Media Should Be A Mirror – MK Schiller

Note: This essay, by my friend, author MK Schiller, was originally published in May 2019 on the website for the Romance Writers of America. Because I believe this timely and poignant piece should be viewed by a wider audience, I have reprinted here with permission. I hope MK’s words speak to your minds and hearts the way they have spoken to mine. – Dana 

[Please be aware this article contains mention of a suicide attempt. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.]

By MK Schiller

I believe that all books are a window into something else. As a child, I thought of them as little adventures to devour. Lately, though, I’m realizing they should also be mirrors.

There has been a great deal of discussion and dissonance around bias, discrimination, and disparities. As an author of romance books, I’ve seen how hard and painful this hits with publishers not taking on romance books by authors of color and our industry awards not reflecting a fair representation. I’m not here to debate these facts. They are facts. RWA [Romance Writers of America] has put out an official statement acknowledging this and promising to do better. The Ripped Bodice, the only exclusively romance bookstore in the United States, has put out a detailed report. Authors have done detailed mathematical calculations to confirm. One author actually changed her story so the characters of color were no longer listed and became a finalist for an award.

These are uncomfortable truths, but there is no doubt: They. Are. Truths. What I do want to lend my perspective on is why it is so important that we have diverse books by sharing some very personal and uncomfortable truths of my own.

Meghana, age 4, Mumbai


I’ve been following the political speeches of every presidential candidate around the same time I was consuming all the threads, blog posts, and TED talks about diversity in literature, particularly in the romance industry. Recently, I heard an impassioned speech by Mayor Pete Buttigieg where he said, when he was younger, he wished there was a pill that made him straight. He would have taken it. That statement stuck with me. Now, I’m not in the LGBTQ community, but the message spoke to me in quiet whispers late at night and loud shouts in the middle of the day. It would be weeks before the epiphany came as to why this message resonated. I want to explain that here.

I am an only child. I was born in India, and I came to the United States in 1978 as a shy four-year-old. I grew up in a predominately white suburb of Detroit. Back then, there weren’t many Indian families in my neighborhood. In fact, when we saw another Indian family, my parents would often stop to chat. When people asked me what I was and I said Indian, the next question was, inevitably, “What tribe?” And, yes, it was “What are you?” and not “Where are you from?”

When we start with the “what” question, it shows disinterest and disrespect to start with. I began to answer, “I’m Indian from India” just to clarify. It often felt as if no one was really listening by this point anyway. I was different. I was an alien. I was an “other.”

The crazy thing about assimilation is that you don’t realize it’s happening. It’s a slow progression like a virus that lays dormant for years and produces a cough here or an ache there. Until you realize, you’re fully symptomatic.

Looking back, I can’t pinpoint when I made the decision that I would belong no matter the consequences, but that is what I did. It didn’t really occur to me that I’d let this happen, until a close friend told me that I needed to stop running away from my culture. I was livid and hurt. And part of me felt like I wasn’t doing this, since I’d grown up without a support group. I was an island. The brown immigrant girl from Mumbai who’d come to this country barely speaking a word of English. One who had grown up to be too Western to be accepted at home and too Eastern to be accepted in my new home.

Age 8, Cedar Point or Bablo Island

Maybe the assimilation process started when the teacher called my house to ask my parents to stop speaking our native tongue as I was getting confused in school. So they did, and as a result, I lost my language. Maybe it happened when I brought in a Filmfare magazine, an Indian periodical, for my current events article in fourth grade and the whole class made fun of one of the advertisements. Or when I’d come back from a recent trip to India in middle school, and one of my classmates asked if I lived in a tent and rode an elephant to school. Or was it that time we’d had a class potluck and one of the girls in my class said she didn’t like foreign food, so she would not be trying my contribution. I had brought animal crackers. Maybe that’s when I realized it wasn’t food she didn’t like, but the girl who brought it.

