Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Q&A with Swati Hegde

Photo by Santhosh Narendran



Swati Hegde is the author of the new novel Match Me If You Can. Also a freelance editor and mindset coach, she lives in Bangalore, India.


Q: What inspired you to write Match Me If You Can, and how did you create your characters Jia and Jaiman?


A: First of all, Deborah, thank you so much for having me on your blog! Match Me If You Can was inspired by my love for Jane Austen, gooey rom-coms, and my eagerness to dish out unsolicited relationship advice.


Jokes apart, this book is a love letter to my favorite romance trope ever: friends to lovers. It’s largely inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma, but I gave my own touch to Jia and Jaiman, the main characters.


Jia initially comes across as a bratty rich daddy’s girl playing matchmaker, but over the course of the story, I like to think she matures and understands that she doesn’t quite know as much about love as she thought—especially when it comes to her own life.


Jaiman, on the other hand, has been a fan favorite among early readers. His dynamic with Jia is inspired by Emma and Mr. Knightley’s relationship, but all of Jaiman’s goals, motivations, and conflicts (as a struggling pub owner with secret feelings for Jia) are unique to Match Me If You Can.


Although I feel like I can’t quite figure out men in real life—especially on dating apps, am I right?—I definitely think I enjoy writing my male main characters the most. Who doesn’t love a swoonworthy hero who’s head-over-heels in love, after all?


Q: The writer Sarah Adams said of the book, “Truly a delightful friends-to-lovers romance with a clever take on Jane Austen’s Emma that will absolutely curb your sweet tooth and leave you feeling so warm and happy!” What do you think of that description?

A: Oh my god, I LOVE Sarah Adams, both as a person and as an author. Her When in Rome small-town romance series is to die for! It was such an honor to have her blurb Match Me If You Can, and I love her thoughts on it.


My late teen years and early 20s were all about reading romance novels and relishing the warm, happy feeling they left me with. As a writer, it’s always been my goal to make readers feel that way through my books, too. I’m so thrilled Sarah believes I can achieve that!


Also, Sarah Adams’ novels are largely closed-door/fade-to-black romance in terms of spice/steam level. Match Me If You Can is also a closed-door romance with no steamy scenes on-page, so I’m hoping Sarah’s readers will resonate with my book.


Q: The novel is set in Mumbai--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: I think setting is everything in Match Me If You Can. Without the themes of desi culture and the Mumbai backdrop, I don’t think the matchmaking angle would have felt as fresh and relevant to readers.


There’s also a subplot involving Jaiman’s rival from culinary school that I couldn’t have pulled off without the story being set in India.


The confession-of-love scene at the end of Match Me If You Can happens at one of Mumbai’s iconic tourist locations, Marine Drive. In my opinion, the beauty of Marine Drive is what gives that scene so much life!


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I want readers to feel as warm and giddy with joy as I personally feel after reading a romance novel.


Romance as a genre teaches us so much—to hold our partners to high standards; to know that the right partner won’t just desire us, they’ll cherish us; to remind ourselves that no matter where we live or who we love, we deserve a happily-ever-after too. If I can achieve that with even one reader, my job as a romance author is done.


Besides that, I’d also love for readers to know that romance novels don’t just have to be limited to Western settings. A book set in India can be just as relevant and enjoyable to them as one set in the US or the UK. We need more diversity in publishing!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently doing developmental edits on my second book with Dell/Penguin Random House. I unfortunately can’t share a lot of details about the book, except that it is also a desi romance novel set in India, but I’m so excited to talk about it when the time comes.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Just that I’m so grateful to everyone who’s added Match Me If You Can on Goodreads, requested an ARC, or preordered their copy. Every little action on the reader’s part helps debut authors, especially authors of color like me.


I’m forever indebted to my readers—they’re the ones who keep me going and whose support will help me turn all my ideas into books. Thank you, readers, and thank you for having me on, Deborah!


If you want to keep up with all my updates about my writing and my life, I’m most active on my Instagram @swatihegdeauthor.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb 

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