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Interview with Ragh Bir, Author of 39 Plus One

In my recent festive gift guide for book lovers, I discussed a few new books to check out this Christmas- including 39 Plus One by Ragh Bir.

This book tells the story of singleton, Rachel Collins, who lives in Royal Windsor. She has a wonderful friendship circle, loving and supportive parents, and enjoys her job working in a dysfunctional family-run office supplies company.

On her 39th birthday, she decides to embark on a quest, for a year, to date anyone who is bold enough to show interest, regardless of how he looks, in a bid to find her perfect imperfect soulmate.

The quest comes to an end on her 40th birthday. After a holiday to Ibiza, where after a day of mishaps, she discovers the truth - that her perfect imperfect soulmate is not quite what he seems.

I can't wait to try out this book- and it sounds like the perfect mixture of funny, touching and uplifting.

I'm so excited to feature an interview with Ragh Bir on my blog today, discussing how she came up with the stories in the book, her writing inspiration and what she learned from her very own dating quest.

So without further ado, here is an interview with author Ragh Bir!

In short, what is 39 Plus One about?

39 Plus One, is about a single woman, who on her 39th birthday decides to embark on a quest to find her soulmate before she turns 40.

Forcing herself to put aside her fussy, critical ways, and accept all invitations in the pursuit of finding ‘the one’.

What inspired you to start writing?

My inspiration to start writing 39 Plus One came to me after going on a few dates and only realising how ridiculously comical they actually were when I would meet up with my friends, and share my experiences.

How did you come up with the idea for the novel?

The idea for the novel came to me in 2007, from my own life situation. I was 39, single and approaching 40, I had never been married or had children and came up with idea from all the interesting dates I had been on.

What are some of the key themes that you explore?

The desire for women/men to find that perfect partner for their life to begin or have meaning. The complexities of dating. Being single is okay in today’s world.

Why did you decide to embark on a quest?

I would seldom get asked out by the men I liked.

I had a good job as airline crew, and I had bought a house, and I wondered whether I was too independent or that maybe I was being too fussy and picky.

So, I decided that if anyone had the courage to ask me out then I wouldn’t say no, no matter what.

What did you learn from doing the quest?

I learnt to always trust your gut instincts about people, or a situation you find yourself in. It’s okay to be alone.

I learnt a lot about myself, about what I was willing to accept and what I expected from a relationship.

When did the quest end?

In 2014, after the end of a relationship, I decided that this experiment had to come to a close.

You explore the complexities of dating in the book, what are your thoughts on modern dating?

I think it has become even harder to date. I have tried a couple of dating apps, initially I found that I was swiping the wrong way, then when I did match with someone after the initial chit chat it didn’t lead anywhere.

I find that it’s very easy to hide behind an image you create of yourself on dating apps.

What advice would you give someone who is on a bad date?

I would say, as long as you feel safe and comfortable, be honest, be kind, and enjoy the date, but know when to end it, and don’t feel guilty about saying no to another date.

Who was the worst date?

There’s so many to choose from! In 39 Plus One, I would say it’s a toss up between Ricky and Ranj.

How do you develop your characters?

The characters are developed from the many people I have come across, whether they are friends past and present, people I have met in my job as airline crew, and some are imagined and taken from my own idea of how I wanted the story to evolve.

You work as airline cabin crew member, could you tell us more about this?

I started my career as crew in 1994, and I have had some of the most amazing experiences in this job.

From meeting people from all walks of life, to visiting some exotic locations worldwide, and having the privilege of starting my career working on the 747.

Did your career influence your writing at all, and if so, how?

No, not at all. I always felt that I would write a book, I just didn’t know what about or when.

My career as crew gave me the opportunity to write in some amazing places, usually sat poolside with a pen and paper.

What is your writing process like?

I’m not sure I have a writing process. I started writing 39 Plus One, in 2007, and I wrote the first three chapters, then my desire for writing vanished.

I didn’t return to writing until we went into lockdown when I came across my writing folder. The story just flowed from chapter to chapter, and within a year I had finished the novel.

What were some of the highlights of the writing experience?

The highlights of the writing experience allowed me to relive each date again, and to experience it as an observer, but also to feel all the emotions that I had when I was on that date.

I had the opportunity to emphasise the comical aspects as well as the cringeworthy episodes that occurred.

And what were some of the challenges?

The challenges are much the same as the highlights, as in, I was reliving the not so nice experiences too.

What can readers learn from your protagonist, Rachel, and the journey she goes through in the book?

I hope the readers learn that every date, encounter, or situation that Rachel found herself in, whether it’s funny, cringeworthy, upsetting, happy or sad, it is all there to help her grow and face her fears.

Rachel’s journey ultimately comes full circle at the end of the quest, with her realising her journey was more about herself and the love she already had within her.

The genre of 39 Plus One is romantic comedy, is this your favourite genre to read as well as write?

Yes, I love romantic comedy. I wrote 39 Plus One, as it was something that I experienced and I found many of my encounters so funny, that it ended up being enjoyable to write.

Do you plan to write more books in the future, and would they be the same genre, or would you like to try something else?

I would like to write more books, and I have started working on a sequel to 39 Plus One, I just hope it doesn’t take me as long as the first one. I would also like to try writing children’s books too.

And finally, what do you hope that readers will take away from 39 Plus One?

I hope that readers simply enjoy the journey that Rachel takes you on, from the laugh out loud moments to the cringeworthy situations, and the highs and lows of her year long quest.

I hope they can relate to her, especially the friendships circle, and her relationship with her parents, and ultimately that her message is that it’s perfectly okay to be alone and content.

Thank you so much to Ragh Bir for this interview! Let me know all your thoughts in the comments.

Love, Sarah xoxoxo

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