Ahead of the release of her debut novel, Love Is Never Easy, Donna Dias Manuel talks about what inspired her to don the author’s hat…

For a long time, for me, writing was a private indulgence. I dabbled in poetry in high school, when I was trying to navigate those hard-to-explain-myself years; left a few short stories incomplete, and even attempted writing lyrics. And then for a brief period, I didn’t write at all. Life took over; MBA, corporate career, home loans, you know, grown-up stuff.

But then, in 2012, when I was working with a popular daily, I found myself surrounded by a new breed of creative people, those who were moonlighting as authors, photographers and musicians. Nothing seemed to stop them, not even the long working hours or Mumbai’s harsh commute. I knew then that I wanted to branch out and do something on my own, but I just didn’t know it was going to be writing a novel.

Three years ago, I took a sabbatical and followed my husband to Bangkok where his work took him. And that’s when I dipped my toe in the water, with a personal blog on motherhood.

Becoming a mother has been one of the most intense, life-changing experiences I’ve had, and in some way, it rekindled my passion for writing. I began to have so many new experiences and was excited to write about them. Bringing up a child in a foreign land is both exciting and challenging.

You see, motherhood in some ways makes you a story-teller. Mums all over the world enjoy sharing their stories, and we’re able to relate to those stories, no matter the age or nationality. I received encouraging feedback on my blog posts and soon began writing as a guest blogger for other parenting sites too. Before I knew it, I was writing for BAMBI News, an English magazine in Thailand.

And then, I had my second-life changing experience – one I’d never wish on anyone.

Sometimes, ‘I’ve got your back’ is all you need to hear.

It was my sister’s terminal illness and the unpredictability of life it brought with it, but mostly her strength, wisdom, and courage that inspired me to write a story of hope. Her attitude towards life even during those tough moments was unearthly. We tend to take our lives and relationships for granted, but for those who have so much to lose, every second counts. Love Is Never Easy, is my dedication to her.

The core of my story is about the power of love, and the strength of friendship.

My friends have played a vital role in all seasons of my life, whether through happy and awkward times in high-school and college or through my recent experiences. I know many other women would feel the same way too. Few of us have the pleasure of maintaining our childhood friendships that we hope will continue right through old age. Women in India are at crossroads today. We’re constantly asked to choose – it’s either this or that. Making these decisions can be less daunting when you have the right support from your friends and loved ones. Sometimes, ‘I’ve got your back’ is all you need to hear. Love Is Never Easy, is as much a dedication to friends who show up and be there, as it is to my sister, who of course, was my first best friend!

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Donna Dias Manuel was born in Mumbai, in an estrogen-dominated family. She has a degree in Geology and an MBA to her credit. Presently, she lives in Bangkok with her husband and daughter. Love Is Never Easy, is her debut novel.

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