No one could pronounce my name. It got so bad that I squirmed in my seat when we had a substitute teacher, just waiting for them to pause during attendance. I knew my name on the roll-call sheet caused the confused expression. I told myself to say it before the teacher could. Say your name! Scream your name! I would silently chide myself, but I was too shy. Meghana turned into Meg-a-hana, Mohagany, and that one time, when the paper was folded over and the M was missing, Eggana. Now, I understand mispronunciations happen. Even in third grade, I understood that. But what was hard to digest was how the entire class would snicker, and the rest of the day I’d be stuck with that version of my name. Sometimes, this went on for months. It became such a trigger that, after twenty years of it, I began to hate my name. I loathed it. I eventually had it legally changed. I didn’t tell people when we planned trips to India or talk about what my trips were like. Obviously, everyone had their own ideas. I asked my mom to stop packing rotis and idly (rice cakes) in my lunch. Kids would look at my food and pretend to throw up. They said I smelled of curry.

I walked a different way home, on a main, traffic-laden street, just to avoid the boys who would throw stones at me … literally. I’m not saying my bullying was all a result of discrimination. Kids are cruel. Kids are assholes. I’m sure I, too, was an asshole at times.

They would have probably made fun of me if my name was Missy and I wore Jordache jeans every day, but I don’t think so. I rooted my identity into the bullying. They became one and the same. If I wasn’t different, then this would not be happening to me.

I didn’t want to be an other. I longed to be the same.

Age 10, Michigan

I realized that, like Mayor Pete, I longed for a pill. To make me less Indian. I would have gladly taken it. I would have drunk that syrup, no matter how bitter. I would have injected that shot. I would have swallowed that pill.

I did swallow that pill. I swallowed about a two hundred of them on a dark day in May after a really bad day in eighth grade.

My family doesn’t talk about what happened. Words like depression weren’t really discussed. I’ve now received counseling, but the wounds are still there.

My body rejected the poison, and I spent the next twelve hours over the bathroom toilet.

When I think about why I felt this way, I could not define it until now. I felt alone. The only happiness in my life was in books. My father, an avid reader himself, had encouraged me to make friends with books long before I could make friends with people.

I ate at the popular table at Sweet Valley High and faced some twisted plots in just about every V. C. Andrews book, and even so, there weren’t many depictions of me in books. The only South Asian on television was Apu, with his over-the-top accent and clichés. I hadn’t seen myself as anything more than a caricature.

That’s why media needs to be a mirror.

Author MK Schiller

Last year, I stood in line at RWA [Romance Writers of America National Convention] to get a signed book by Kristan Higgins. She’s written a book about a woman named Nora Stuart, a successful doctor returning home and still coping with the remnants of the bullying she’d gotten in high school. It resonated with me. I’d met Kristan many times over the years, but now, having read at least half a dozen of her books, I was all about the fan girling.

I wanted to be eloquent and show professional admiration to let her know how much Nora meant to me. None of that happened. Instead, I started blubbering when I reached the front. You see, Nora kind of reminded me of … me. She brought out my fears and joy. I laughed and cried with her in that book. That’s what good fiction does at its best. It’s not just a window into the world. It a mirror into ourselves. No other media has the power to do that. You may not be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, but reading about a character might let you borrow their socks for a few hours.

I wonder, seriously wonder, if that girl who felt like an outcast, like an island, would have taken those un-magic pills if she’d had examples like Mindy Kaling, Lilly Singh, and Hasan Minhaj in her life. What if she’d had books by Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han, and Sandhya Menon?

What if her classmates, teachers, and parents understood how words can destroy as well as rebuild? What if they understood that we all have something to teach each other?

This is why stories matter, and more than one story is important. They tell us we’re not alone. They connect our island.

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.

Author Speed Dating – Elizabeth Meyette

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match. 

This week’s guest: Elizabeth Meyette





15 Questions

1. If you had to wake to one song on your clock radio or cell phone dock every morning for the rest of your life, what song would you choose and why?

