite harmoniously together. But it does bring up the question of time and balancing your time. I mean, I know that going to college, getting any degree is very taxing. Getting a medical degree, I'm sure, is extremely difficult and time consuming, and writing and promoting books is time consuming. So how have you managed that so far?
[13:07] Ananya: Good question. I always joke and say that I don't sleep, but definitely a question. Honestly, I've gotten really good at time management and compartmentalization. So for me, I like to give myself grace if I can't write every day the same way I like to give myself grace if I can't do my homework every day, not every day is going to be hyperproductive perfect. Anonymous writing her books, doing her classwork, getting into medical school, right, that's the goal. But that is not the everyday life. So for me, whatever I can squeeze in that feels true to me, that makes me still hold the love that I have for both areas of my life, I will do that. So there are some days where I'm really school focused and the writing sometimes has to take a back burner. I'm open about the fact I've had to ask for extensions for some of my books, for revisions, for drafting my publisher has been just so kind and understanding about it. So my biggest thing is being open to ask for help when things get overwhelming. And I've gotten good at that because I've had to get good at that. And so that's number one on the book side of things. And then in school, I sort of started to realize that there's a way to work hard without burning yourself out. And I think once I figured that out in college, I think in about my third year out of sheer necessity because I'd sold this book and I just did not have the hours in the day to be studying for 8 hours aimlessly. I got really good at being efficient with my education and still learning what I needed to learn, but retaining time for myself, my mental health, and for the things that I love, like writing. So obviously, trial and error, very long process to get to where I am today. But the time commitment and the discipline was a very much practiced ordeal.
[14:51] Marissa: Yeah, no, I mean, it sounds like you really have your head on straight in a way that I am very impressed with, given your age. For me, I didn't learn how to really ask for help until I had children. And then again, out of necessity, it was like, I really need more help here and more help just time management and figuring out how to balance all the things. And it sounds like you are a step ahead of most people.
[15:18] Ananya: Well, thank you. I just think I had to learn that lesson a lot earlier.
[15:25] Marissa: So, on that note, here we are. Your debut book has just come out. Would you please tell listeners a little bit about Kisma Connection?
[15:35] Ananya: Yes, I'd love to. So Kisma Connection is obviously my debut young adult romance novel. But it features two childhood best friends, mothering, Arjen, who decide to enter an experimental fake dating esque kind of relationship to prove the existence of their free will against the fate of the universe or their destiny. So there's a lot of astrology involved, a lot of magic, a lot of curses, but it's set in this contemporary world. And the big theme here is not only do I want to give two Indian American teenagers their shot at a love story in the spotlight, their shot for pure, unadulterated joy in the ya sphere, I also wanted to kind of show how love has this very magical feeling and that even if you are in a contemporary world, it can feel like you are in this game with destiny to get the life that you want with the love that you want. And so that's how Kismet Connection was born. That's kind of a snippet as to what you would get if you opened this book.
[16:34] Marissa: I love that, and I am a huge fan of contemporary and contemporary romances. But whenever a book specifically plays with the idea of fate and destiny and soulmates, that's one of my hot buttons. I'm always like, okay, that book. I will take that book. It's really fun seeing your twist on it.
[16:56] Ananya: Thank you. Yeah, it's such a big like, I will buy any book that's about destiny. Fake Karma. I've also read Instant Karma. I loved it right up my alley.
[17:06] Marissa: So you talk about how it's fake relationship ish. I think in your author's note in the book, you call it fake relationship adjacent, which I thought was really fun. Talk about that. How is it different from what we think of as the typical fake relationship trope? Which is, by the way, one of my all time favorite romantic tropes.
[17:30] Ananya: Yeah. So, like fake dating, in my opinion, like what I've read and all the books that I've loved with fake dating, it's you are fake dating. You are going out on fake dates, you are going out on fake public appearances, and you're keeping up this idea of a relationship to come to some mutually assured goal. But that is not fully what Kisma connection has. I think it starts that way. I think Mother and Arjun, when they create this relationship experiment, they're expecting to fake date, or at least Mothery is, because in her brain, she's not actually willing to date her childhood best friend. But Arjun is a pretty strong willed character, and for him, he's always known that he's going to want to actually date Mothery. So they have about one fake date. It's at a wedding, it's their first date, where they're keeping up the premise of being in a relationship even though they're not, actually. But since the big premise of this book is their individual coming of age journeys, their arcs as human beings, that starts to take over the spotlight of this book. And suddenly the fake dating starts to feel more real because they're starting to confront and introspect on very important elements of their personality and how that affects their friendship and their relationship and their wants and desires. So that's what I mean by fake dating adjacent. The fake dating doesn't really last as long as it does in a lot of books, but that is because it's fully in control of these two characters who are going through so many changes in their life.
[18:54] Marissa: Yeah. And it really becomes this wonderful kind of like backdrop for them also. I mean, it's the catalyst that in a lot of ways, kind of spurs them into thinking about their relationship and themselves. And like you mentioned, their own character arcs really change a lot because they've entered into this agreement with each other.
[19:15] Ananya: Exactly. That was totally my intention for it. Right. It's this like jumping off point for them to be better individuals and to be better for each other. But it's not the whole story.
[19:24] Marissa: Yeah. So you bring up character arcs. So let's dig into characters because we have two points of view, two viewpoint characters. It is a dual POV story, and they couldn't be more different from each other in a way that's really fun. We've got Arjun, who believes in fate and destiny and karma. And then we've got Moderie, who wants to practice free will and is much more kind of practical and logic minded and has this more of a need for control in her life. So tell me about developing these characters and developing their simultaneous character arcs.
[20:10] Ananya: Yeah, of course. So I obviously come from a background in neuroscience, right? So a big important thing for me when I create my characters is that they should feel like real human beings that we know. And one big thing neuroscientists have learned is that when you fall in love with someone, it is a reflection of not only yourself, but of your childhood, your upbringing, your traumas, everything that kind of makes you you, that gets projected into your relationship and the way that you are. So I really wanted to play into that to make these characters feel so real. And so for Arjun, he grew up in this environment where his family was not the most present. They've been financially supportive of him, but he's not getting any sort of emotional comfort from them, neither his father, who's pretty absent, or his mother, who's trying, but not really in a way that's receptive to him. So Arjun believes in things like fate and destiny in the universe because there's this huge part of him that hopes that this is not what life is, that he is destined to true love, that he is destined to a family that cares about him and chooses him the way he chooses them. So I think that's what brings this hopeful element into him. Right? It's almost a form of survival, but for Mother, mother grew up in a family that just has loved her and adored her from the very beginning. And so she's very supportive there in that area of her life. But she goes to high school and she's not very popular, and her culture, specifically her Indian American identity, is often under attack by her bullies. And I think that environment created this sort of defensive personality where Mahrei feels like she cannot accept anything that feels remotely Indian without it being a form of self harm. And that includes astrology, that includes destiny. These are things that are innately coming from the Indian subcontinent. And Mother knows it, so she rejects it and she forces herself to rely more on practicality and logic because how else do you cope with such severe environments in your high school? So that's how these two characters were born out of very real life experiences, I think a lot of teens face and how that would realistically expect or affect the way that they love.
[22:24] Marissa: I love that. I am so curious. When you were first getting to know these characters, did you kind of get to know them, who they are in the book first and then start asking questions and let's dig into their past and figure out how they got to be that way? Or did you kind of think of their backstory first and then let that lead into the characters that they became?
[22:48] Ananya: So for me, it's both. For Maziri, I knew her backstory very well because I also wrote her as a form of kind of understanding some events that happened to me. I was also bullied for being indian American when I was a child. So a lot of this book is also me working through that. It is very distant. She's very different from who I am. So I knew her backstory, and I wanted to kind of play around with this idea of what that would do to a teenage girl if she didn't fully believe she was lovable. Right. So that's how she came to be. But Arjen, I always love a cinnamon roll boy. I love sweet and kind hearted boys that fall in love with the meanest girls. It's my romantic dynamic ever. So I knew that that was the character he was going to be, but now I wanted to figure out because it's dual POV, he needs to have a story, he needs to have an arc, and he needs to have more depth than just being nice. So I then started to dig into his backstory and try to figure out, why are you so accepting of this very mean girl and why are you so willing to love her and have her love you back?
