Beef Bourguignon Doesn't Pair Well With Garam Masala

I didn’t set out to be a science fiction author. Or an author at all, for that matter. I could probably have counted on one hand the number of sci-fi books I’d read before I started writing, and if you’d asked me then what science fiction meant, I would probably have responded with, “space odysseys, aliens, and other-world creatures.”

Classic Sci-fi, right?

Maybe time-travel would have made the list, but more along the lines of teleporters and time machines and physicists making calculations that went horribly awry. I didn’t realize that science fiction was such a wide-encompassing genre that included sub-genres like paranormal and speculative fiction or that there was an even more specific sub-genre of time travel fiction.

Because I can't do it justice, if you really want an inclusive list of sci-fi sub-genres, check out this link:

Anyway, I just had a story to tell. An idea that would nag at me day and night, this question that was impossible to answer:

What if I woke up one day and had to do this life all over?

It wasn’t a new thought by any means. I’m sure most people have contemplated it from time to time. I even remember asking my mom about repeating her life when I was a child, and I am quite certain that I will never forget that look of complete horror when she replied:

“No thanks. I can’t imagine having to do that all over again.”

It never occurred to my then ten/elevenish-year-old self that she would say no. How could she not want to see me as a baby again? And relive all the good times we’d had? I was still in my the-world-revolves-around-me stage, which is probably why the shock of her response is still burned into my memory, but I’ve got to admit, I’m right there with her now. The thought of having to relive yesterday is enough to push me over the edge. Can you imagine waking up as your seventeen-year-old self and having to start all over?

That’s the basic premise of my book. It’s about being given the choice to do it all over. Or not. And when it was first being marketed to publishing houses, the biggest concern was:

What genre is it and how are we going to market it?

I'm still not totally convinced it's science fiction, but I saw my name on a sci-fi website so I'm thinking it's safe to throw that into the mix.

The cover of my not so classic sci-fi book

From Macmillan’s website:

Sliding Doors meets Life After Life in Sarah Adlakha's story about a wife and mother who is given the chance to start over at the risk of losing everything she loves. A second chance is the last thing she wants. When thirty-nine-year-old Maria Forssmann wakes up in her seventeen-year-old body, she doesn’t know how she got there. All she does know is she has to get back: to her home in Bienville, Mississippi, to her job as a successful psychiatrist and, most importantly, to her husband, daughters, and unborn son. But she also knows that, in only a few weeks, a devastating tragedy will strike her husband, a tragedy that will lead to their meeting each other. Can she change time and still keep what it’s given her? Exploring the responsibilities love lays on us, the complicated burdens of motherhood, and the rippling impact of our choices, She Wouldn't Change a Thing is a dazzling debut from a bright new voice.

So now I’m a science fiction author. It’s very strange to me. I sort of feel like I’ve been roped into this genre that I really just stumbled upon. Kind of like an imposter.

It feels a little like this:

Imagine you’ve been mulling over this idea for a dish you’d like to cook. You’re not really a chef, but you know your way around the kitchen okay, so one day you decide to give it a try. You chop up your veggies, throw all the ingredients together, and simmer it down to perfection. It’s really not too bad, and people are asking to buy it from you. It just happens to have curry and cardamom and coriander, and you are now declared a chef of Indian cuisine.

But you never meant for that to happen.

In fact, you’ve never cooked an Indian dish in your life. You just thought that curry and cardamom and coriander would go well with your veggies. And when you tell people that your next dish won’t have any Indian spices in it, because beef bourguignon doesn’t pair well with garam masala, they have to remind you that you’re not a French chef. You’re an Indian chef, and you need to stick with what you know.

And you’re stuck scratching your head and wondering how the heck your name and the veggie dish you dreamed up one day ended up on an all-things-Indian-cuisine website.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Indian food. And French food. And Italian food. Pretty much all food, and I can’t imagine being limited to cooking just one type of cuisine.

Just like I don’t want to be tied down to one genre when reading or writing, because I love books. Historical fiction. Thrillers. Mysteries. All books.

And I have a lot of ideas mulling around in my head. Some of them have a dash of two of masala and some don’t, and, while I understand the prudence of catering to an audience that already knows and enjoys my work, I also don't want it to be just that. Work. I love writing. Maybe not every single word, but the art of creating characters and settings and plots that change with every chapter is an amazing experience, and I don't ever want to limit my imagination to just one genre. I want to taste everything.

And, who knows? Maybe one of these days I just might season that beef bourguignon with garam masala.