GMA Book Club Pick alert! Zibby speaks to debut author Disha Bose about Dirty Laundry, a wonderfully dark and twisty novel about a group of young mothers and what ensues when the popular one is found dead. Disha reveals she put a bit of herself in all of her characters, particularly Mishti – the Indian woman living in Ireland and suffering from culture shock. She also talks about social media, motherhood, ironically-worn jeans, her lovely grandfather, and what it was like to finally find her voice and write this book in eight weeks.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Disha. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Dirty Laundry. FYI, the GMA Book Club pick. Congratulations.

Disha Bose: Thank you.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. I started reading your book, and I was like, thank god someone is talking about the realities of the torture it is of loving your children so, so much and yet at the same time, wanting to do bad things sometimes because you’re at the end of your rope. I felt so seen. Tell listeners about Dirty Laundry and the whole thing. Just go.

Disha: The book is set in a small fictional village in Cork, Ireland. It follows a group of young mothers, like myself, I suppose. The three key characters are Ciara, Lauren, and Mishti. Ciara is a social media influencer. She’s the popular one. People follow her for advice on motherhood and skin care and fashion and things like that. Then there’s Lauren, who’s sort of the social outcast. These women tend to roll their eyes at her behind her back because she’s a bit of an alternative parent, so as to put it. She comes from the wrong side of the tracks. They’ve all grown up together. She was bullied in school. That’s kind of carried on into adulthood as well for them. Then there’s Mishti. She is an Indian immigrant. She’s married to a university lecturer. She’s in an arranged marriage. Her parents have chosen this man for her. Their marriage is a bit cold. They’re distant, but they’re raising a child together. These are the three main characters. Very early on in the book, one of them is found dead, seemingly under mysterious circumstances. She’s lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs. Then the rest of the book tries to examine the lives of these women and the people around them and try and uncover who could be responsible for the death.

Zibby: I watched you on GMA. You were saying that while you have some things in common with Mishti, your marriage is not arranged. She is not you. Talk about which parts of yourself you put in your characters and where this comes from on a personal level.

Disha: I feel like I’ve put myself into all three of these characters. There’s a bit of me in all of them. Just like Ciara, I have days where I’m taking pictures of my child and putting them up on Instagram because the day is going well. There there’s Lauren. I breastfed my child. I carried her around in a sling because she just refused to be put down. She wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. Lauren does that. I have those sides of me as well. Obviously, Mishti is the one who hits closest to home for me because we’re both from India. Ireland is our home now, but it’s new to us. It’s a huge culture shock coming from a place like India and then now living in Ireland. I also live in a small village outside the city. It’s all very new to me. The weather just doesn’t suit us. That’s kind of where my similarities with Mishti end. I’m married to an Irish man. It’s not an arranged marriage. Happily married. I hope he’s not cheating on me. I can’t guarantee anything anymore.

Zibby: Let’s dissect. Any signs? Is there anything we should be worried about here?

Disha: I hope not. Fingers crossed. That’s kind of where my similarities with Mishti end. At the same time, I’ve grown up knowing loads of women who’ve had to give up their careers for a marriage that’s been arranged for them. They’ve moved home, have had to learn a new language and make their place in a new family and with a man they’ve not known until the day they’ve married. It’s familiar grounds for me. My parents are in an arranged marriage. It’s familiar to me, but not my experiences.

Zibby: There’s so much in here from aging and motherhood and social media and that perfectionism of — one of your characters — Ciara? Is that how you pronounce it? Ciara?

Disha: Ciara. (Kira)

Zibby: Oh, Ciara. Okay, Kira spelled Ciara. Ciara, who went viral with her skin-care videos, which I found hilarious, and how she’s projecting this one image to the world, and yet life is a mess behind her. I try, I have to say, in my social media not to ever claim that my life is not a mess. You do what you can.

Disha: There is a fine line there between reality and what we project on the internet. I feel like as users, it’s kind of our responsibility as well to make that distinction. It’s so easily accessible to us now, social media. It’s on our phones. We’re just scrolling all the time.

Zibby: It’s a trap. You also have funny things about aging. Can I read this one passage? Is that okay?

Disha: Yes.