[23:55] Marissa: I love that, and I love how much your background in neuroscience has applied here to your writing career. I personally am fascinated by neuroscience, specifically for me, less to do with characters. But I love reading about the science behind creativity and inspiration and where do ideas come from, and I just think all of that is so interesting. So I really love how much that has kind of influenced your writing here.
[24:26] Ananya: Yeah, thank you. For me, it's the same thing. I'm obsessed with the neuroscience of love, and that's what I wanted to apply here. Why do we love the way we do? Why do we choose the partners that we do? It all comes from somewhere in our brain, so I kind of wanted to dig into that a little bit.
[24:39] Marissa: I am so fat. That is so interesting. Okay, so tell me, why do we fall in love?
[24:45] Ananya: Oh, wow. This is a question I was not.
[24:47] Marissa: Prepared for in 30 seconds or less. Could you explain? No. Is it hard at all when you're writing and coming up with scene ideas and really in the nitty gritty of putting words on paper? Do you also have this running stream of knowledge from your schooling that are you always thinking, like, but why are we making this choice and what is motivating this behavior? Or are you able to kind of separate the science from the writing part?
[25:22] Ananya: I think that it's a give and take for me when I'm drafting. It's really hard for me to separate the science because I think drafting is such an innate writing moment where you're just pouring your words and your thoughts onto the page. There's not a lot of thinking involved, or, like, probably thinking but not conscious. Right. And that's the state, at least. The way that I draft my science brain comes out in full swing because I'm not trying to control it whatsoever. So I do ask those questions of why are they doing that? How did they get here? And it makes for, I think, genuine characters in the first draft, even if the plot doesn't make too much sense, I see that as a blessing at that stage. But when I'm revising and kind of getting into the nitty gritty of the book, like you said, I do try to keep the science brain in check because there are some things like love and like romance, where it's not logical and it's not practical. And characters can do things simply because they want to and simply because it feels right. And for me to really hone into that gut feeling, magical, true love, soulmate kind of aesthetic, I have to leave the science brain behind. So in every draft after the first, I tend to follow my more whimsical, hopeless romantic side. But in the beginning, I'm very hardcore science to get those character motivations down.
[26:40] Marissa: That's so interesting because as you were kind of talking about and describing your process, it almost feels like you as an individual, have so much of both of these characters in you.
[26:51] Ananya: A little bit.
[26:52] Marissa: Yeah.
[26:54] Ananya: I promise it wasn't intentional. And I do always say that these characters are not reflections of me. They sure they might have started that way. I think in the first draft, where, like I said, I was working through a few things that had happened in my life. I was in my freshman year of college and confronted with all these different memories and emotions that I didn't quite know how to deal with because I was 17 when I wrote this book. Yeah, I feel like sometimes it sounds.
[27:20] Marissa: Like I am the age of my.
[27:21] Ananya: Characters when I'm reading this book. I'm like, oh, your writing stuff has changed a lot in four years. But that's how it started. So there were a lot of similarities in my personality to these characters, but with each draft, and as I got older and as I realized that these characters, they're not me. They're their own individual people that are reacting to things in the way that they would, not the way that I would. The characters that you're reading now are nothing like me, but they definitely did start sharing a lot of pieces with me. No.
[27:49] Marissa: And that makes sense. And I always feel like there is a little bit of me in every character that I write, but a lot of times I can't tell what that little bit is until after I've written the book, and then I'll go back and read it, whether during revisions or edits or page proofs or at some point. And then it's like, oh, I see where this little behavioral tick or whatever came from. A lot of times it's not really clear to me what my personal connection with a character is until after the fact.
[28:21] Ananya: Yes, that's the same as. Me. I wrote these characters not thinking anything of it. And then I'm reading the final draft, and I just remember thinking, this feels odly on the nose. Mother is a little like me.
[28:36] Marissa: That is so funny. So do you believe in fate and prophecy, which is such a big part of this book?
