Where you live and love

Recently, Nalini Singh traveled to India, where her ancestors lived several generations ago, to experience the country as the setting for a novel. Travel and chances to live abroad have been defining experiences for Singh’s work as she is aware that romance in one part of the world may not be the same in another.


How does culture shape romance?

That’s a difficult question for me to answer, because I grew up in Fiji. Now Fiji is a bicultural country, so I grew up—and English is spoken by everyone, so I grew up speaking two languages fluently, and there was a third that if I had stayed there longer I would have picked up enough of the third. So I have always read English language books from childhood, and I’ve read both from the American side and the British side, because in the Pacific we get both. I did used to read in Hindi, but Hindi’s actually harder to write and stuff, and I preferred to read in English. So for me, I did, I guess, have that Anglo-American influence in terms of the classics, and I really enjoyed the classics. I’ve read Wuthering Heights, and I read Jane Austen and all of that. Yeah, so it’s tough, but I think for me I’m one of those people who is very omnivorous in my reading, so I will pick up something and enjoy it, and I don’t necessarily know that it’s had an impact, but it probably has. For me, it’s probably less of the literature tradition that I’m aware of; I’m more aware of being influenced by the fact that I’ve traveled and lived in different countries, and I’m aware that that’s had a difference in terms of being aware of other cultures and other cultural mores and how a courtship might work in one culture and might not work in another. And so I’m more aware of that, yeah, in terms of the cultural differences.

So my next book that’s coming out in September is actually set in India, and so the culture is different. The way a male and a female or my hero and heroine would interact is different.

like in terms of public displays, for example. You wouldn’t kiss someone kind of on the street. That might be a really big romantic scene if I was writing a book set in New York. They run; they kiss in the taxi. It’s a wonderful scene. But if I did that, that wouldn’t be a romantic scene in India. It would raise too many eyebrows. Or even in Japan where I lived it’s a much more private culture in terms of that intimacy. So their romantic scene might be a moonlit roof under a starlit night and the two of them alone and dancing. And so yeah, you can see how it really informs what is romantic in this culture. And I’m always aware of that and I think it’s fun and it makes the books interesting and different.

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