Characters always come to me before plots. Plots in fact are something I have to wrestle down, often earning me a few hundred gray hairs before a book is done. But the characters, they are what make sacrificing my jet black locks worth every lost strand. When I started writing A CHANGE OF HEART, I meant to write a story about Nikhil, a doctor with Doctors-Without-Borders, finding healing after his wife’s death when he meets the woman who got his wife’s heart in a transplant.
The woman was Kimi, a wealthy politician’s daughter who has been sick her entire life, and then her father acquires the heart that saves her but it’s by nefarious means. Despite all her physical challenges, Kimi was such a bright and optimistic character that she really was more a healer than someone in need of healing, so she just didn’t work as someone who fit with Nikhil, who really needed to resurrect the dead healer inside him. Jess — initially a secondary character whom the villain employs to entrap Nikhil — was that force for him. Nikhil and Jess just worked, leaving me with Kimi whom I loved, and I had to discover her story.
So, really, A DISTANT HEART came from this girl with all these challenges who refuses to feel like a victim and fights for everyone around her. What would that take— to live and feel alive in the confines of an entirely isolated ivory tower? What would it take to keep you going, to keep you grounded and hopeful and fighting? It would take a huge spirit, but also someone who engaged and nurtured that spirit. Someone like Rahul, who can stand up to anything, shoulder anything, no matter how much he’s tested, even if he himself doesn’t know that about himself.
I think of Kimi as a rocket who has been pumped full of fuel for years. She’s been stuck in a sterile isolation chamber for twelve years. While in isolation, she’s obsessed with the news and with gathering knowledge about the world. This makes her somewhat of an insufferable know-it-all, but she’s been revving her engines for years, waiting to be blasted into the world. So when that finally happens nothing will hold her back, not her parents’ being overprotective, not the love of her life breaking her heart.
She’s determined not to let the world and all its rules and limitations get in her way. This, of course, comes with some learning experiences, because seeing the world through books and screens isn’t the same as living in it, but she learns from them and keeps going. The way she interacts with the world is exactly how I wish I could.
Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company…. Until one person dares venture into her world.
Tasked at fourteen years old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.
As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into a black market organ ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul’s deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe—and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances.
Romance Contemporary [Kensington, On Sale: December 26, 2017, Trade Size / e-Book, ISBN: 9781496705761 / eISBN: 9781496705778]
About Sonali Dev
Sonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and written communication, migrating across the globe, and starting a family while writing for magazines and websites. With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force, and she now combines it with her insights into Indian culture to conjure up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler.
Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.