It began as a short piece for a writing course. But like many good stories, it stuck to the author’s mind until it became the compelling backstory of a work that Mignon Bravo-Dutt would eventually call her debut novel, The Rosales House.
Published by Penguin Random House SEA, the book tells the story of Claire as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery amid the scandal and tribulations of the family she thought she belonged to.
“What makes a family? Is it blood connections alone? This novel illustrates the redemptive power of love while answering many questions around the universal notion of family,” Bravo-Dutt explains.
“The novel grew out from a two-page short fiction I had written much earlier for a Creative Writing course (organized by the Birkbeck College and British Council in Singapore). Many years later, I revisited the story and simply let the muse take over. Before I knew it, the two-pager short fiction evolved into a 200-page novel,” she says in an email interview with the Daily Tribune.
“Ultimately, the short fiction that inspired me to write further became the strong backstory of Claire’s parents, Dino and Anna.”
Midway into the process, Bravo-Dutt discovered that writing The Rosales House was no less complex than writing for corporate projects, both being crafted on proper structure and an extensive amount of research.
“As with major projects, it helps to have timelines and to break the process into key gates/stages. And one of the key gates that required a great chunk of time was the research part,” she notes.
To make the scenes as realistic and relatable as possible, Bravo-Dutt had to make sure that the world of the Rosaleses, although fictitious, is anchored by a realistic timeline as well as set in a larger social and geographical canvas.
“I had to constantly check whether the setting (time and place) was realistic. What were the coffee trends then, what iPhone model was released that year, what were the popular movies? And so on,” she points out.
“I had to ensure that the timing of story events matches the larger social and political backdrop. To this end I developed an Excel grid that lists real events like the election cycle which I’ve interspersed with the story events — births, deaths and other major turning points for the Rosales clan,” she adds.
Finding time and space posed challenges for Bravo-Dutt in writing the novel since she worked part-time at IHG and later at Royal DSM in Singapore, not to mention making room for social events and personal duties.
“I realized that I was most creative on weekend mornings when I had more mental space: I would get up early, grab a coffee and start writing away while the world outside was still quiet and the weekend bustle had yet to begin. Then I’d edit and do further research on weekdays when I was off from work,” she says of her writing routine.
Despite having written The Rosales House before the pandemic struck, Bravo-Dutt hopes that the importance of family and redemptive love depicted in her novel can reverberate in the hearts and minds of readers, especially since the timeless message of hope and family can still be applied now more than ever in these unprecedented times.
“Finally, I didn’t want my book to be just a story in a vacuum. I could have ended the story differently, but I thought that it could be made more relevant. All in all, I hope that the story would reward its readers by giving them a glimpse into the lives of interesting characters and their attempts to overcome tribulations,” she says.