What could be more exciting than falling in love on Diwali? With literal fireworks going around you, it’s the perfect setting, and who better to tell you about it than the author of “A Holly Jolly Diwali,” Sonya Lalli!
We caught up with her just in time for Diwali for a tête-à-tête about the latest book and a lot more!
DissDash: Tell our readers a little about yourself.
Sonya Lalli: I’m an author of Punjabi and Bengali heritage. I was born and raised in Saskatoon, Canada, but moved around a few times as an adult and just moved to the Vancouver area with my husband and our puppy, Joey. I’ve worked in law, legal journalism, and book publishing. I’ve written four novels, all romance or women’s fiction books that feature strong, flawed women of South Asian heritage figuring themselves out and falling in love. My latest book, “A Holly Jolly Diwali,” just came out last month. It’s about a young woman from Seattle who goes on a last-minute holiday to Mumbai for her friend’s wedding and happens to be there for Diwali. She meets a guy. She falls in love… I’ll let you read the book to find out what happens!
DissDash: From journalism to writing fiction novels – how has that journey been for you?
Lalli: I’ve always been a writer but never thought that my passion could also be a job. I studied law and then worked in legal journalism, and worked towards writing my first book, “The Matchmaker’s List,” on the side. While writing and publishing my subsequent novels, I also had a day job in the publishing industry, and recently went down to part-time hours to allow for more work-life balance. Although writing is work, I do it because I love it and am passionate about telling South Asian stories, so most of the time it doesn’t feel like ‘work’.
DissDash: What was the inspiration behind your latest book “A Holly Jolly Diwali”?
Lalli: I’m one of those people who loves watching holiday rom coms on Netflix and the Hallmark channel every year and similarly love holiday romance novels. However, just last year I realized that they’re always centered around Christmas, and thought it would be amazing to have a holiday romance that celebrates Christmas and Diwali. There are so many South Asians such as myself who grew up celebrating western holidays but also love and value the holidays from our own culture. “A Holly Jolly Diwali” celebrates both!
DissDash: What do you want the readers to take away from the book?
Lalli: My hope is that South Asians like myself are able to see themselves and their experiences reflected in a holiday romance. For those readers who don’t know a lot about Diwali, the book is also a great introduction. What I didn’t fully realize before writing and doing research for the book is that Diwali means different things to different people, and the traditions are as diverse as the people who celebrate the holiday. The main character, Niki, feels disconnected from her roots, and during her trip to India, she gets a snapshot of some of that diversity. She learns along with the reader.
DissDash: South Asian culture plays a big role in your books – how has the response of your non-South Asian audience has been to this?
Lalli: Very positive. While my main characters have all been South Asian, and a lot of what they go through and experience is specific to our culture, their journeys are largely universal. They are journeys about finding yourself, finding love, and overcoming pain, grief and past hurt to live fully and authentically. I think these are themes most people can relate to.
View this post on Instagram
DissDash: Who are your favorite South Asian authors?
Lalli: Off the top of my head, a few of my favorite South Asian authors are Jhumpa Lahiri, Uzma Jalaluddin, Saumya Dave, Megha Majumdar, and Sonali Dev!
DissDash: What message would you like to give our readers for Diwali?
Lalli: It’s been a challenging few years and sometimes it’s hard not to focus on the darkness. Sending everyone love and light this holiday season.
Not competent enough to sit idle and stare as the world goes by, Pallavi is optimistic to a fault and believes in building her world on her own rather than depending on others to make things right.