Making hearts Singh
NALINI Singh sinks down onto the couch in her sunlit Mt Roskill living room.
A ray of golden sunshine burnishes her glossy raven locks and lights up her caramel skin. Those chocolate eyes, brimming with a world of secrets in the dark hallway a moment ago, now sparkle in anticipation.
Singh's voice is clear and sweet as churchbells. She speaks of her writing with delight and passion.
"Writing is my... it's my, like, what I've always wanted to do, and it's sort of my heart, you know? That's my love, that's what I like to do. Anything else would be work."
Luckily, writing's working out pretty well for Singh, 32. Her first romance, Desert Warrior, was published six years ago and dozens of books later, she's won numerous romance writers' awards and is now climbing the prestigious New York Times' bestseller list. Branded by Fire made no 14 on the paperback fiction list in its first week last July, while Blaze of Memory debuted at no 8 in November.
Fellow romance writer Sharyn Barratt says cracking that list is like having a box office hit and it's only a matter of time before Singh hits no 1. "I would say, in a couple of years, she would be the literary equivalent of Peter Jackson," she said.
Singh's two major series are paranormal romances, a genre that has taken off in recent years.
The first series takes readers to a world where angels and vampires live more or less harmoniously with humans while the second explores the tensions between "normal" humans, a telepathic but emotionless race of humanoids, and a third highly-sexed race that can shape shift into animals. Bizarre, and compelling, trysts ensue.
Singh's own life is much more mundane. She lives happily alone in Mt Roskill, in a brick townhouse with a tightly-packed library of romance novels, a box set of CSI on the coffee table and a childhood Santa Bear on her couch. There is no pink frippery, no feather boa, no lap dog, no sign – other than that library – that here lives a woman who makes a living out of love. Singh has never been married or had kids, and spends a lot of her time with her parents, who live nearby, and a close group of friends she's stayed with since high school.
She hates horror movies and can't bear most romantic comedies, but is a huge fan of Bones and Bollywood films. She walks, daydreams, and loves to travel: her blog features snapshots of Beijing's Forbidden City, the Sydney Opera House and Cardiff Castle in Wales.
The Singh family – mum is a sample machinist, dad is in IT and younger sister Ashwini is in London – moved from Fiji to Auckland when Nalini was 10. Singh visits relatives there often and says it still feels like a second home. She says Auckland, in comparison, just felt cold when she first stepped off the plane.
Singh was originally headed for a life spent in law, and put in about two years with Auckland firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts after getting her honours degree at the University of Auckland.
Then came a three-year stint teaching English in Japan, when her first book was picked up and published. Singh's been writing full-time for the last couple of years but emphasises that getting to that point was hard work. She talks about "doing her words for the day", her "strong schedule", and churning out one first draft in a mind-bending three weeks.
But above and beyond the daily grind, Singh really knows how to tell a love story. So she must have had a few remarkable romances of her own? Her small frame tenses, and her chiming laugh jumps up an octave. "Hahaha ... A love story of my own? Haha ... I'd rather not. Um, I tend to think that the most romantic things are the small things that people do for each other, you know? ... I know that's not really a story, but it's kind of what I think." When she's pushed, and reminded that this profile will run on Valentine's Day, Singh shrugs her shoulders, palms up. "I'd rather not, if that's alright."
She laughs to keep her words light but it's obvious that Singh is serious. She is more than happy, however to chat about her current true love: Whittaker's milk chocolate. "I used to be very loyal to Cadbury but then the flavour changed".
She has also had a past affair with peanut butter. "When I wrote Slave to Sensation I just ate, like, peanut butter toast for three weeks. Hahaha!"
She later sends an email outlining her perfect date: "Something as simple as getting an ice-cream and maybe sitting in a flower-filled park or maybe along a beach, talking ... if you've got other people playing games in a park, or flowers waving their colorful heads, maybe the waves crashing softly on the beach..." She signs off with a smiley face.