I’m so pleased to welcome Jeevani Charika to the blog today. Jeevani is also known as Rhoda Baxter, and she’s such a supportive and funny friend, so I was delighted when she agreed to take part in my Book Talk feature. Welcome, Jeevani. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself please?
Hi. I’m Jeevani, but you can call me Jeev. I write romcoms and women’s fiction books. I also write as Rhoda Baxter. I’m mildly obsessed with cake. I live in East Yorkshire – where there are (thankfully) lots of wonderful cake shops – with my young family and a growing collection of Lego sets.
When you say mildly obsessed I think that might be a bit of an understatement… So, Jeev, you’ve written plenty of books both under your own name and as Rhoda Baxter, but do you have a favourite among them?
I didn’t think we were allowed to … but if you insist, I’d have to say A Convenient Marriage. It was the first book I wrote and I love those characters so much. The places in it – Oxford and Colombo in the 90s- allowed me to revisit my teens and early twenties. The heroine has panic attacks, much like I did at one point. There’s a lot of small components of me in that book – more so than in any of my other books.
As someone who’s suffered from panic attacks that sounds really interesting. Do you read any genres apart from the one/s you write in?
I read a lot within my genres, obviously, but I also like a psychological thriller or a cosy murder. Since having kids, I can’t handle anything that involves a child in peril though. When I was younger, I read a lot of fantasy. I still occasionally like to dip into the genre.
Crime is such a popular genre! I agree with you about children in peril. Which author/s had the biggest influence on you?
Really, the writer whose books had the most influence on younger me was Enid Blyton. I read all of her books that I could get my hands on. A few years ago, I read the updated versions of the Famous Five to my daughter and enjoyed them all over again. I remember once, when I was around 8 or 9, finding out that Enid Blyton was dead. The idea that she herself was gone, but her words and characters lived on in my head were part of what made me want to be a writer.
The other writer who had a big influence on me was Terry Pratchett. More on that later.
Yes! Enid Blyton was a huge influence on me too. I think she’s had a big impact on so many writers, which is a great legacy. Good that you enjoyed them again upon rereading them. Do you often read books more than once?
Not often. But there are a few that I do. There’s a book called The Man Who Ate Everything – which is probably the book I’ve read most often. It’s a collection of food related essays by Jeffery Steingarten. The collection has made me laugh so much. It’s delightful.
Maybe I should write a sequel, The Woman Who Ate Everything *sigh*. Which book (if any) is your go-to comfort read?
Am I allowed to choose a whole series? Go on. I’d choose Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Even though my favourite Terry Pratchett book is Nation – which is not a Discworld book, my go-to comfort read is Discworld. When I was breastfeeding my babies (breastfeeding is SO BORING) I read my way through the books in order of publication. They were familiar, so I didn’t have to concentrate too hard and I could simply sink into the story. Because I started reading Terry Pratchett in my teens, I think who I am has been shaped a lot by not wanting to be the sort of person that Granny Weatherwax would consider to be an idiot.
I have so many Discworld books on my Kindle and I still haven’t got round to reading them! I’m quite annoyed at myself really, but there are so many of them it’s a bit daunting. So do you prefer reading in hardback, paperback, or e-book, listening to an audiobook, or do you have no real preference?
I vastly prefer e-books. I resisted for ages, even after I had ebooks published. ‘I love the feel and smell of a REAL book’, I’d say, in a high handed sort of way. But then my eyes started to go (I have early onset glaucoma) and being able to make the letters bigger on the screen became a necessity, as did having a light in the screen. Much to my surprise, it didn’t make any different to my reading experience. I still enjoyed the books just as much as I did when reading on paper. Nowadays, if I read a paperback, my hands start to hurt after a while. I don’t even consider reading hardbacks!
It’s so odd that you say that because I find paperbacks quite tricky to read as my hands and wrists start to ache. Plus I find many of them have quite small print. But I do love a hardback if it’s a special book, and as long as the print’s a decent size I’ll rest the book on something and enjoy reading it. I agree, though, the easiest way for me to read is on my Kindle and although I have shelves and shelves of “real” books which I love to gaze at lovingly, I buy most of my books as e-books these days. Do you read series, or do you prefer standalones?
I read both. I think I marginally prefer series, but there are so many standalones that I’ve loved. Sometimes a story is only long enough for one book. For these, just one book is enough. Anything more would just ruin it. For romances (my favourite genre) I love a series of interlinked standalones – where the characters from other books show up in the background. I love feeling like these characters are all part of a community and I get to be a part of that too.
Yes, definitely agree with that. I do love a series about community anyway. What’s your current read?
Hex Appeal by Kate Johnson. It’s brilliant so far.
That’s on my to-be-read list! I’ve heard very good things about it and I do love a witchy novel. What’s your latest book about?
Picture Perfect is about Niro, who is a photographer who needs inspiration and Vimal, a maths nerd/quantitative analyst who needs a fake girlfriend. They end up faking a relationship at a fancy New Year holiday in the alps with a bunch of posh people. And, of course, there’s only one bed.
Oo-er! So, Jeev, what’s next for you?
I’m writing about a cake maker and a low-carb food fanatic. I’m having a lot of fun doing the research. (Ha ha, ‘Research’. You know I’m just eating cake). Elodie makes cakes for events. Mal runs the low-carb food place across the way from her. Due to a mixup, they end up having to cater for a celebrity wedding together. They have diametrically opposing views about what good food is and neither of them is willing to back down.
That sounds absolutely brilliant! I hope Elodie gets to show Mal the error of his ways…
Thanks so much for joining me today, Jeev.
Niro is a photographer who’s lost the joy of taking photos. Burned by a bad break-up, she’s in desperate need of inspiration.
Vimal is determined to win back his ex-girlfriend. When he hears she’s bringing her new boyfriend on a group holiday, he impulsively declares that he’s bringing a plus one too.
Their mutual friends have the perfect solution: Niro can pretend to be Vimal’s new girlfriend and join the holiday. Imagine the incredible photographs she could take in the Swiss alps…
She’s not thinking about love. He’s thinking about someone else. Can they fake a picture-perfect relationship – or will real feelings get in the way?
Don’t miss this funny and uplifting fake-dating romance for fans of The Kiss Quotient and The Love Hypothesis!