It started a long time ago. This aching need to write. To have my name attached to a work, such and such title, by Rohini Singha. That was my maiden name. I sometimes thought I’d be mysterious and have a penname. Everyone would wonder, “Who is that writer?” Critics and reviewers would declare, “Once again the mysterious author, Madame X, has captivated her readers with a scintillating tale of intrigue.” I was a great Agatha Christie fan in the days when my dream of being a writer was still limpid in its new-born vision. I was also unclear about what genre of story telling I would pursue. Madame X was the popular appellation for a woman of intrigue.
All this gradually became something of a private joke for me. By the time I’d read more complex, character and philosophy-driven work, the desire to write mysteries gave way to some day writing the great transformational novel. The imaginary nom de plume was replaced in my mind by my own and eventually my married name. It was still something that would happen “some day”. Through the years, although it was never pursued with any intensity, the dream was also never abandoned.
I’d potter away at the writing, late at night. After various domestic and motherly chores were completed, when a particular kind of silence enveloped the house, everyone was asleep and I was still awake. That’s when the draw of pen and paper, a phrase or comment I’d heard earlier in the day, or a look in the eye of a passer-by would nag at my brain. Like a sailor drawn by a siren’s song I’d steer my thoughts in that direction, embark on a tale and let it carry me wherever it wished to go. Oh the magic of those nights when I wasn’t reading another writer’s work!
It’s not to say that I never explored the possibility of publishing. Back then it was an arduous process. No Internet. No Google. I’d submitted manuscripts to publishers and agents and never heard from them. Finally we were in the Internet era. E-publishing was a reality. I submitted yet another story without much hope but with unfailing enthusiasm to an online publisher in the USA. Several months later she emailed me, “I like your story – Desert Flower and will publish it…” I read the message three times. Tears of joy welling up and spilling over.
After all the excitement settled I looked more closely at the publisher’s site. OMG, as they say today. Romance had a broad interpretation, and, although I haven’t read it, I suspect even Fifty Shades of Grey would pale into several shades of white at the list and variety of romance on display. I couldn’t possibly have my real name attached to this! I decided on a penname for Desert Flower – Zohra Saeed. My name, Rohini is Venus, the morning star, and that’s what Zohra means. Saeed, was taken from my old guru and mentor’s first name Saeed.
There’s a whole other story to this. That publisher eventually closed down, the rights reverted to me and Ex-L-Ence agreed to republish it. For those of you who have been following my outbursts of delight, it has done rather well over the last month or so, at one point it even reached #6 on the Kindle store. In the meantime Ex-L-Ence Publishing came into my life and published my collection of poems – Corpoetry – with my real name attached.