Q & A With Sonya Lalli


Q: To start off, can you tell me 5 random facts about yourself? 
A: OK, five random facts:
- I have an adorable dog named Munni (which means cute little girl). She is a Shitzu-Maltese-Bichon and when I moved out of my parents house I wasn't allowed to take her with me. 
- I studied law but now work in publishing. I'm the rights manager at House of Anansi Press/ Groundwood Books.
- I was born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan -- so a prairie girl through and through
- My favourite book is Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. 
- I have a Hatecopy phonecase 

Q: Ahh, dogs for the win! I have a tiny white Bichon-mix, I would do anything for her! Why is The Namesake your favourite book? What makes a great book in your opinion? 
A: Awe, she sounds adorable!
I first read The Namesake as a teenager and it spoke to me so much because at that point I don't think I'd read any books about someone who looked like me, or had a similar background or experiences as the child of immigrants. I identified so, so much with Gogol (even though he's a man), and his sister and his whole family. Also, of course, Jhumpa Lahiri is an absolutely beautiful writer. 
A great book, in part, is one that you read at the exact right moment.

Q: I completely agree, there is a right moment to read certain books. Have you always been a reader? 
A: I have, yes. My mom was a huge reader and she's the reason I became one too. I think she bought me every single Puffin Classics when I was a kid, and she always encouraged my reading.

Q: Did you always want to be a writer, or did that dream come later? 
A: Sort of. I always loved writing and wanted to write books, but I stopped making time for it in university when studying and working took over my life. I didn't get back into until about four years ago. I was starting to feel inspired again, and stories were appearing in my head (especially Raina's!) and I was desperate to write them down. Making more space for writing led to a shift, and I decided to pursue a MA in writing in publishing.

Q: What inspired you to write Raina’s story?
A: Well, it wasn't one thing in particular. I was more so at that age where I was done university and starting my career -- and I was single. I remember getting a few 'auntie' looks, even an offer to set me up. I was eligible, you see! And I'm not going to lie. Like Raina, I really did consider it -- although I never did get matched up as I ended up moving away from my hometown right around that time too. However, unlike Raina, I can honestly say that I was very lucky and never felt pressure from my family to get married by a certain age, or to marry somebody who was also of South Asian heritage. 

Q: Why did you choose to make Toronto the setting?
A: I'm very proud of to be Canadian and so of course I really wanted the book to be set in Canada. And I chose to Toronto because it's such a cool, vibrant, and diverse city with so much going on all the time, and also because it's a major business centre. Raina works at an investment bank, so her having a job downtown Toronto made a lot of sense. 

Q: Are some of the places in Raina’s story some of your personal favourite Toronto places? 
A: Although I live in Toronto now, when I wrote the book I didn't and so I set scenes based on the neighbourhoods I knew only a visitor. I'd visited my close friend here several times and I based Raina's condo roughly in the same area as her apartment, and I also put Nani's restaurant in Roncesvalles, which I love so much.

Q: If you had to pitch The Matchmaker’s List to readers in only two sentences, what would they be? 
A: The Matchmaker's List is a romantic comedy about a woman of South Asian heritage who, under pressure to settle down, agrees to let her loving grandmother fix her up. It's about finding yourself and finding love along the way. 

Q: And lastly, do you have any pointers for up and coming writers? 
A: Don't be too hard on yourself, or compare yourself to others, which can be very difficult because of social media. Everyone's writing journey is different, and it always takes time. Put in the work, get feedback, and take things as they come. We write because we love writing, but it's a process! So don't forget to enjoy the process.