Sandhya Menon is the New York Times bestselling author of ”When Dimple Met Rishi,” “Of Curses and Kisses,” and many other novels that also feature lots of kissing, girl power, and swoony boys. Her books have been included in many cool places, including the Today show, TeenVogue, NPR, BuzzFeed, and Seventeen. A full-time dog servant and part-time writer, she makes her home in the foggy mountains of Colorado. Visit her online at SandhyaMenon.com.
The following is an interview with Sandhya Menon.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote “There’s Something about Sweetie” because of the dearth of body-diverse and body-positive main characters in YA fiction (though there are a few fabulous ones, including everyone’s favorite, “Dumplin’”!). The idea of writing a self-proclaimed, confident fat girl who was also a top-notch athlete, had a close-knit group of friends, and got the boy was too appealing to pass up!
Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?
This is our introduction to Ashish, the main male character in the book. He’s a total jock and a player (we first meet him in “When Dimple Met Rishi.” To see him so down and out about love sets up the arc to the rest of the story, in which he challenges his parents to set him up with a girl of their choosing—he’s certain they’ll choose wrong—and they end up picking Sweetie!
Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?
This is the second book in my Dimple and Rishi universe, so I felt intimately acquainted with the characters and the setting already! Since I wrote the first book, “When Dimple Met Rishi,” though, I’d been able to visit the Bay Area in California, and particularly the wealthy area of Atherton, so I felt like I was writing from personal experience this time.
Additionally, I did a lot of research about plus-sized athletes. We rarely hear about them because the dominant narrative about fatness is that it means people are lazy or weak or unathletic, and I knew this wasn’t true. Turns out I was right—there are plenty of plus-size athletes competing on a professional level in a wide variety of sports!
What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?
It was really hard writing the relationship between Sweetie and her mother, who is her biggest critic. Sweetie’s mother embodies a lot of what I’ve seen in the South Asian community and even out of it—parents who fat-shame their kids out of fear and a desire to help them lose weight. Honestly, fat-shaming someone is the least helpful, most harmful thing you could possibly do: Research shows it does absolutely nothing to make people lose weight, and, in fact, leaves emotional scars that may never heal properly.
I really wanted to paint Sweetie’s mother in a morally gray light, though: She’s not an evil person, simply a misinformed parent who’s let her fear rule her. What she does isn’t right, and she and Sweetie are able to have a lot of important conversations on the page about fatphobia, fat-shaming, and body positivity, which is, in my opinion, very important to address when you write this kind of book.
I’ve been really heartened to see messages from readers who’ve connected deeply with Sweetie’s story. A lot of teens experience this same kind of treatment from their parents or important people in their lives. They’ve been able to use this book as a stepping stone to deep and important conversations, which makes me very happy.
Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet?
I’m a full-time writer, so I write from 9 AM to about 4 PM and then again once the sun goes down if I’m on deadline or feeling particularly inspired (and being on deadline tends to leave you feeling very inspired!).
I have a nice office in my house, decorated with art that inspires me. My desk has potted plants and a camera that was used in a photo shoot for one of my covers, my framed book covers decorate the walls, and a bulletin board holds stickers and pieces of promotional material that were used in marketing my books. It all feels very writerly and puts me in a happy mood!
I can’t have music when I write, but I do like to listen to ambient sounds. Ambient-mixer.com is a great website that has a lot of fun mixes: Hogwarts library; surrounded by a snowstorm in a winter cabin; summer forest; etc.!
What’s your next project?
I just released the first book in my boarding school-set fairy tale retelling series, “Of Curses and Kisses.” It’s been pitched as “Beauty and the Beast” meets “Gossip Girl,” and I’m in love with that description! It’s set at an elite boarding school in the Colorado mountains, and follows a princess who must break the heart of a British aristocrat as vengeance for what his family did to hers. Each book in the series will feature a different fairy tale retelling!
In June 2020, I’ll release “10 Things I Hate About Pinky,” which is the third book in the Dimple and Rishi universe. We meet Pinky in “There’s Something about Sweetie,” so readers will be familiar with her multicolored hair and passion for social causes! The book takes place at her family’s lake house, where she spins up a fake-dating scheme with her frenemy, the very buttoned-up Samir. Chaos, of course, ensues, but so does lots of kissing!