A lot of people have asked me how I came to write this funny little book so here I will go ahead and describe my (somewhat) long and winding journey.
A few years ago, I wasn’t happy with the way things were going with my career and the road I was traveling down, and I started to look into how I could develop my writing as a way of creative expression. I often found myself tired of being force fed a narrative of bland, uninspired and predictable storylines, and so I started to create different kinds of stories and ideas to subvert this paradigm. I think I was drawn to the subject of dating because it is so rife with opportunities for absurd and ridiculous situations and can also highlight so many societal and cultural issues. When I realized how important Lucybear was and is to my story, I knew that I had to turn my stories into a comic, and I started looking for an artist to illustrate this project. On a freelancing website, based on just one drawing (which I don’t even remember now) I picked my artist Jamie Ludovise and told her my vague idea. Together we figured out a format that worked, and we were off with our first five stories!
In May 2018, my boyfriend Sean died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. It was a traumatic and crazy time, and I ended up moving out of Washington DC to Michigan to stay with my family. Sean had always been incredibly supportive of my work, and we had actually been talking about making these stories into a book, so as a way to distract myself and honor his memory, I started working on this full-time.
I pitched my project to about 100 different publishers and book agents and a couple of them showed some interest but felt that it didn’t fit into their specific genres. Finally, I got a call back from a local publisher here in Michigan, and they were looking to increase diversity and representation in their repertoire and liked my idea. Sometimes, I get asked how I picked my publisher–well, I decided to go with the only one who called me back!
The publisher provided me with an editor and agreed to use my artist Jamie, whom I had already been working with, and we began to finish the rest of the stories. While I was writing my stories, it seemed that something was missing from my book and I realized that I wanted to address common issues that I have dealt with as an Indian-American woman, and that a lot of other minorities also face, in order to provide more background and context. So I created a section called The Chai Corner, where I address topics pertaining to minority cultures, such as stereotyping, cultural appropriation and microaggressions.
After I submitted my completed and edited work, the publisher said that they wanted me to eliminate The Chai Corner from my book because I should not presume to speak for all Indians–despite the central theme of this section being that individuals cannot represent a group, and that every person is unique. One of my stipulations for working with the publisher was that I would have complete creative control over my book, and we were unable to come to a compromise, so I elected to part ways with them.
However, this meant that I had to finish my book myself and with no clue how to do this! Fortunately, there is the School of YouTube, and I was able to teach myself the design and layout software I needed to create and finish the final layout of the book. So if there are any formatting errors in the book, I really have no one else to blame but myself! I was also fortunate to work with a local printer here in Ann Arbor, McNaughton & Gunn (a women-owned company), who were incredibly patient and helpful in helping me set up the correct final format for printing.
A friend of mine joked that I have been working on this book for about the gestational period of an elephant, which is actually fairly accurate. I first started the inklings of this project about 3 years ago and have been working on this pretty much every day, 7 days a week, for the last 15 months, and so I hope that everyone else loves my baby elephant as much as I do 🙂