After publishing the first four Anita Ray mysteries, my publisher ended its mystery line. For many writers the transition to being a hybrid author was easy, but for me it was fraught with frustrations. I moved on to writing another series based in the US and not South India, and limited my work on the India series to putting the first three books into trade paperbacks. That’s about to change.
The fifth Anita Ray has been sitting on my desk (almost literally) for over a year while I focus on other stories (short and novel length), but the time has come. In Sita’s Shadow continues the story of Anita and her Auntie Meena and their hotel guests, who arrive as a large tour (large for Hotel Delite) and take over the little converted home.
Anita Ray and her aunt have a small group of devoted followers who occasionally ask me about the next book. I reply as any ambivalent writer might, mentioning a work in progress, other demands, and lots of mumbling. But the time has come and my ambivalence is once again being challenged.
I am not Indian. My love affair with Asia, and India in particular, began when I was young, a preteen, and continued through high school, college, and into graduate school. I was fortunate enough to live there for a year in 1976 and again in 1981-1982, while writing my dissertation and later doing research. With a PhD in Sanskrit and Indian studies, I’m always eager to learn ore. I’ve returned for monthlong visits almost every year since 1999, but that stopped in 2014 for family medical reasons.
In the advancing twenty-first century, writers are less likely to tell a story through the mind and heart of a character outside their own personal history and ethnic experience. This is unfortunate because the imagination opens doors—it doesn’t close them—to our understanding of the human experience, and the more we stretch ourselves, the more we grow and the more we have to share with others. When I’m reading a well-written and well-thought-out mystery, I never think about who the author is in relation to the cultural identity of the protagonist or any other character in the story. The story is all that matters to me.
By this spring Anita Ray will once again be chasing down a murderer at Hotel Delite (really, it’s a wonder they still have any business at all, considering the body count) and coping with Auntie Meena’s anxieties over her niece’s unmarried state and shameful obsession with murder.
As the TV announcer used to say, Stay tuned. There’s more to come.