Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Author’s Inspiration ~ Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar #HistFic @moha_doha

Please give a warm Coffee Pot welcome to historical fiction author, Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar. Mohanalakshmi is going to share with us her inspiration behind her latest book…

The Opposite of Hate


During the 1960s and 70s, more bombs were dropped on a landlocked part of Southeast Asia than in any other war - and it wasn't Vietnam. The turbulent history of the Land of a Thousand Elephants, the Kingdom of Laos, is the backdrop for this family saga, told as a historical novel. THE OPPOSITE OF HATE opens a window onto a forgotten corner of Southeast Asia and brings little known history to life through vivid characters and settings which explore the cultural heritage of Lao history.

THE OPPOSITE OF HATE explores the intersections of family, loyalty, and nationalism as Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is being taken over by Communists. The political instability drives Seng, a widowed engineer, to marry his best friend’s teenage daughter, Neela, so they can escape re-education or even worse, death. The unlikely husband and wife cross the Mekong River into Thailand as strangers.

Life in the refugee camp brings surprises along with the grime. As they struggle for survival, romances blossoms into an unplanned pregnancy. Seng and Neela get their wish of immigrating to the United States. Succeeding in suburbia, however, presents another unique set of challenges, ones that are not black and white. 

This is a tale of intermingled violence, love and ambition.

Seng and Neela embody the historic cultural struggle of thousands who fled the threats of communism only to face the challenges of democracy.

Author’s Inspiration

Listen to Others, Listen to Yourself

When I first met my husband’s family, I thought we had a shared identity as Asians. I was born in India; his parents in Laos. After we got married, I learned about the complex, and varied history of Laos. Yes, these were two countries on the continent of Asia, yet with very different colonial histories.

The British in India saw an opportunity to gather many different groups into one nation, then mobilize them into service by making them learn English, and sending them around the world as middle managers.

The French in Laos saw untamed natural beauty and decided to set up residence there to manage the rest of their interests in Southeast Asia. The landlocked country became of strategic importance in contemporary history during the Vietnam War.

Time and again when people ask my husband where he is “from” he will say “Laos.”

“Cambodia?” Most Americans will reply.

He is a patient introvert who consistently smiles at this predictable exchange. I have to remind myself I wouldn’t have known any of this if I hadn’t spent time with his extended family of Laotians who left in the ‘70s for Europe, Australia, or America. The story of their family, members fractured by history, is one we see playing out now for families in Syria and Myanmar.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. What makes these stories similar are their universal truths: parents who long for their children, lovers separated by circumstances, youth ruptured by violence.

Stories are all around us; we tell them at the dinner table about what happened at the traffic light on the way home. And if we are lucky enough, we listen as others tell us about moments in their past. The ones that linger, and you can’t get out of your head because you wish it went a different way or you could do it over.

That’s how I became a writer: I heard snippets of other people’s questions – scenarios that lingered with me and for which I wanted answers. We can pass this inquisitiveness on to others by listening, reading, and of course, writing these stories.

Though we might think otherwise, because of the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and other advances in technology, the oldest form of sharing we know as a species are stories. We haven’t actually improved on what a story does, or its essential elements.

Beginning, middle, end. Protagonist, antagonist, love interest.

Sure now you can read it on a phone or a tablet or listen to it.

The essence of a story – This Happened to Me and Now You Are My Witness – that hasn’t changed from the original chats around cooking fires. That impulse to reach out and connect with someone else is as natural as the sound of our heartbeats. And what we gain by listening – well this is the part that gives me hope through our tumultuous geo-political present.

Reading historical fiction is a form of witness and that’s why the story at the heart of The Opposite of Hate is a tribute to all the people who were harmed in the unofficial war waged in Laos in the 1970s.

Links for purchase

About the author
Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.  Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011.
Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.
After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.

1 comment:

See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx