I am so excited to welcome Farah Heron to The Debutante Ball this week. Farah’s debut, THE CHAI FACTOR released in June from HarperCollins Canada, and she’s one of my favorite people on Twitter. Check her out for a perfect blend of writing truth, political and equity truth, and straight-up humor. Farah is one of those writers you at once root for and want to be friends with it.
After a childhood diet of Jane Austen, Monty Python and Bollywood, Farah Heron writes romantic comedies full of huge, loving South Asian families, loyal friends, delectable food, and most importantly, brown people falling stupidly in love.
THE CHAI FACTOR, released in June by HarperCollins Canada, has been named one of the summer’s best books by The Globe and Mail, and has been praised in Book Riot, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Bustle and more. Farah’s next release will be THE RIGHT SPICE, by Forever/Grand Central Books.
You can follow Farah online at:
Read on to learn more about her #ownvoices rom-coms, her early start with Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High, and for Farah’s A1 book recommendations. Fill your #TBR with incredible South Asian romance writers.
Tell us about your next big project.
My next traditionally published book will be The Right Spice. I adore this book so much! The Chai Factor was very cathartic and important for me to write, but The Right Spice is the book of my heart.
It is about Reena, who is Amira from The Chai Factor’s best friend. She is a 30-something single woman who is stuck in a bit of a rut— she works at a job she hates, her best friend moves away, and she’s given up on dating after 12 relationships that went nowhere. And frustratingly, her intrusive parents insert themselves into her life constantly. She is so tired of the non-stop parade of eligible Muslim bachelors they throw at her. She certainly doesn’t expect to fall for their newest set-up— a handsome Tanzanian man that works for her father.
I fell head over heels in love with the hero while writing this book, and I am so happy that I was able to create someone who adores Reena as much as readers of The Chai Factor did!
I’m also working on the book that will be released after The Right Spice. It’s a big departure for me. It’s still a rom-com, but I am trying something new and I am very excited about how it’s shaping up!
What first inspired you to start writing?
I didn’t really have profound inspiration to write, one day I just started, only to see if I could. I was in a period of my life when I read a lot. In 2015, I read 150 books, mostly romance and women’s fiction, and it became harder to ignore my own stories that were invading my brain.
I didn’t start writing own voices at first, because I honestly didn’t think there would be anyone interested in the light, frothy, romances and women’s fiction that I wanted to write, if the characters were South Asian Muslims like me.
But once I noticed that other South Asian writers were writing romance, I decided to try an own voices story. It was so freeing to be able to represent my own culture, and I don’t plan to stop writing own voices anytime soon
Have you ever traveled to do research for your writing? Where did you go?
I’ve done a fair bit of visiting locales from my books within my own city, but since I’ve only set my books in Toronto so far, I have not had a reason to go much farther. A lot of The Right Spice, however, was inspired by a trip I took with my family to Tanzania a few years ago. Both the hero and heroine have families originally from that country, and I added this detail specifically because both my parents are from Tanzania. I was able to pepper details and experiences from my trip there to give my characters richer memories of time they’d spent in that beautiful country. And it ended up being a way to honour both my parents’ backgrounds, and my experiences as a first-generation immigrant.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
I was a huge reader. As a child, I was in love with all the Judy Blume books, and as I grew, I aged into Sweet Valley High and teen category romances like Sweet Dreams and Wildfire. By the time I actually a teenager, I moved on to mysteries and horror. I read everything by Christopher Pike and loved Alfred Hitchcock Magazine short stories. By my late teens I was reading Women’s Fiction and historicals, loving Jane Austen and Margaret Lawrence.
Tell us what you’re looking forward to reading.
The book I’m most looking forward to reading in 2020 is Sajni Patel’s The Trouble with Hating You. It’s an Indian American Rom-com about an arranged marriage, and it looks so good! I absolutely love the premise, maybe because it’s so similar to my next book, The Right Spice. And the cover is so fun, and so unapologetically Indian!
In addition to Sajni Patel, there are so many South Asian romance writers killing it in the industry like Mona Shroff, Nisha Sharma, Sonali Dev, Falguni Kothari, Suleikha Snyder, and more. I feel so lucky to be writing at the same time as these amazing women. For years I could not find any South Asian romance writers, and now there are so many!
Learn more about THE CHAI FACTOR:
Amira Khan has no plans to break her no-dating rule.
Thirty-year-old engineer Amira Khan has set one rule for herself: no dating until her grad-school thesis is done. Nothing can distract her from completing a paper that is so good her boss will give her the promotion she deserves when she returns to work in the city. Amira leaves campus early, planning to work in the quiet basement apartment of her family’s house. But she arrives home to find that her grandmother has rented the basement to . . . a barbershop quartet. Seriously? The living situation is awkward: Amira needs silence; the quartet needs to rehearse for a competition; and Duncan, the small-town baritone with the flannel shirts, is driving her up the wall.
As Amira and Duncan clash, she is surprised to feel a simmering attraction for him. How can she be interested in someone who doesn’t get her, or her family’s culture? This is not a complication she needs when her future is at stake. But when intolerance rears its ugly head and people who are close to Amira get hurt, she learns that there is more to Duncan than meets the eye. Now she must decide what she is willing to fight for. In the end, it may be that this small-town singer is the only person who sees her at all.
Available pretty much anywhere books are sold: