Maya Prasad’s debut novel Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things delivers four stories in one as she follows the Singh sisters through the ups and downs of first love, second chances, and more over the course of a year at their’s family’s inn–the most romantic inn in America!–on Orcas Island in the Pacific Northwest. I got to read Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things early for a panel I moderated in May for SLJ’s Day of Dialog (read the recap) and I have been thinking about this book ever since so I’m very excited to have Maya here to talk about her delightful debut.
Miss Print: Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?
Maya Prasad: It’s definitely been a long and winding journey! I started writing over a decade ago because I wanted to create the representation that I was so desperately yearning. Along the way, I landed my first agent, went on submission with a YA sci-fi that never sold, realized that my first agent wasn’t the right fit, received a mentorship through We Need Diverse Books, published some short stories, and signed with my current agent. My YA debut Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things was my fourth completed manuscript.
Miss Print: What was the inspiration for Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things? This book has an interesting structure presenting four books in one as the novel’s four parts each follow a different Singh sister over the course of one year. What was your approach to make the book cohesive while giving each sister her own moment to shine?
Maya Prasad: I wanted to create a work of joyful representation and a sister story with lots of cozy vibes and plenty of romance. I really enjoy books and movies with unique structures, and I was drawn to the idea of using lots of seasonal motifs to add to the charm. I was a little worried that the structure might be seen as risky by publishers, honestly, but I was hoping someone would fall in love with it, too.
In order to call it a novel, and not four novellas, there had to be an arc that tied it all together. That arc is the story of the Singh family, their connection to their roots, and Dad’s love story. At the same time, this structure was an opportunity to write a novel about Indian Americans that really shows we are not a monolith. Each sister’s story is truly hers, focusing on her voice, her dreams, and a whole new romance. I’m so grateful that the folks at Disney were wildly enthusiastic about it.
Miss Print: Four different protagonists, plus all of your secondary characters, is a lot to juggle in one book–especially when each sister has her own romance and emotional journey. How did you balance your large cast? Which character was the easiest to write? Who was the hardest?
Maya Prasad: I actually had a pretty strong vision for each of the sisters from the beginning, and writing one scene or chapter from each of their POVs (even if it wasn’t chronological to the novel) helped me establish their voices. I simply went from there.
I’m not sure any of them was particularly easy, but my favorite scene to write was Nidhi’s midnight adventure—I loved playing with the language in that chapter to evoke the feeling of escape and beauty in the darkness. The most challenging aspect was probably writing the verse sections in Avani’s pages. Writing in verse was new to me, but I thought it might be the best way for me to capture the visceral emotions of grief and loss.
Miss Print: Orcas Island and the Songbird Inn are basically their own characters in this story. How did you choose this setting? Did any actual locations (on Orcas Island or elsewhere) inspire the locations you feature in this story?
Maya Prasad: As the title indicates, I wanted to write something drizzly and dreamy, to romanticize the Pacific Northwest and make the reader want to revel in silvery seas and gray skies. I live in the PNW and the San Juan Islands are a favorite weekend getaway; I love ferry rides and panoramic views of the sea and craggy cliffsides; I love canoeing and hiking and cozying up by the fire afterward. I wanted to bring all of that into the story so that you would fall in love with it, too.
Miss Print: We’re living in a strange time with the pandemic as we all continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, and work together to stop the spread of Covid-19. How would the residents of the Songbird Inn be handling the pandemic?
Maya Prasad: In the early days of Covid, most hotels were closed and a lot of tourism shut down. Perhaps that would have been a good opportunity for the Singhs to take a much-needed break! The financials would have been a strain, though maybe they could have opened up a take-out business.
Once things started opening up, I imagine that while Dad would be careful about having guests wear masks in the common spaces, he could continue running the restaurant safely by getting heat lamps and tents, so the guests could dine outside on the decks. It would probably be quite lovely actually, with twinkle lights and views of the sea. Most recreation on Orcas is outdoorsy, which works well in the pandemic: hiking, kayaking, and beach combing are ways to enjoy yourself without much fear of getting Covid.
Miss Print: I won’t spoil anyone’s journey but one thing I loved about every part of this book is that in addition to finding love, all of your characters are trying to find themselves in some important ways whether it’s reconnecting with their heritage, finding some confidence, or learning how to take the lead. What is some advice you would have given your characters or advice you wish you’d received as a teen?
- If you’re a diaspora kid: you’re enough. You don’t have to be more Indian or more American or more anything. You’re enough as you are, and your relationship with your identity can be whatever you want it to be.
- Anyone who has ever really loved you should want the most for you, and you should want the most for yourself, too.
- The things that you or others perceive to be your flaws can actually turn out to be your greatest strengths.
Miss Print: What does a typical writing day look like for you? Has this changed in light of the pandemic?
Maya Prasad: It’s wild to think that I wrote the majority of Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things during the pandemic while supervising my kiddo’s remote second grade learning. It was definitely chaotic; I would literally make sure my kiddo got on a zoom class, write for 20 minutes, go back to help with independent work, and repeat. It’s all kind of a blur how I managed, really. Once school opened again, I had much more time at home to work, though with five books total coming out in ’22 and ’23, I still feel chaotic.
I do miss coffee shop dates with other writers, where we would catch up for a bit before ignoring each other and working on our own projects. Something about knowing the person next to you is working keeps you motivated. These days I’ve gotten kind of used to chatting with my online writing communities to keep myself from feeling too disconnected. But it’s still lovely to interact in person, when possible, so I’m looking forward to some upcoming conferences and live events!
Miss Print: Can you tell me anything about what you’re currently working on?
Maya Prasad: Absolutely—I’m finishing up the sequel to Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things! While the first book takes place over the course of a year, the second book takes place all in just one day. As I mentioned, I enjoy experimenting with unique structures, so it was a lot of fun to take on the challenge of fitting big emotions and epiphanies over the course of one wild, windy day.
I also have an upcoming kids’ STEM chapter book series to be published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin in summer 2023. The first book is Sejal Sinha Battles Superstorms, where an Indian American girl uses sciences and her trusty cardboard box to fly into the eye of a hurricane to save her family’s Diwali celebration.
Miss Print: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
Maya Prasad: The basics are: read a lot, write a lot, get feedback, repeat.
Receiving critique is hard, but be open to learning. Even if you don’t agree with someone’s suggestion, consider whether there’s an underlying issue that you could resolve another way.
Sometimes, life gets in the way of writing. That’s okay—let yourself live, too. I needed that advice in particular when I had a baby and was too exhausted to write. The words were there for me when I was ready. Believe in that.
Finally, revel in craft. Celebrate the small achievements. Even though we all want validation (and that’s natural), you have to make the most of the journey, too.
Thanks so much for the interview and for spending time in the world of the Singh sisters!
Thank you to Maya for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about Maya and her books on her website.
You can read my review of Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things here on the blog.