Zibby: It’s from chapter thirty. “Ciara was in the city on Sunday again after Gerry left for the office. If he had really gone to work on a Sunday, she hoped he at least got to ‘blank’ his assistant. She dropped Finn and Bella off at Liz’s place first. Ciara decided she was going to bring up what Liz owed them in clear terms the next time she fussed about having to watch the kids, not just her summer getaways, which they funded, but also the check for brand-new tires that Ciara had noticed in Gerry’s office a few weeks ago; her mortgage, which Gerry had paid off years before. Ciara’s usual table at the café was unoccupied. She slid into a chair bringing her tailored coffee with her. She hadn’t planned to meet Parth here today but hoped he would turn up anyway. She’d seen him drive off in the morning, and if he wanted some quiet time away from the family on the weekend, this would be the natural choice. Ciara kept her head down, but her eyes darted to the floor every time someone came in. It reminded her of how she’d once boasted to a friend in college that she never waited for men, that she always made them wait. It used to work when she was younger when the scales were tipped on her side. Now the years were passing her by, and the scales were falling the other way. Someday soon, she was going to be too old, even for a man like Sean. One more decade, and she’d be competing with girls who wore her favorite jeans ironically. No matter how hard she tried to keep up and fill her closest, she was going to eventually lose the race. She saw it happen to her mother. It had never happened to any man she knew.” I love that so much. Oh, my gosh, the inevitability of ironically worn jeans.

Disha: It’s funny and sad. It’s one of those things where it’s sad, but it’s true.

Zibby: There is such a difference in — literally, my dad wears the same jeans he’s been wearing since he was eighteen. They are filled with holes at this point. It’s not even socially appropriate. I’m like, you could really get a new pair of jeans. They’re patched from the inside. They’re so faded. They’re almost white. I’m like, oh, my gosh, what are we going to do with these?

Disha: There’s a difference, then. When a woman becomes a mother and a man becomes a father, we’re all parents, but all of a sudden, men assume this new desirability because they’re dads now. Especially if they’re involved fathers, their boasting abilities — they’re looked at in a completely different light. It’s completely different for a woman. All of a sudden, you’re a mother, now you’re — I don’t know about desirability, but your status then lowers into someone who’s serving other people instead of you holding your own. You’re someone’s mother now and not just an individual. I remember years ago when I was still struggling to write a novel and then I had my daughter, who’s four now, a friend who is not a friend anymore, I remember him saying, “There goes your chance of ever finishing a book,” just because I’ve had a child. I feel like I’ve heard that for years. It is the reality. That’s how people tend to look at mothers. You’ve achieved the thing that you were biologically meant to.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. If I had more time, I would go back through all the episodes of this podcast, which is 1,500 or something, and find all the moms who said, I write when my kid naps. After I had kids… I feel like there must be at least a thousand authors who are moms who have figured it out, whether it’s Wendy Walker, who was writing in her minivan. Everybody has different ways. Staying up late at night. There’s this whole #5AM writing whatever on Twitter that a lot of parents do. Not only does it not prevent you from writing, it gives you so much more material, also, to mine and use.

Disha: Absolutely. I don’t think I would’ve been able to write this novel if it wasn’t for all of those circumstances colliding together, which was COVID lockdown — I wrote it during the lockdowns — and also, my daughter. I wasn’t able to write or finish a book before she was born. It was only after having her and being under those circumstances that I was able to write the novel which I now feel like I was meant to write. Everything else was not working for me. Nothing was clicking. Then this clicked. Obviously, something clicked in my brain. It has to happen related to motherhood and having my child and being able to relate to an entirely new community of people.

Zibby: Can I read just one more thing from the first page? I don’t think I’ve ever read a first page of a book. It’s hard to read this first page and not want to spend the rest of the day in bed with this book. “The house smelled of porridge, detergent, and soiled nappies. A few years ago, it smelled of patchouli, filtered coffee, and Black Opium by Yves Saint Laurent. ‘I hate him. I hate you and Daddy and Granny, and I hate him the most.’ ‘Bella, you don’t mean that.’ Reasoning with a four-year-old was a losing game, so Ciara tried only halfheartedly. She had Finn, the baby, on her hips, swinging him gently. When he was even smaller and cried all the time, this was the only way she could stop him from turning purple. She preferred not holding him often and creating bad habits, but she found herself needing to hold him like a comforter against Bella. ‘I do. I mean it. I hate him the most.’ Bella pointed at her brother’s unperturbed face. ‘So what do you want me to do about it?’ Ciara was staring at the hillock of congealed tea bags where they’d stained and discolored the marble countertop. It was a few days since she’d bothered using a dish to discard them or giving the counter a wipe. ‘I’m going to cut off his hair.’ Ciara turned to her daughter. She felt an itching desire to drag her out of the house and leave her in the front yard.” Oh, my god, I laughed out loud.