Definitely “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey because it took many years between writing my first book and its publication, but I never stopped believing. Besides, who wouldn’t want to wake up to Steve Perry singing to you?

2. Since one of our September guests is also the author of a nonfiction book on writing (Debra Dixon), name some of your favorite books to help writers.

I saw Debra Dixon’s post on your blog and ordered her book. 🙂 Stephen King’s ON WRITING is at the top of my favorites list. Even though her book is not strictly on writing, Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC truly inspires me. 

3. Favorite TV hottie: Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer) from White Collar, Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) from Grey’s Anatomy, Angel (David Boreanaz) from Angel or Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) from Criminal Minds?

Tough choices, but I have to go with Matt Bomer/Neal Caffrey partly because I love the premise of White Collar. May I also nominate Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) from Poldark? *swoon*. 

4. In which genres and subgenres have you been published, and what does your narrow or sweeping focus say about you?

I’ve been published in historical romance and mystery with romantic elements. I have also published poetry. My sweeping focus illustrates my love for diversity in what I read and write or that I’m ADD. Which I am.

5. Is social media a bad habit for you, and, if so, what is your favorite time drain?

Often, I won’t allow myself to launch Chrome until I’ve fulfilled my writing goals for the day because social media is a black hole for me. Facebook is my weakness because my family of origin lives in Rochester, NY, and my daughter and grandkids live in Houston (they made it through the hurricane unscathed). Facebook is like visiting with family. But what really gets me is marketing opportunities for writers. It’s like following a trail of bread crumbs and suddenly it’s midnight. 

6. Name the most embarrassing concert you’ve ever attended?

Middle school beginning band/orchestra. All of them. Yet, I had tears in my eyes.

7. Which is your preference to write: love scenes or murder scenes?

My murder scenes are not gory, but I enjoy writing the suspense that leads up to them. Love scenes are always fun to write.  

8. Name one thing you wish you could change about yourself.

No more plantar faciitis. I want to wear pretty shoes. 

9. Favorite autumn activity: roasting marshmallows by a fire, driving miles for fall-leaf tours or cuddling with a special someone for an indoor movie marathon?

Love to cuddle. My daughter called one evening asking if we wanted to join them at her friend’s for a drink. We had just settled in for a movie and were in our pjs. I said, “No, we’re watching a movie on Netflix, so we’re just going to chill.” She had to educate me on what I’d just said. LOL.

 10. Name a theme you often see popping up in your stories.

I have this epigraph by Lao Tzu in the beginning of my current book: “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” I think that is an overarching theme in all my books, romance and mystery.

11. If you had no audience, and no regrets would follow, what midnight snack(s) would you be gorging on tonight?

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

12. What was the lowest point in your writing career, and how did you recover from it?

Writing my fourth book, BURIED SECRETS, was misery at one point. I wrote it during NANOWRIMO, which is antithetical to my process, so at the end of the month I had a crazy-quilt book, and I’m a linear pantser. I sent it to my beta readers way too soon, so I had more suggested revisions than I knew what to do with. I put that book away three times, never intending to return to it. I couldn’t see how to fix it. But it kept nudging me, and my editor, Julie Sturgeon, helped me stitch it together beautifully. 

13. With no money limit, if you could construct the most perfect writing space, what would it look like?

I remodeled my office last year and I love it. All it needs is a lounging sofa and a wet bar. 

14. If a director made a movie about your life, which actress (living or dead) would you like to portray you, and which one would more likely be cast?

Too funny. This is a conversation my family often has. I would like Annette Bening to portray me (young Annette Bening, of course), but my daughters say Annie Potts.   

15. When you’re not writing (or working a day job), what are some of your favorite ways to spend your leisure hours?

I like to golf, hike, swim, and read. An ideal day of leisure would be on the beach. I love to travel.





Love’s Destiny

The Brentwood Saga Book 1

By Elizabeth Meyette



“It is a beautiful evening, Captain Brentwood.  Shall we step out onto the terrace?” she asked trying to steady her trembling.  It did not help that the room seemed to be moving, too.

