Author Interview With Jeevani Charika

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)

Hi. I’m Jeevani. I wrote multicultural romcoms and women’s fiction. Also write less multicultural romance under the name Rhoda Baxter. I’m a microbiologist by training (so what better pen name, than the bacterium I used to work on ‘Rhodobacter’). I live in the UK, where I write books, wrangle a part time day job and bring up my two kids.

Tell us about the characters and relationships in your stories

I write romantic stories, so the most common relationship I write about is love. But we are all products of our upbringing and our friendships, so friends and family relationships often play a large part too. I prefer to see falling in love as a process of both people changing and adapting towards each other, until they find a place where they are both comfortable. I tend to write about beta heroes, because I find men who are not macho more interesting. 

In my book Playing For Love, I look at online relationships. They require a greater level of trust, because the person you are online is a persona, subtly different to the real you … and the same is true for the other person. Yet, the feelings involved are real. 

In the book the heroine, Sam (Samadhi) is a businesswoman and secret online gamer by night. Her work colleague Luke has a secret alter ego – the famous YouTube gamer, Blaze. Sam has a huge celeb crush on Blaze. Shy Luke has a crush on real life Sam. When Sam and Blaze are paired up in an online game tournament, their online lives and real lives get entwined. What happens when you meet the real person and see the differences between their online persona and who they really are? How do you reconcile the two?

The pandemic has forced a lot of us to move our real life relationships online. A lot of us have forged new friendships that are purely online, too. It seemed like a good idea to set a story in a world where that had happened.

What lessons could readers learn about real-world relationships from your novel(s)?

I often write books to work out how I feel about something. I wrote a book called Please Release Me when I was working out feelings about grieving for what could have been. Playing For Love is partly me working out how I feel about online friendships and whether or not they are ‘real’. For the record, I think they are, but it really helps if you meet the people face to face, at least once – just so you know they’re not cat-fishing you.

What real-life relationship experiences, observations or insights have influenced your writing?

I get inspiration from all kinds of minute things that happen in real life. I rarely put the incidents directly into books, but I keep hold of the feelings that came up and try and use those. When they say ‘write what you know’, it applies equally well to feelings. 

The one time I wrote something almost directly from real life was when I wrote a character having a panic attack in A Convenient Marriage. I suffer from panic attacks, so writing one was just a matter of remembering and writing it down.

Someone once told me that love was found in small acts of service. When I think about my family and what we do for each other, I think that’s really true. I try very hard to bring that ‘love is small acts of service’ mentality into my romance novels. I rarely have sweeping grand gestures in my novels, but there’s always something meaningful that characters do for each other to show they love them.

Are there any relationship themes or topics you want to cover in future releases?

So far, I’ve written about marriages (endlessly fascinating!), sisters, fathers and friends. I’m yet to write a book about mothers – either being one or being the daughter of one. Maybe one day I’ll write a book about that. Or a book about being the ‘sandwich generation’ where you’re simultaneously looking after your kids and your parents.

My next book is about self image versus how other people see you. At least that’s what I think it’s about. I’m still writing it. When I finish the book and read the first draft back, I might find it’s about something else entirely.

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