In the second edition of our brand new Sweet Spot column, Heidi Cullinan talks to author, M.K. Schiller, about her journey, her writing and her latest book, Lost Years.
Hi, everyone! Heidi Cullinan here, back with more books and authors I’ve discovered I think you might enjoy. As usual, I’ll be talking to an author in an in-depth interview. where we’ll dish about their projects current and future, the books they love, and anything else which comes up along the way.
Today I’m so very pleased to introduce M.K. Schiller. Not knowing a word of English, MK Schiller came to America at the age of four from India. Since then, all she's done is collect words. After receiving the best gift ever from her parents--her very own library card--she began reading everything she could get her greedy hands on. At sixteen, a friend asked her to make up a story featuring the popular bad boy at school. This wasn't fan fiction...it was friend fiction. From that day on, she's known she wanted to be a writer.
With the goal of making her readers both laugh and cry, MK Schiller has penned more than a dozen books, each one filled with misfit characters overcoming obstacles and finding true love
A little more about Lost Years:
Ever had a dream so real it feels like a memory?
I’ve had those kinds of dreams since I was a kid. Each one of a beautiful girl, who is my best friend. We grow up together on a sunny island surrounded by water that’s as blue as her eyes. We share all our hopes and fears until we realize we belong to each other in every way one person can claim another. She is my own personal serenity. Sweet story, eh?
Well forget about it.
The cold, harsh reality is that I’m a twenty-year-old, Manhattan-bred, manwhore, who uses his fists to solve his problems. The only comfort I find is inside a bottle... and the dreams. But the dreams are my illness not my cure. Just when things look the darkest, the sun slaps me square in the jaw. I spot a picture of a scenic island surrounded by the bluest water – my island.
If the island exists then so must the girl, right?
So I’m headed to Serenity, Texas to find my girl and make some sense out of the chaos that is my life. Feel free to tag along, but this journey comes with a steep warning — dreams can turn into nightmares in the blink of an eye.
My name is Jason Flynn and this is our story.
This book was my first introduction to M.K., but I’ll definitely be seeking out more after Lost Years.
Welcome to The Sweet Spot, M.K.!
Hi Heidi, thanks so much for having me and reading my book! I’m looking forward to this interview.
So, I’m going to dive right into the book, because I can’t wait. I think most readers will encounter it and be struck by the unique romantic conflict, the lightly magical quality, the emotions and beautiful tensions. And all that’s true, but as someone who consumes a lot, and I mean a lot of Asian narratives, I had this wild, zingy moment when I realized this was a western-set story with western characters, but the plot itself has such hugely important Asian story elements with the way it handles fate in particular. That made me so excited, because I love the way Asian narratives push my western expectations of fate and connection. I can’t tell you how many webcomics, manga, and dramas I’ve read that play with reincarnation, rebirth, resetting a character’s fate, specifically to find romance and redo things that went wrong. I’m struggling to articulate exactly what the difference in east and west is here, but I felt both its presence and the way it turned the story into something breathtaking.
Wow, that is a very adept interpretation! Being born Hindu, themes of karma, soul mates, and numerology all played an integral part in my upbringing. Those ideals are definitely present in Lost Years. The hero has haunting dreams of a different life and a beautiful girl all his life. When he finds a clue his dreams may be real, he risks everything to find the answers he so desperately needs.
Fate is definitely integral to the story. The world keeps sending Jason warning signs through his dreams that he’s not living the life he’s supposed to. The confusion and chaos in his head drive him to destructive habits. I believe the universe definitely gives us many warnings when things aren’t right. That when your path strays from it’s an axis, the world tries to right itself. I’m glad those elements came through in this story.
I absolutely love this. Lost Years is a universal story, an American story, but you feel that vein in there lending a theme of fate westerners just don’t necessarily know, not in that way. I’m so glad you took us there! And you know, the more I think about this, Sonali Dev pushes romance readers in the same way. Both of you take the unspoken rules and crack them, and before the reader can say, “but you can’t do that” we’re hooked and realizing no, it’s okay, it’s going to be okay, and we’re off on a dazzling ride. How did you settle on the idea of this book? Were you challenging yourself, or were you always going to write it?
Thank you for all those heart warming words! I’m blushing. I’m a huge fan of Sonali’s too. Lost Years was an idea that started many years ago. I had a vivid dream and thought about all the hidden meanings behind dreams. I fell down a couple of rabbit holes and thought about how to tie that into a romance. Those were the bones of Lost Years. It was outside the scope of what I’d written before so I had to hold it for a while waiting for the right publisher and editor to take it on.
I loved Aunt Rose. She felt like such a gateway into his rearranging his fate, and I loved how his perception of her changed as the story progressed.
I loved Aunt Rose too. I wanted her to be memorable. One of the main themes of this story is how important the people in our lives are and how they impact our lives so I’m glad she made an impression.
The sense of family in this book is so rich and beautiful, and flawed, making it real. Again, I felt the Asian undertones, this sense of family being this entity you were with for better or for worse, an unspoken constant. It really made Jason’s journey more solid, giving him a place to come back to as he messed up.
Originally the book had about seven more chapters in the beginning where we go over Jason’s relationship with his father and stepmother. My editor helped me realize we didn’t need all this exposition and could get right into the meat of the story. I’m glad it came through that Jason fought to fit into his life, but never quite could. I feel life tells you when things are wrong and sometimes that results in toxic activities like drinking.
Speaking of Jason, we’ve got to talk about what a beautifully flawed character he is. There were times I thought, he’s going too far. And then he acknowledged that too, and paid for it with the wrong path. He’s the opposite of a perfect hero! Flawed in truly human ways.
Yes, I wanted to show he is imperfect, but many of the bad choices he made were a result of an unfulfilled life. I’m glad that resonated with you. I was really skirting the line on his character profile.
Because Scarlett isn’t on the page as a POV, she often becomes the goal, the person he gets to have once he sorts himself out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a book before quite like this. Because she’s not an object, she’s her own person, someone he has to become good enough for. Who doesn’t want a man like that!
Thanks Heidi! It was a struggle to make Scarlett’s POV come out since she is seen through Jason’s lens, but I think she has a strong enough spirit and his love for her comes through in different scenes so it shows her character.
I’m pleased to see you have quite a number of other works for me to go explore. Would you mind teasing us with themes and setups of your other offerings?.
Lost Years is my first foray into speculative fiction and paranormal elements. My other books range from rom coms to new adult to romantic suspense. I do try to create memorable flawed characters and some unexpected twists in every book. My last book, The Scars Between Us, is about a young woman who travels across the country to spread her mother's ashes with an ex-step brother she never knew of.
How did you get into writing?
Every writer is a reader first and I’m no exception. My father instilled my love of reading. He took me to the library at a young age. I was bullied in school and didn't have many friends. The characters in books became my solace and my muse. But It took many years though before I actually sat down to finish that first book.
Who were your favorite authors growing up? Who are you reading right now?
I really loved VC Andrews and Jackie Collins. I just finished My One and Only by Kristan Higgins and am currently reading Master of Revenge by Sienna Snow.
What’s next for you? What can we look forward to coming up?
Right now, I’m working on a series of romcoms around a South Asian family like my own family!
Sounds great! I can’t wait. Good luck on all your endeavors!
Thank you for having me and for all the insightful questions!
And thanks to everyone for reading. See you next month!
Heidi's latest release is the final book in the Copper Point: Medical series, The Doctor's Orders. You can find out more about our new editor at heidicullinan.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Have you read Lost Years or any of M.K.'s other books? Are you as intrigued by the plot of Lost Years as we are here at PHS HQ? Who would you like to see Heidi interviewing in a future The Sweet Spot column? Let us know in the comments and on the social media discussion of this article using #SweetSpot.