· Bangkok-born Pashmina P. uses her Indian heritage and international experiences in Hong Kong, England the US to tell a compelling story about the lives of four women and how they interconnect.
· Here Pashmina P. talks about her own life and how she went from a high-flying PR consultant to art teacher and now an author
The books are about four women, and the complexities they face with age. There are some valuable lessons they need to learn through friendship, connection and communication. However, there is an element of betrayal in the story, which will hopefully have the reader wondering, what next? The men in the book are sounding boards to these women, and reveal a softer side of masculinity.
The first part of the book, The Cappuccino Chronicles, is an introduction of the four women, and how the fabrics of their lives are intertwined with each other through friendship, time, and a good cup of coffee. In Mocha Madness and Endless Espressos, the journey of these women continues. And just as important as the air we breathe, they realise that time is actually their biggest commodity in life.
Over the years there are heartbreaks, losses, connections, re-connections and a sense of growth. However, life and legacy is endless; there is always a part of our DNA that is floating around somewhere through our offspring and family members, so the last part of the trilogy encapsulates this notion that everything is always evolving and ever changing, with strong foundations of ancestry.
The women in The Cappuccino Chronicles Trilogy are a collection of the hundreds of people I have met through my travels and international living experiences. I have had complete strangers tell me that the first book reminds them of their own lives. Certainly I have some close members of my family and friends asking whether it’s them.
The song ‘I’m every woman’ by Chaka Khan always comes to mind when I get testimonials from my readers, because the book resonates with women across the world. We all have our good, bad and ugly days as well as our empowered, enriching and magical days. Like they say, we all have the good, the bad and the ugly!
You have a very interesting multi-cultural background in several countries. Can you elaborate?
My name was given to me by my maternal grandfather who had origins in Kashmir. Pashmina, by definition is a shawl made from the wool of Himalayan goats. The material is soft and was considered a luxury worn only by royalty.
My grandparents moved to Thailand circa 1945 where they had five children. My mother is the youngest and was born in Thailand. The two eldest boys were born in India. At the very tender age of 17 my mother got married and moved to Hong Kong where she met my dad.
At 19 my mother was pregnant with me and flew back to Thailand for six months to give birth to me in Bangkok.
At four months old I was taken back to Hong Kong where I grew up. I went to a catholic kindergarten called Baptist Kindergarten. Before that I was enrolled into a Chinese preschool, called Fun Full, from two to four years old.
My main language is English, and some Thai so I could communicate with my grandmother, when she was alive, who lived in Thailand.
Tell us about your family.
I met my Brazilian husband, who is from Rio de Janeiro, in Hong Kong when I was 16. He was a high diver at Ocean Park. We got married in 2003 and have two beautiful daughters who claim to be “Braz-Indian.”
While still in the UK I played the role of Zanche the Moor in The White Devil, by John Webster, on a fringe stage in London’s West End. Actually, my dream was to go to RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) as well as do a minor in journalism so I could pursue my other dream of becoming an anchor on CNN.
However, I was summoned back to HK because my parents were not keen on me staying abroad. I landed a receptionist job with a reputable golf company who were property owners from Shanghai. After two years of working there, I moved into a PR firm where I worked for six years. As the English copywriter of a reputable PR firm, my Shanghainese boss introduced me to the world of Hong Kong’s high society. I helped to open the Louis Vuitton flagship store at the Landmark, met Marc Jacobs – when he started the trend of wearing trainers with suits - and I even danced with Nino Cerruti of Cerruti Jeans. My life in Hong Kong was a dichotomy of two separate lives. On the one hand I was rubbing shoulders with Hong Kong’s Moghuls and on the other hand I was dating my Black Brazilian boyfriend in secret, because of the backlash of racism from the Indian community.
After an amazing and sometimes crazy life in PR, I felt drawn to teaching, and obtained my license as a qualified NET (Native English Teacher) in Hong Kong through the government. This was a far cry from the PR world, as I was forced to teach at local government schools where children were under privileged and often from broken homes. Most of the children’s parents at these schools were either in jail or working four jobs to put food on the table.
After receiving my license, I worked at an Arts school called Kids’ Gallery owned by the Hotungs in Hong Kong, I taught a class to children, which was enchanting.
I have always loved reading and writing. I read Roots by Alex Haley when I was six years old. Judy Blume, Roald Dhal and the Enid Blyton series were my go-to reading materials. My mother’s library included a collection of memoirs, true crime stories, self-help books, poetry books, cook books and of course Danielle Steele’s and Jackie Collins’ books. My father’s collection was Tai Pan and Shogun, by James Clavell and other books that resonated with strong and sardonic themes.