The half-moon perched on a treetop, and the stars sprinkled across the ebony sky. They walked silently out to the garden, the smoky smell of well-stoked fires filling the crisp air.  Emily felt a little steadier.  They sat on a bench beneath a tall oak.

“May I speak frankly, Captain?”

“By all means, Miss Wentworth,” Jonathon smiled.

“I do not want to go to Virginia with you any more than you want to be burdened with me.  I fully intend to stay here with my brother.  Father’s intentions were good, but he was wrong to do this to either of us, and I believe you see the sense in this, too.”  Emily folded her hands in her lap as if to end the discussion.

“Miss Wentworth, may I also speak frankly?”

“Of course,” Emily nodded.

“In the carriage on the way over here, I would have given anything to be rid of this responsibility.  But now, having met you, Miss Wentworth, I am not so sure I want to be relieved of my duty.  I was expecting a young child.  Instead, I find a beautiful young woman who has made it perfectly clear that she does not need me.  Yet I find that this is just what I want—for her to need me.”  Jonathon could see Emily’s embarrassed blush even in the moonlight.  He could not help but continue to tease her; she was so serious.  “No, I do not think I will be remiss in my duty.  In fact, I am sworn to my promise even more having met you.  How can I desert this fair damsel in distress?  Why, it is my opportunity to be a knight in shining armor come to rescue a fair maiden.”  He leaned forward taking her hand. “Is it possible, my lady, that out of many I might claim your heart?”  His voice was low, his eyes sparkled.  “Oh, but one kiss from your sweet, gentle lips to carry with me forever would be so kind.”

Emily felt a new rush of warmth course through her that had nothing to do with the brandy.  She knew he was teasing her, yet she tingled with excitement.  Just the thought of his soft lips against hers, being held in his strong arms…what was she thinking? She stood quickly.

“I fear you mock me, sir, when all I desire is to settle our lives so we can each go our separate ways.  Please just agree with me that this solution would be best and we shall be finished with it.”

“I do not mock you, Emily,” Jonathon spoke softly, “but even if I wanted to, which I do not, I could not agree to your plan.”

“Why ever not?” she cried near tears.

“Because your father’s will states that I hold everything in trust for you until you marry.  Or, if you do not marry, until you reach age twenty-one.  I am afraid you cannot be on your own until such time.”


THE BRENTWOOD SAGA, a bundled release of two complete novels, LOVE’S DESTINY and LOVE’S SPIRIT, is a July 2017 release from Crimson Romance, part of Simon and Schuster Digital Sales, and may be purchased from these retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunesKobo and Simon and Schuster .


About Elizabeth

Believer in dreams-come-true and self-confessed chocoholic, Elizabeth Meyette is the author of four novels. THE CAVANAUGH HOUSE and its sequel, BURIED SECRETS, are mysteries set in 1968 in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. LOVE’S DESTINY and LOVE’S SPIRIT are historical romances set in colonial Virginia and are available together in THE BRENTWOOD SAGA bundle.

Elizabeth is an Amazon Best-selling author, a PAN (Published Authors Network) member of Romance Writers of America, a member of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Before pursuing her writing career full time, Elizabeth taught English, Journalism, and Library Science/Technology. After retiring from teaching, Elizabeth embarked on her writing career full-time and, in addition to her four novels, has published poetry, magazine articles and her blog site, Meyette’s Musings. A friend said of her, “You haven’t retired, you’ve refired!” She is currently working on her fifth and sixth novels.

Elizabeth and her husband, Richard, live in west Michigan where they enjoy the beauty of the Great Lakes. They have an agreement that she cannot cook on writing days after he endured burnt broccoli and overcooked chicken.  Fortunately, Richard is an excellent cook.

Stay in touch with Elizabeth through her Website, Blog, Amazon Author Page, Facebook. Twitter. Goodreads, Pinterest and Linked In.