In May 2022, a charming romantic comedy about a young woman who gets stranded in Paris with her work-enemy, only to fall head over heels for him, was released. With a strong female character at the centre and a South Asian heritage informing this POC-led love story, it’s easy to fall in love with this stunning romance. Set in the delightful City of Lights, Moondi’s rom-com brings together an Indian American heroine, a bucket list, a delayed flight, a trope of enemies-at-work evolving into lovers, a humorous undertone, and a culinary tour—no wonder Publisher’s Weekly praises it as “a feast for the senses”. Needless to say, it’s a pleasure to have Romi Moondi, author of 24 Hours in Paris, elaborate on her journey of being published and what inspires her to write strong women leads. To view more such posts by South Asian authors, make sure to check out this collaboration, More than Masala, spanning over September 2022. This blog post may contain affiliate links. To know more about them, please read my disclaimer.
Romi Moondi, the author of 24 Hours in Paris, on her journey to being published and what inspired her to write — a South Asian slant on the rom-com.
As an author with a South Asian background, it’s always nice to collaborate with readers and writers from our community. And on that note . . . I thought I’d use this opportunity to share my not-so-typical journey to becoming a traditionally published author; my romantic comedy with a South Asian lead, 24 Hours in Paris, was released in May 2022.
It was almost 15 years ago, when I was writing candid blog posts about navigating the (horrendous) dating jungle in Toronto, while also ranting about my Indian parents’ insistence that I create a profile on an Indian matrimonial site (how fun). Meanwhile, a blogger friend of mine suggested I take that real-life topic and turn it into a fictional novel, a daunting task if there ever was one—given that I already had a full-time job in the corporate world.
As I was mulling it over, a woman who I later learned was a traditionally published author, commented on my blog with a note of encouragement. She turned out to be Monica Pradhan, author of The Hindi-Bindi Club: A Novel. We wound up exchanging a few emails, and when I look back on it, I realize how it gave me the push I needed to write my first novel. I also had the chance to read her book, which was an emotional story I immediately fell in love with. It reminded me a bit of The Joy Luck Club, and overall, it was nice to read a book so immersed in South Asian culture—such a rarity at the time.
The next part of my journey would take me hours to explain, so I’ll summarize it quickly but you can ask me about it later on social media—I’m on all the channels under my own name!
✨ I wrote and painstakingly edited Year of the Chick—the novel based on my blog
✨ I was rejected by over 100 literary agents
✨ I briefly had a literary agent but quickly realized it wasn’t the right fit (and I was just being desperate)
✨ I learned all I could about self-publishing
✨ I eventually self-published the book!
What followed was:
🌻 Learning a ton about doing my own marketing
🌻 Developing a relationship with Wattpad (a new startup app in Toronto at the time)
🌻 Writing and publishing a sequel, Last-Minute Love
🌻 Posting more stories on Wattpad
🌻 Getting decent sales of my self-published books
🌻 Quitting my job and moving to Paris for 6 months to write and publish the third book in my series, Never or Forever
🌻 Writing screenplays and advancing in contests
🌻 Starting a new career as freelance copywriter
Phew! That was a lot, but I listed it off quickly so I could focus on the heart of the matter.
24 Hours in Paris by Romi Moondi
All bets are off in the City of Light . . . where life and love can change in less than a day
After calling off her engagement, Mira escapes on an all-expense paid business trip to Paris. Despite the delicious food and flowing wine, she can’t forget the ache of leaving her fiancé behind or the fact that she’s just blown up her personal life. And messing up simply isn’t Mira.
She’s used to being in control. Meticulously planning. But now she’s at the mercy of the travel gods, and they are not acting in her favor. Subways are missed. Trains don’t run. Flights are overbooked. And by the time she arrives at the airport to go home, there are no new flights to NYC until the next day. The worst part? She’s now stuck in Paris for twenty-four hours with her arrogant and insufferable co-worker Jake whose constant flirting and annoying optimism is more than she can handle.
But as they spend the next twenty-four hours in Paris, exploring the city in all its beauty, Mira realizes that she and Jake have more in common than they thought, and he may turn out to be the best thing she discovers in the City of Love.
So why do we write? Why do we even pursue the Arts, when it’s oftentimes so crushing, so financially unstable, and so plagued by a low probability of success?
For me, it started off as an outlet in high school, and over time it just took hold of me. There have definitely been ups and downs, but I always remind myself that first and foremost, it has to bring me joy in order to keep doing it. That part has always been consistent for me, and when I got into self-publishing, it expanded into something more, into this hope of finding others who would connect with my words, and maybe even see themselves in the characters and storylines I wrote.
Which brings me to why I write strong—and hopefully interesting—women leads with a South Asian background. It started out as a way to close the gap. In other words, I liked romantic comedy movies and books, but why did so few of them have South Asian characters in lead roles? And when they did show up, why were so many of them stereotypical? Luckily, things started to change thanks to Mindy Kaling, as she’s consistently done a great job of bringing fictional brown women to the forefront—and all types, too. Whether they’re messy and unlucky in love (The Mindy Project), or scientists trying to smash the patriarchy (Kamala in Never Have I Ever), her characters reflect the diverse world we live in, while also allowing them to have diverse adventures—just like the white characters we’re so used to seeing on screen. I love that.
That doesn’t mean there can’t still be stories about arranged marriages and matrimonial websites, but for a writer like me who already explored those storylines many years ago, it’s amazing to have a role model like Mindy, who’s paving the way for all types of stories featuring South Asian characters. It leaves me with an inspired feeling, and I hope you’re inspired too. It’s also the reason I didn’t give up on writing, even during the years when I wasn’t publishing books, but rather, writing screenplays and posting chapters on Wattpad just for fun.
All that focus on the “fun” of writing must’ve put something good into the universe, because in January 2021, Wattpad offered me a book deal. That book, 24 Hours in Paris (a rewrite of a story I first wrote on Wattpad), follows Mira Attwal, a South Asian branding whiz who finds herself on a business trip while fresh off a broken engagement. When she misses her flight back home to New York and is stuck in Paris with her annoying co-worker Jake, sparks fly in the City of Light—and I won’t give away more details than that, you’ll just have to read it!
This book received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, and readers have been finding it and sending me encouraging messages (thank you!). I’m currently working on a sequel, 24 Hours in Italy, which will find its way into bookstores in summer 2023. I hope you’ll enjoy it just as much.
Romi Moondi is a Canadian writer who primarily writes rom-coms with the aim to make you laugh, activate your heartstrings, and possibly even ‘get some dust in your eye’ on occasion. When she’s not writing novels, Romi can be found dreaming up screenplays, copywriting for clients, travelling, trying out new recipes, and loving Seinfeld forever. You can find her at romimoondi.wordpress.com or @romimoondi on Twitter or @romimoondi on Instagram!
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Everything stated in this post is independent of any compensation, and the guest writer’s comments and thoughts are solely their opinion; the formatting was done by the blogger but no changes were made in text.