I wanted to write plays and screen plays as a young child, because owning a theatre was always in my sub conscious. Writing and reading become some of my favourite hobbies. In school, I loved doing research on the classics like Britannicus by Racine, Roman theatre, Greek theatre and modern theatre all the way to musicals. I was fascinated how words and musical notes on a piece of paper could come to life through movement and voice. It was as if theatre brought words to life. Broadway was fascinating to me.
I wrote my first play entitled I-N-S-O-M-N-I-A which was also my first piece of writing that was produced in London while at university, and then again for an international school in Bangkok 20 years later.
Patience, humility, perseverance and understanding that failure and success go hand in hand. And, of course, writing every day as a practice. I think healthy habits of a writer include reading different kinds of material and genres. As a writer, success comes from your craft through daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Setting benchmarks for your work and life as an author; you have to be willing to evolve and never stop learning.
Having a strong foundation of people who believe in your journey and want to catapult you because they see and share your vision, is paramount to any kind of success. Foundation, goal alignment and discipline are key, and that is what helps you soar.
What is the background and influences behind the trilogy?
When I began writing The Cappuccino Chronicles Trilogy, it started off as a journal exercise for me. I was thrown into a tragic state of mind when my eldest daughter was born premature at 26 weeks. For three months my heart was broken, and I would feel jittery and nervous as the hospital staff told me that they had no idea if my daughter would survive. Her tiny 960-gram body was in need of daily blood transfusions from her father, and milk from me, for her to survive.
The doctors told me to live day by day, and with no expectation. They told me to live for the moment, as they tried their best to help Michellie – my daughter – survive.
Jumpa Lahiri is one of my favourite writers. Although she is of Indian origin, she is considered an American writer. Her background of living in Boston and in India helped her to write one of my favourite stories called the Namesake. Lahiri is a poignant writer, who fuses humour and culture together to create stories which have an inclusive as well as international theme. Her books have won a number of prizes, and her fortitude inspires me as an Asian woman writer.
Shel Silverstein is a children’s author I grew up with. My father bought me the whole series when I was in college. I love his sarcastic tone, and the way he writes for adults and children alike. Simple illustrations in his book make the reader feel connected to some kind of simplicity, yet his writing can be tender, fierce and ironic all at the same time. When I was teaching, Silverstein‘s poems were a great way to begin the class with an ice breaker.
Saying that I like Shakespeare may come across as a cliché, but he was one of the very first playwrights who inspired my idea of building a theatre. His plays are creative, and the use of plots and subplots gives way to an abundance of creativity when actors bring his stories to life. When I visited the Globe Theatre in London, I was further inspired by Shakespeare and his journey.
Looking for a publisher today is very different from a few years ago, and even more so compared to a decade ago. Before embarking on my life as an author, I spent countless hours researching and investigating which publishing route to follow. There are so many different options, and the list
of how to become well known in your genre lies in good marketing and PR Skills.
My mentor, who is a NY Times bestselling author, says that everyone has a story inside them, and we all have the ability to tell a story. I opened up my own company called The Online Author’s Office to assist anyone who is interested in getting their writing published. We have a team of eight people who will mentor, design, edit, research and connect authors to reputable people in the publishing world to help catapult their vision as an author.
I started 16 years ago, but left the manuscript in a cupboard for 14 years. I was a teacher and the Head of the Visual and Preforming Arts department at an international school in Thailand. After 14 years at the same establishment, it was a time in my life when I felt like I needed to take the risk and do something different. Two years ago I revisited all of my notes, and began writing. The trilogy was complete in two years.
Seeking the right people to see my vision of creating a series of The Cappuccino Chronicles is at the forefront of my goals at the moment. I have also been commissioned to write a nonfiction children’s book, due for release next year. I am also in the process of finishing I Am the One, which is a collection of nine short stories.
How do you spend your leisure time in Bangkok?
Reading, writing and playing tennis are my favourite hobbies. I spend time with my family and friends. We also love to escape to the beach, which is the best part about living in Thailand.
We also host workshops in Bangkok for publishing, writing, children’s writing, and the art of storytelling. The Online Author’s Office has collaborated with a company in Canada called Hearts to be Heard, which is a charitable organization that helps to give children a voice. The company focuses on helping children with special needs write their story. We recently held a workshop in Thailand, and children from the Bangkok community participated in a competition. Two participants from the workshop aged 10 and 15 were shortlisted for the competition.
Giving back to the community, that I live in, is always something I teach my daughters, and we often spend time helping the needy and under privileged.