[28:44] Ananya: Yes. So I believe in a different version of fate. I believe in the fate that kind of lies in between moderate and Arjun's perspective of it. Because, again, I can't shut off my science brain. I can't fully accept it. But what I do believe is that you can make anything your fate or your destiny. So I didn't think it was ever written in my stars to be an author. I come from, like I said, a family of really Stem focused engineers. As much as I loved writing, I never necessarily thought it would be a career, because no one in my life had ever said that that was possible. Right? So that was never really my destiny until I decided one day when I was 1314 that I was going to make it my destiny. And whether it happened at 19 or whether it happened at 45, I knew I needed it to happen at some point in my life. So I think my free will there, my consistent practice and discipline, and really putting in the effort into this passion that I had made a destiny happen for me that previously was not in my cards. So that's the kind of fate I believe in. But I do think it's fun, like the prophecy aspect of things. I do think there's a little bit of an element of truth there. I am a huge astrology person, and I do think the planets can have something to say. But above all, I think these kind of things are just something for people to believe in, to bring them comfort. Astrology, fate, destiny, prophecies, those are all lovely, beautiful concepts. And when you are struggling or when you're in a time in your life where you don't fully trust your future, I think they're a really great thing to anchor you. And I think that's my relationship with those concepts, more than anything else yeah.
[30:25] Marissa: No, that's really relatable. I think so many of these things are great ways for us to tap into our own intuition. And I love that you bring up kind of the idea that a lot of it is self fulfilling, that we are in control and to create our own fate and our own destiny. And for me, one of my favorite moments in the book gosh, I can't remember who Marjorie was talking to now in the scene, but someone points out that for her, trying so hard to fight against this prophecy and everything she's doing is an attempt to break her family's curse and make the prophecy false. And yet, in doing that, she actually makes it come true, like she's trying so hard to prove it wrong, but her actions actually lead to the thing becoming real and it was just this wonderful full circle moment in the book.
[31:36] Ananya: Yeah, I love that scene. I think it really puts things into perspective and I don't know, I'm a big fan of manifestation and of affirmations and of putting out what you want into the universe. The universe can give it to you. I fully believe in that. And I think mother did that without realizing in this book where she put so much of her brain power into breaking this family curse. But she was thinking about this family curse and she was thinking about urgent and her prophecy way more than she ever had in her 17 years of life prior to this moment. And I think that that kind of like gets the universe thinking about it, right? Like, when you are so passionate about something good or bad, the universe starts to take notice. And I think in her case, she was fighting real feelings that she had and she was trying so hard not to fall for it that it ended up kind of like hitting her in.
[32:27] Marissa: The face when she least expected it right now. I love that manifestation is the perfect word for that. And it's kind of like when someone tells you, don't think about a purple elephant. Well, what are you going to think about?
[32:39] Ananya: Yeah.
[32:41] Marissa: So with our last little bit of time here, I want to talk about the romance specifically because we do have these two great characters. We have this great, you know, backdrop of of fate and destiny and manifestation, but at the heart, it is a romance. And of course, so many books have the meet cute at the beginning, which then leads to all the things to come. Whereas you have written two characters that have a ton of history between them. What do you feel are some of the challenges of writing a romance in which there is so much history between these two characters already and what are some of the things that were really great or maybe made it easier to write that romance?
[33:28] Ananya: Yeah, I honestly think the hardest thing about having two characters with so much history is it's hard to find the moment when they start falling in love. All that history, right. It makes you you're already kind of in love with this person. You just didn't really put the word to it. Whether it's platonic love or romantic love or something on the way to that. I think it's always been there for mother and Arjun. I think mother has always loved him the same way Arjun has always loved her. She's just not verbally or even mentally ready to admit that to herself or to anyone else. But what's difficult about that then, with these two best friends is when you get to that point where the love confession needs to happen or the first kiss needs to happen. It almost seems out of the blue, even though me as the author, I'm like, oh, this makes perfect sense. Like, she's opening up, she's finally letting him in. But from the outside perspective, it's like, well, why now? Why not when they were 15? Why not when they're 24? So I think that's been kind of a challenge in writing this book, just kind of making sure that it's very clear why mothery falls in love when she does and why their relationship decided to change at the specific moment in their lives. But what's really fun about writing childhood best friends to lovers is all those angsty scenes where they're like, I know you better than anyone else does. That's why I love you. I loved writing those scenes where they would talk about like Arjun talked about. I think in one scene, he was like, I've loved Mazre Iris, and she stole a gelabi from me at a family party when she was and so things like that are just so cute, and they make me happy. I love the idea that you can just know someone's right for you before you know anything else in the world. And I loved playing with that feeling a lot throughout this book. And I also liked at the end when they get to talk about we've had 17 years together. I can't wait for 100 more. I love those kind of acknowledgments of you're my fair person. I can never get bored of you because, look, I still haven't got bored of you yet.
[35:27] Marissa: Right? No, it's really sweet. And you're right. It's like, you do kind of get this best of both worlds, and I love an unrequited love story. And so it's like we've got these wonderful moments with Arjun where he is already so smitten, and we get to see the pining and the longing and that angst of like, oh, but she'll never feel anything for me but friendship. And then we also get to see the other side, where she is slowly that wall is getting chipped away, and she's slowly starting to see him in a different lens. And it really is this really fun dynamic between the two.
[36:14] Ananya: Thank you. It was so much fun to write, too. I had a blast, I think I can tell.
[36:19] Marissa: You can tell that you had a lot of fun with this book. Okay, are you ready for our bonus round?
[36:25] Ananya: I am ready.
[36:27] Marissa: What book makes you happy?
[36:30] Ananya: A book makes me happy. I am a big fan of anything that's written by Sajni Patel. The trouble with hating you makes me very happy. That book is just my world.
[36:44] Marissa: I am so excited. She is one of my best writing friends.
[36:47] Ananya: Really? Oh, my God.
[36:49] Marissa: I used to live nearby, and then she moved away, and I'm still not over it, but, yeah, I love that. Okay, she's great. Everyone go read her books.
[36:58] Ananya: Yes. Oh, my God. I've recommended her at every tour stop I've been on. I was like my writing inspiration. The trouble with hating you, Sajni Patel.
[37:06] Marissa: I can't wait to text her after we're done with this interview and tell her that. What are you working on next, other than getting multiple degrees?
[37:16] Ananya: Well, I am actually writing and editing my second book. It's coming out next year, so it's really creeping up on us already. But it is the second book. It's not in a series, but it's like a spin off standalone of Kisma Connection, and it follows mothery's little sister Reina, who is yeah, it's so fun. I'm super excited. She's essentially trapped in a time loop with her ex boyfriend and they have to figure out why they broke up set at this backdrop of a Bollywood dance competition. So it's very fun, it's very Indian, and it's very much like the book that I wanted to read with kind of no strings attached, just having fun with it. And it has been the greatest journey.
[37:58] Marissa: I love that. That's a really fun premise.
[38:00] Ananya: Thank you.
[38:02] Marissa: And lastly, where can people find you?
[38:05] Ananya: Yeah, so I'm on Instagram and Twitter underneath the handle at Ananya D Twelve, but I think that's where I'm the most active. I'm obviously like 21 years old, so social media is where I do most my stuff. I'm on TikTok at Ananya Devarajan. And of course you can always find me on my website, which I have like 5000 different links on how you can buy my books and support me as a young debut author. But I'm pretty much if you search my name, you'll find me on the Internet. I am around.
[38:33] Marissa: Awesome. Ananya, thank you so much for joining me.
[38:37] Ananya: Thank you for having me. This was such a great time.
[38:39] Marissa: Readers, be sure to check out Kismat Connection. It is available now. Of course, we encourage you to support your local indie bookstore if you can, but if you don't have a local indie, you can check out our affiliate store @bookshop.org shop, marissamyer. And don't forget our merchandise on Instagram tpublic. And now etsy. Next week I will be talking with the husband and wife writing duo Kaitlin Detweiler and Danny Tamborelli about their debut adult Romecom the First Date Prophecy. Speaking of prophecies, if you're enjoying these conversations, please subscribe and follow us on Instagram at Marissa Meyer, author and at Happy Writer Podcast. Until next time, stay healthy, stay cozy, and whatever life throws you today, I do hope that now you're feeling a little bit happier.