In conversation with Sonya Singh
IN CONVERSATION WITH
Sonya Singh is an author, writer, and storyteller who currently lives in Toronto, Canada. She's a former entertainment reporter turned PR expert.
Her debut novel Sari, Not Sari, received glowing praise from Publishers Weekly, who stated that it was a “delightful debut rom-com”, and that Singh was “a writer to watch.”
Sonya's name popped up in my inbox late one Monday evening. Of course, I had heard of her — that eye-catching book cover of hers had taken over my Instagram feed for the past week.
I opened her email after a long day of writing, and despite my fatigue, it was almost as though she recharged me with her words. I felt Singh's strong wilful personality, and immediately typed a response.
She responded to let me know that Sari, Not Sari had just been featured by Good Morning America in their New books to add to your April reading list article. When Sonya shared the news with me, I was so excited for her, you'd think it was my book they chose.
Not only that, she recently signed a deal with Crown Media, and will be one of the first South Asian women to write a screenplay for a Hallmark holiday film, slated to release later this year. Hallmark movies bring back great memories of me, my mum and sister, all cuddled under a blanket, where we'd watch them for hours in the lead up to Christmas. I can't wait to see what Sonya has in store for us.
As a champion for women in publishing, I was eager to hear more about Sonya. We talked about her fantastic debut, her Asian Heritage, favourite book, and what advice she would give to her younger self.
Sari, not Sari came out last month and has received rave reviews from many. How does it feel to see your book out in the wild?
It feels WILD. I am so grateful for all the LOVE and all the SUPPORT. It's all you can really hope for as a debut author, that the community embraces your writing in a space where there are many OG authors. I have had many goosebump(y) moments, but to see my book on the shelf, a Desi author amongst Emily Henry and Emily Giffin – it’s unbelievable.
Where did the inspiration for the title come from?
Well, as the oldest of 3 sisters, I often had my clothes disappear and suddenly reappear on my sisters. I remember I was getting ready to attend an Indian wedding one day and having spent over a week searching for one of my favourite Saris…out walks my sister with it on! She says, “Sari, Not Sari” – LOL!
In the book we meet Manny Dogra, a highly successful CEO and the daughter of Indian parents. Do you feel any part of your personal experiences were woven into the writing of Manny?
Of course. I certainly took a very nontraditional role for a South Asian woman in my career as a TV broadcaster and my parents were very supportive as were Manny's. Just like Manny, I worked hard, paved my own path and along the way, my colleagues became my family too.
You’re making history as the first South Asian woman to write a screenplay for a Hallmark movie. Firstly, congratulations! What does it feel like to break the mould and pave the way for others?
WOW, just even seeing those words next to my name feels so AWESOME! I love that Hallmark and Crown Media are giving me this opportunity to share my Indian Heritage and culture in a Christmas Holiday Movie. They are known for Christmas, and if I can give the opportunity to other South Asian actors or even inspire other South Asian creatives – well, it certainly feels magical.
It’s Asian Heritage Month in Canada. What does that mean for you?
It means a time to celebrate my culture and heritage finally! I spent most of my 20s running away and lacking understanding about how beautiful my culture is and how lucky I am to share it with others. I embrace every part of it.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would you say?
I would first of all, HUG her. She went through so much just to try to discover her own journey as a South Asian woman, just like my protagonist Manny. I would tell her she did great. Look where she is now! She was able to achieve so much because of her family and the people that really cheerleaded her journey. Way to go, younger Sonya!
What was your favourite book growing up?
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret.