Happy Sunday, my friends! What a joy it is to share another debut author with you today. As I’ve said before, debut authors are among a favorite of mine because I love the joy of discovery of finding someone new to add to my favorites. Today Sejal Badani is joining me for a virtual coffee to share more about her beautiful book, Trail of Broken Wings. I discovered this book through her GoodReads Choice Award Nomination for Best Fiction and dove into it over our holiday break. After reading more on Sejal’s backstory, I just knew she would be such an incredible author to feature here for our interview series.
In Trail of Broken Wings, domestic abuse is fully brought to light in this account of one family and the man who abused them. As he lays in a coma, each of the sisters and the wife replay the events that happened through their traumatic years and the reader uncovers the dark secrets that they each have carried.
This one delved a lot into the Indian culture and the traditional roles of women in their culture, many of which I was not aware of! It would make for a compelling book club discussion and did not shy away from some of the demons people battle when they have been abused.
The book had a great twist at the end that really added some depth to one of the character’s storylines. Raw and honest, it would be impossible to read and not feel a new awareness and sadness for those abused.
Editor’s Note: At this time as I write this, the Kindle version is listed for a mere $2.00!
I included this book in our November/December Must-Reads list!
Now grab your coffee and let’s settle in with Sejal about her incredible debut novel!
I have read in past interviews that you have said that you felt compelled to write Trail of Broken Wings after witnessing and surviving your own childhood abuse. What was that process like writing this story and how hard was it to put such a deeply personal journey out in the world?
This story was one I searched for as a young adult and never found. I mentioned it to my good friend and editor Benee who really got behind the story. The characters’ individual stories were challenging to tell but important. They were three very strong women who had to discover themselves outside the framework of their childhood. Though the events in the story are fictional, the emotions and struggles of the characters felt very familiar to me either because of my research or own experience. When the story was finished, I was relieved but also really pleased that the characters’ stories were honest and inspiring.
I’d love to quote a passage from your story… “Everyone must a reach a point in their life when they stop running. When it is easier to stand still than to keep being chased, even if the person chasing you is only in your head.” At what point did you stop running and change the story of your own life?
Though my mom didn’t have a lot of choices when we were growing up, she made it make very clear to us that we should carve out a very different path for our future. Because of her, my sisters and I were very fortunate to believe in ourselves and love. Law school was pivotal in my life because it gave me a better understanding of options available to people in similar situations. Later, in my research for the book, I learned about so many incredible individuals who had to make the decision to stop running. The journeys they took are truly inspiring. This quote is really a testament to their strength and perseverance.
The issues that each of the daughters struggle with in the aftershock of abuse were all written in such a raw and beautiful way, unflinching from many things that most books shy away from. Have you heard from any of your readers who may have suffered these same traumatic moments and how much they could relate to this family’s story and the raw honesty that you wrote it?
I have and every single time I am so touched and amazed by the human spirit. Countless number of readers have reached out to tell me that the book resonated with their own childhoods or those of someone they love. Their honesty and willingness to share their story is incredibly humbling and I’m very grateful. I’ve also had a number of readers tell me this book encouraged them to start their own healing process – that it gave them hope for their future. When I hear that I can’t even describe what it means to me. To know that it has helped even one person is really an extraordinary feeling.
I know this may seem a silly question, but was there a reason you chose Brent as the name of the father, which feels so different than the other Indian character names in the book? Do you think that readers sympathize with him since he too suffered as a victim of racism? Do you sympathize with him?
It’s actually a question I get quite a bit so not silly at all. I consciously chose Brent because I wanted readers to know that there are no racial or socio-economic limitations on abuse. Though the story is set in an Indian-American home, it was very important to me that the characters be seen as universal. Brent is really a composite character from my research. I think his character chose to take the actions he did without thought to the consequences or effects. As an author, I wanted to give background as to why he made those choices but I’m not sure it can excuse them.
Trail of Broken Wings has garnered so many wonderful reviews and has been so well-received, even scoring a GoodReads Choice Award Nomination this year! What has that experience been like with a debut novel and what has surprised you most about this process?
I’ve been so honored and humbled. It’s really been an amazing journey. I’m incredibly grateful that readers have connected with the story and the messages in the book. I’ve been a writer for a number of years and have been on the other end of the spectrum with more rejections than I care to count. So the success of Trail of Broken Wings has been very welcome. From my editor, agent, publishing house and publicist, Trail of Broken Wings has been supported and championed. My biggest surprise is how smooth it has all been. I credit that to the people mentioned above and all the amazing readers and bloggers like yourself who have featured the book. Trail of Broken Wings wouldn’t be where it is without all of you and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.
You carved out an excellent twist at the end (which I do not want to give away). Did you always see this as the surprise you wanted to reveal to your readers or was it something that developed once you started writing it?
It was something I had planned for the story from the beginning. Without giving too much away I knew the mother had to discover her own strength. She had endured so much but when her daughter left I think that really made her see what her life had become. She was foremost a mother and just wanted her daughter to come home. To me, the truly heroic moment was when she admitted what she had done. She chanced her own freedom for that of her daughter’s and I think that’s when Sonya finally understood how much her mother really loved her. It finally allowed Sonya to love herself and open her heart to a normal life.
Are you working on your next book? Can you tell us anything about what you might have in store for us next?
I’m actually working on two novels simultaneously right now. One is a novel of a young attorney who journeys to India to discover the tragic story of her grandmother’s love and loss with a member of the British Raj during the 1940’s. The other is a young adult dystopian novel that tackles the issues of choice, freedom and finding your true self in an unrecognizable world.
Lastly, what is one of your all-time favorite books? (This will be added to one of our most visited posts of must-reads from the authors featured in Sundays With Writers)
It’s so hard to pick one! I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell and just finished his book David and Goliath so I’m going to go with that. It’s very insightful and made me think differently about the obstacles we face in life and how overcoming them often helps us develop our greatest strengths. I’m also a huge admirer of J.K. Rowling so I have to throw that in there.