Happy Wednesday! I’m excited to have Zee Monodee over today sharing with us a little bit about herself and the new book line at Decadent Publishing called Ubuntu.
Hi, Zee! Welcome and thanks for coming by to talk about your exciting news. Congrats on heading the new line by Decadent Publishing, Ubuntu. Please start off by introducing yourself and sharing something most people may not know.
Hi Lia! Thanks or having me over today. Hello to everyone reading here.
So, I’m Zee Monodee. I like to think I’m a half-and-half split personality between an author with an overactive brain, and the other roles I fill in, like wife/mum/stepmum/chauffeur/bad cook/domestic non-goddess/neurotic basket case. I was born 3 decades ago on the small island of Mauritius, in the southern Indian Ocean, a place I’ve always called home despite travelling and staying abroad (primarily England and South Africa).
Something people might not know… Let me think… I am a perfectionist. I think this personality trait has been compounded by the many years I spent learning dressmaking skills at school. To not lose marks, every stitch had to be perfect, every corner turned to an exact 90 degree curve. I’ve carried this neurosis for perfection into my life. I don’t expect it from others, but I am my worst critic and worst personal slave driver. I never know when to stop, and that can make for some tricky situations at times. (And now I’ve scared everyone away )
When did you start writing?
I can’t remember when I was not writing, if that makes sense. I’ve been inventing stories for as far back as I can recall, playing with dolls. My only brother is 16 years older than me, so I grew up pretty much like an only child. Imagining my own world was how I lived my life, especially during the long holiday breaks when I was alone at home with my mother. I remember penning a diary every day when I was a tween. I wrote stories every week for my language classes in primary and secondary school.
But actively writing for publication – that started about a decade ago. I was a new mum and needed some sanity between the chaos of new motherhood and domestic non-goddessness (yes, I invented that word!). It was natural for me to start writing a story, the kind I wanted to read but couldn’t find anywhere (I wanted to see Mauritian reality depicted in a light and breezy manner; not the tedious, make-you-want-to-kill-yourself dismal and dark literature). One thing leading to another, a local publisher here made a call for submissions from Mauritian authors, and I tried my luck. Made my first sale back in 2005; haven’t looked back ever since.
Which do you like more: editing or writing? Or Both?
It’s a mix of both, actually. Absolutely love the thrill of writing, of uncovering character depths and secrets about them I never imagined lurked in their backstory when I came up with them. I love taking a story from start to middle to end and get that satisfaction of the happy ending, of wrapping all the conflict and threads into a coherent whole.
Yet, there is nothing more addictive than finding a wonderful story in the mss pushed into your editing hands, of being enraptured by another author’s voice and writing, and oftentimes, knowing exactly how to address the issues and problems that lie inside this story. It is a rush (at least, it is for me!) to help other authors and be the one who makes them go “A-ha!” when you point out the solution to something they’d been struggling with.
I’m a social person; I am wired to want to help others (sometimes even at my own detriment…), and being a mentor and an editor fulfils this part of me. Nothing quite gives me pleasure and a glow like helping a fellow author dig herself out of a predicament in his/her writing and story.
I have never been out the US. For those like me tell us what you love about Africa and what would make this new line special and unique.
What I like about Africa… That’s a tough question. I’ve lived most of my life in Mauritius (which is considered part of sub-Saharan Africa despite being an Indian Ocean island), and this is home to me. Full stop.
There’s something about Africa, a feeling of hovering between two worlds, that permeates every land making up this continent. We’re embracing modernity and technology and reaching out through the global village and virtual web. Yet, in our day to day life, we are in tune with our roots, with the call of the land, with our origins, never mind where each of us comes from. All this helps create a social and racial cohesion that is not easily found on other continents. Yes, there are social conflicts in Africa – the continent is rife with them, actually. But in many places, races and religions live in peace, and (somewhat) in harmony. Everyone accepts the other for who and what he/she is.
We wanted to carry this concept through Ubuntu. The word itself describes a philosophy that states, “I am what I am because of who we all are.” It’s about cohesion, working as a unit, embracing all we are and all everyone is, in order to make a richer whole.
