Anubha Mehta is set to release her new publication Peacock in the Snow on September 28 at Ben McNally Books.
We sat down with this Anubha Mehta, to hear more about her journey behind writing this book.
Q1. Who is Anubha Mehta?
Anubha Mehta is a Canadian author who was born in India. With a doctorate in Political Science and over two decades of Canadian public service experience, Anubha’s writing has been widely published in Canada and abroad. Anubha led a singular portfolio of The Diversity Officer at the Regional Government of Peel and has been awarded and acclaimed for innovative program planning, education as well as working with diverse Canadian communities. Anubha has always balanced academics and public service with art and has been a classical dancer, theatre-actor, painter and poet. Anubha’s dream of listening to and sharing everyday voices has led to the development of this interactive platform inside this website called TELL-TALE. Here Anubha invites tales of natives and immigrants, from past and present, from lonely corners and loud hubs to recall themselves and unpack their worlds. Within these tales, we often discover unexpected, eclectic nuggets that provide comparators and inspiration within our own worlds. In A Writers Blog, Anubha shares the transitioning from a Writer to an Author – with social media, publicity, lessons learned, tips, tools, and traps. In consecutive posts Anubha lays out this unfamiliar journey as it has unfolded for her, hoping that others who are going through this transition may relate to some of her predicaments and knowing that she has not been the first to go through this. Anubha’s personal stories and articles are drawn from her ancestors, childhood and life and capture the spirit of epochs lived through turbulent and peaceful times.
Q2. What is Peacock In The Snow about?
It's a genre-bending thriller about the power of love, sacrifice and the tireless capacity of people to hope, strive and succeed despite impossible circumstances.
It's a story of shy and naïve Maya and how her perfect life with her new husband Veer is thrown into complete disarray when she accidentally stumbles on an ancient family secret. Maya migrates to Canada and start rebuilding her life amongst adventure and hardship. Not knowing that the ghosts of her past have followed her, in a race against time, Maya is put to a final test. Armed with conviction and courage, she sets out to face the dark forces that lie await. Will Maya ever be free of a dark past? Will she be able to survive so far away from home? Will her marriage stand the test of time, displacement, and hardship in a new country?
“It is a story of belief, vengeance, and forgiveness. It is a story of optimism rooted in the imperfections of life. The protagonist’s hope makes her resilient and her courage leads to her redemption. The only way to overcome past wrongs is to face them, to conquer our fears and confront our inner demons”, says Anubha.
Q3. How does your novel, Peacock In The Snow, reflect your experience in Canada and why is this book timely?
The book lifts the veil on present life and times of Canada and characters within this transitional time. The complexion of mainstream North America is changing. This new class of newcomers who have immigrated in mass numbers (since 1990’s) and whose profile and tastes, motivations and needs, are very different from what this continent has seen before- originating from non-western countries, educated, socially connected, internationally mobile, professionally astute and affluent. They are less tolerant of structured racism, the chronic underemployment and lack of opportunity for newcomers. They strive for equal access on the basis of experience, qualification and merit. This book is a story of one such family. At a deeper level, this book fulfills that need for second generation Canadians to recognize a little more deliberately - who their new neighbours are, what work ethic they bring, what values their children’s friends in school carry or who they may choose to marry, what new challenges our communities face or what motivates the new voices in town hall. This book also appeals to the other side of the globe, to satisfy their curiosity about North America and what it looks like from the eyes of a new family that comes here- Canadian minds and landscapes, it starkness and beauty, and experiences of hardship and freedom - all together.
Q.4. What makes this book interesting?
It's a contemporary story of a modern woman with a mix of voice, adventure and magic. Written in easy to read, plain language, with a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter and the possibility of myth and magic that percolates on the fringe of reality coming vividly to life. This book blends conversations, habits, and conventions of parallel lives from a non- western to a western context. The tale is sprinkled with the intrigue of the paranormal, an avenging spirit provides the impetus, purpose and culmination of the plot. At each intersection of implied symbols, the reader, depending on his/ her temperament, has an opportunity to either believe or un-see the darker side.
Q5. The protagonist Maya is character with many layers. How is she similar to you?
When I was younger, my mother often joked that she had twin daughters who were completely opposite to each other. And those who didn’t know us better, often believed her!
No, I don’t have a personality disorder, but I had the opportunity of living in different worlds at the same time. This protagonist Maya also came to life with some of that advantage. I was born to parents with opposing socio-political affiliations. My father’s family had migrated to India from Peshawar (currently in Pakistan) just before the Indian sub- continent was partitioned. His ancestors had worked with the British bureaucracy, were celebrated and titled for their service to the Queen. My mother’s ancestors, on the other hand, were the old landed gentry of India’s capital city of Delhi and were actively involved in the freedom movement with Mahatma Gandhi against the British. This contrasting precedence – with my mother’s family exposing me to community issues and grass root activism and my father encouraging my interaction with the crème de la crème taught me to understand what life was like for different strata of people. But what was closest to my heart was when I absconded with my artist aunt into the interiors of rural India to witness development work of folk artists and run free in body and spirit. Our protagonist Maya too is a dearly loved child and lives with characters that represent different worlds like in mine. When I grew up, I fell in love with someone who was refreshingly my opposite. His world revolved around simplistic solutions and outdoor adventures. We travelled the most unlikely parts of the world on a shoe-string budget. Russia and East Europe during its break up, beautiful and raw Africa, South East Asia. We enjoyed meeting new people and discovering new cultures. When I got married my bohemian mindset of abandon had to face a different dichotomy this time, one of patriarchal expectations of an extended joint family. To cope I took refuge in the pen, writing on gender issues and went back to school to complete my PhD. Our protagonist Maya too starts her married life entangled in a web of societal hypocrisy, materialism and sexism. And both of us (myself and Maya) escape to Canada to find our answers!
Q6. How is your protagonist different from you?
Maya, as I’ve come to love, is a very intuitive woman. She does not underestimate the powers of her instinct. She is neither strategic nor analytical. Her way of dealing with setbacks is by looking for the silver lining, being retrospective and at worst pensive as opposed to cynical. She is different from me because she is more accepting of the imperfections of life, less controlling, more hopeful, and perhaps more resilient. Maya is all that I would have loved to be.
Q7. Have you started working on your next book? If yes, could we get a sneak peak?
I have two upcoming projects in the pipeline. One is a sequel to Peacock in the Snow – the story continues from where it is left and this is written from the next generation’s perspective and the reality of how young innocent people get engulfed with espionage and terrorism. In this too we shall be traversing boundaries from the unknown into the known, starting in a different part of the globe but ultimately coming home to Canada. I am also working on a themed collection of stories based on the nine elemental human emotions - love, laughter, sorrow, anger, courage, fear, disgust, wonder and peace - and their multi layered affect on character choices and circumstances in life.
Q8. What is your advice for upcoming writers/ authors?
Never underestimate your power of interpreting the world around you. We are all born out of stories and stories are all around us. Read, write, think, express in whichever way that works for you. Never disbelieve in your stories and what you want to tell. Remember that writing in a language is only a medium. The last thing that should matter to you is mastering the word over the intrigue of your story, concerns about ‘how to write’ rather than ‘what to write’. For when you think then it should be larger than the written word. The mediums present themselves to you later. Believe in yourself, be persistent, live life daily and the magic will happen. The Writers’ Blog is an interactive space where you can virtually network with other writers facing similar issues or you can share your experiences, or send me your questions and concerns on this topic: https://www.anubhamehta.com/blog/