South London romance novelist Sareeta Domingo channels her passion for writing into a career as a senior editor at a creative book packager. Squeezing writing into every bit of Sareeta’s spare time, it’s a wonder she found the time to talk to me.
She’s just published her first full length novel, The Nearness of You (Piatkus, May 2016), a London-based story about love and friendship that we cannot wait to read… ‘as the line between right and wrong becomes blurred, Taylor will have to decide whether she can – or should – turn away from what might be the love of her life.’
She also reviews contemporary romance novels on her blog, The Palate Cleanser which has an all-important ‘Cringe Factor’ rating. Genius. She’s written a sexy short story series for Agent Provocateur and an erotic novel for Company magazine too.
Pull up a chair as we deep-dive into the whimsical world of romance.
You juggle your job as a Senior Editor in the publishing world with other writing projects such as your blog, how do you manage everything?
It is a bit of a challenge sometimes, but basically by trying to be disciplined about it. I get up at 6am, get ready for work and then write for an hour before I eat breakfast and stuff, and as much as I can, I try and write in the evenings and on weekends too. But to be honest I love to write, so it’s not too much of a struggle.
Which came first for you, publishing or a love of writing?
Oh, definitely a love of writing. I’ve written stories since I was a kid. I think I got into publishing – and editing, specifically – as a way to utilise my abilities as a writer, and due to my love for the written word.
The tone of your new book is said to appeal to Kelly Rimmer and Tracy Buchanan fans. Which writers inspire your work most?
Oddly enough, not really writers that are necessarily categorised as women’s fiction writers. My favourite authors are people like Toni Morrison, who is a goddess in my mind and the mind of many others, obviously. But also lesser known romance writers like Robin York really influence me. She’s someone who I think really manages to produce romantic, sexy fiction that is still engaged with the real world, and respects her readers on an intellectual level too.
Which author(s) do you read when you’re looking for a good love story or other genres?
When it comes to romance stories, I like to find writers I haven’t encountered before, so I tend to go a lot on the description of the book, and I also like to try and read a page or two to get a sense of the quality of the writing. By doing that, I’ve discovered writers like Alice Clayton, Tammara Webber and Christina Lauren; actually two women writing together.
What or who inspired you to write your new book?
The initial seed of The Nearness of You was a bit morbid actually. I was going through a spate of reading news stories where bodies would be found by someone out walking their dog, and it made me think – who are these people and how does that kind of story affect them in their lives going forward? Taylor discovers a body at the very start of the book. It doesn’t seem like an obvious lead in to romance, but then I started to build on Taylor’s character and her relationships, and I thought of another question – what if you were in love with the one person you know you couldn’t have? Voila! The story started to oddly meld together and take shape. I’m pleased to say it’s not anything that’s happened to me, or really to anyone I know. I can’t deal with that kind of drama. But then again, like Taylor discovers, you can’t really control whom you fall in love with, or what hand fate deals you when it comes to these things…
Ok, we have to ask – what would you do in Taylor’s situation?
Wow. I think that I’d react the way she does. I’d try and resist my feelings… Try being the optimum word here!
Which diverse writers should we be looking out for?
So many! As well as writers like Toni Morrison and Zadie Smith, whom I love, I’d also definitely recommend writers like Paul Beatty, Yvette Edwards, Octavia Butler, Irenosen Okojie, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bharati Mukerje. All fantastic writers, and there are so many more. I feel strongly as well about writers from what we might term ‘diverse’ backgrounds becoming more prominent in genres like romance and ‘women’s fiction’, particularly in the UK.
You also write a blog called The Palate Cleanser – which for those of us living under a rock is usually a course during a meal that separates strong flavours so the next course can be tasted as it’s meant to be. Does reading such a breadth of writers and books feed your creativity?
Yeah, I called my blog The Palate Cleanser because sometimes when you’re used to reading heavier stuff, literary fiction, or even if you don’t have time to read all that much and just want something fun, diverting and romantic, then contemporary romance fiction has so much to offer in terms of cleansing that mental/reading palate! I definitely think reading a variety of books fuels my creativity, so it’s a win-win.
Do you get the dreaded writers block and can you give us some tips for getting into the flow? My Editor will be happy if you do, my pieces are often a tiny bit, er… tardy…
Oof, yeah it can be hard. I think you have to just remember that a huge part of writing successfully is re-writing. Even if what you’re putting on the page is utter dross, you can always go back and fix it – but you can’t fix what’s not on the page to begin with.
You’ve been commissioned to write a sexy series of short stories for Agent Provocateur, can you a hint as to what we can expect to see in them and when will they be released?
Actually, they were the first things I ever had published, back in 2005 (onwards). So they’re well and truly out there – you can find out info in the books section on my website. I also did an erotic novella for Company magazine too. Check them out, I’m sure they’re available for resale at your favourite online retail stores…
Last but not least, which poolside reads should we be packing in our suitcase for our summer holiday this year? In addition to Nearness of You of course!
Zadie Smith’s NW for an excellent (holiday) read that might remind you of home especially if you’re a Londoner, so you’ll be smug about being away. Then if you’re after a sexier, edgier read for the poolside and you’re over Fifty Shades, I’d definitely recommend Olivia Cunning’s, Backstage Pass, which despite its potentially cheesy-sounding name/premise is very hot. Alisha Rai’s, Glutton for Pleasure, which features a heroine of Indian descent with a refreshingly ‘healthy’ body type as well as an insatiable appetite for two very attractive guys. Then finish off with one of my absolute favourites, Paul Beatty’s White Boy Shuffle, a criminally under-read, hilarious satirical critique of African-American identity politics. If you’re not into anything too heavy, you can find far more contemporary romantic reads reviewed by me at The Palate Cleanser, of course! But seriously, start with my book, The Nearness of You!
The Nearness of You is out now, pick up your copy at Amazon