At Decadent Publishing, we already work with our authors to create this whole. Through Ubuntu, we want to take this another level – not just a mutually beneficial relationship between publisher and author, but one that is a whole system that integrates the storyline into this whole.
And the other thing that makes Ubuntu special and unique is that it is dedicated to Africa. No publisher actually caters to this niche genre – that of African romance. The closest you can get to this concept, in popular fiction, is African-American romance set in the US. What of the people of Africa? Don’t they fall in love? Don’t they have stories to tell? Don’t they live in a unique microcosm that the world should get a chance to see? If you want to see Africa in books, your only recourse is literary fiction – oftentimes, dry as dust and the kind of dark, depressing writing that makes you wonder how anyone in Africa hasn’t killed himself/herself yet, because their reality is so dismal.
Ubuntu wants to show modern Africa as it is – a thriving world rife with change, dynamic and forever evolving, yet, at the same time, trying not to lose its roots, its inherent identity. There is so much scope for conflict – conflict that can be shown in a lighter, breezy, positive manner. What better then than romance to showcase all this?
What are you looking for where this line is concerned?
Good stories, with a HEA or a HFN. There has to be a positive ending. Other than that, the story can run the gamut of genres and plots.
We’re mostly looking for romance, though. A touch of exoticism; a slice of African life that will not throw us into the pits of depression ; being swept away through the many different and gorgeous locales and settings Africa offers. Think “Romance (as in, popular romance, the one from single title books or category books) in Africa.”
IR/MC is a given – because, hey, where else can you get such a fertile ground for mixing races and cultures? Women’s fiction (with a romantic plot and HEA/HFN) allows for showing the society and what it’s like to be a modern woman in Africa today. Give us a younger heroine, and you can have African chick-lit (which I have yet to see anywhere. At the top of my personal wish-list is the African Bridget Jones – if someone can write this and give it to me, I will have died and gone to Heaven )
Or, you can go mainstream and why not have a post-apocalyptic story where the water level has gone up drastically and the Maldives islands no longer exist? A thriller on African soil, with sleeper terrorist cells and a race to stop them?
Give us Africa – but like we’ve not seen it before.
What do you like to do when not writing or editing?
I’ll have to confess I am a TV junkie. You can be sure to catch me grabbing some fluff and stuff on the idiot box – from Supernatural to Glee to Gossip Girl, which are my absolute addictions, I’ll be hopping onto some CSI, Vampire Diaries, Desperate Housewives, NCIS.
And since my boys are now older and not little kids anymore, we can often be seen enjoying a game of Scrabble or having Angry Birds competitions on our phones.
Any other time beside these, (after spending some quality time with my husband – can’t forget him, poor soul who’s committed his life to me, lol), I’ll probably be reading. I’m a reading junkie and book hoarder – thank God for ebooks, coz my bookshelves at home would not hold the 2,300+ books I have on my Kindle and computer (yes, I did say 2,300+ books. No clue when I’ll ever read them all, if I’ll even manage to, but bring me on Amazon.com and you can be sure I’ll be hearing nothing but voices urging me to ‘Buy it! Buy it’ for every book that strikes my fancy).
Boxers, brief or commando?
Commando – less trouble to get him out of those pesky boxers or briefs. *wicked grin* There’s also something about the prospect of finding a man commando tha—Oops, sorry. I got carried away
Favorite eye color?
Blue. Must be because no one in my Indian-origin world has blue eyes… There’s something dreamy about a man with blue eyes
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard or seen?
Lol, you don’t want to get me started on conversations and episodes I’ve had with my mum and my aunts when I was still single and they were all trying to get me shackled up with someone! Let’s just say these women could make up the cast of a totally over-the-top soap opera, and whatever’s out there in fiction-land is not even close to what they can be like. A good example – when my first marriage crumbled because I found out my husband was a serial cheater and compulsive liar, everyone in my entourage took the slight personally… and you could be left to wonder if the man hurt me or one of those women more…
Thanks again for the chance to come here today and tell you more about Ubuntu (and a lot about me, too ). If anyone has any questions, leave a comment, or feel free to email me, anytime, at the following address email@example.com
The spec sheet for the Ubuntu line can be found in the Submissions section at the www.decadentpublishing.com website.
From Mauritius with love,