Disha: desire. Any mother who says that they’ve never felt that is maybe a bit delusional. I don’t know. Any mother I’ve spoken to has said that they’ve had moments. They’ve all had moments.

Zibby: So funny. Even just allowing other parents to laugh at that, it’s so funny. By the way, I am also obsessed with the cover of this book. Were you so excited when you saw it? Was it the first one you saw? For those listening, it’s a picture of bubbly water. It’s called Dirty Laundry, as I said. Then there’s a house underneath the splash. It’s so perfect. This dark color, it’s just so perfect. I love when I see .

Disha: Thank you.

Zibby: Wait, go back to struggling to find your right voice in novel writing. What were some of the other attempts like? Were they the same voice? I feel like you have such a distinct, funny voice that you use in the book. Were you indulging in that? Were you trying other genres? What did you do beforehand?

Disha: Completely different genres. I was a student of English literature. The serious great Indian novel was what I was aiming for for years. That’s what I was reading. That’s what I’d studied. That’s what, I suppose, I was made to believe is what is good literature. I’d immerse myself in that. I’d say I have about six unfinished literary novels in my drawer there that I’m not going to pick up. What I was reading in my spare time were domestic thrillers. That’s what I love to watch on TV as well. That’s what grabs my attention. I just didn’t think that was a book I could write. I think that is partly not only because I was studying it, but also, there aren’t many Indian thriller writers that are internationally published, at least. I wasn’t seeing a lot of Indian authors on domestic thriller bookshelves. You don’t see them on TV much in that genre as well. I suppose I had my blinders on for ages. Then during the lockdown, something changed. The ending of the book, which is also the beginning of Dirty Laundry, it came to me like I’d seen it somewhere in a movie. I knew I had to write it down. I wrote down that scene. Then I worked backwards and created the characters. That just clicked. I felt like I’d found my voice. I’d found the genre that I should be writing in. It just all fell into place.

Zibby: That’s amazing. What happened after that? You got an agent quickly? Then it sold right away?

Disha: I wrote the book very quickly because I was working on a deadline in the sense that I was also freelance writing on the side. Our daughter was born. We were in lockdown. I had very little time to work on this book. I’d given myself two months. I’d said, if I don’t finish the book and if it doesn’t look decent in two months, I’m abandoning this because I don’t have any time to spare on writing a book anymore. I finished the book in eight weeks. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t think I’d be able to do it again. Before I could change my mind, I sent the manuscript out, unedited, I should add, because I didn’t even give myself time to work on it and edit it at all. I sent it off to a couple of agents. Within days, I heard back from some of the top agents, the agents that I’d been wanting to work with for years. I still couldn’t believe it. I was still pinching myself. I spoke to these agents very quickly. Within days, my agent, Marianne Gunn O’Connor — she’s an Irish agent. She was on a call with Penguin in the UK and in the US. Ballantine in the US and Viking, they’re both imprints of Random House. I’d say within ten days of having finished the novel, I had book deals. It still brings chills to me every time I think about it. For ten years, this is something that I was trying to do, and it happened in less than three months, which is a dream.

Zibby: That’s crazy. That is the most meteoric success, slow and steady followed by shooting star. Then when did you find out it was going to be a GMA Book Club pick?

Disha: A couple of months ago. I had to keep it a secret from literally everybody. Other than the publishers and my agent and my husband, because we had to make plans for traveling to New York, nobody else knew. It’s been the biggest secret that I’ve had to keep hidden from everybody. Everyone kept asking me, “So you’re going to New York?” I’ve had to say, “Yeah, just for book signings,” but I’ve had the biggest thing in my career happening to me. I’ve had to keep it a secret. It’s just been a dream, a literal dream. I’m back now. I feel like, oh, that didn’t happen. That last week . , that’s a reminder.

Zibby: Are you worried you can’t do it again? Have you already written another novel? I feel like I would be worried. What if lightning only struck once?

Disha: Starting off with a debut novel and starting off like this, it’s obviously set standards and expectations. Thankfully, I’ve had two years to work on the second book because the book was pushed forward because of the COVID thing. I’ve had two years to work on the second one. The second one is nearly finished now. I’ve had an idea for the third one, which is a bit different from the first two. I’m really excited about that. I feel like some floodgates have opened somewhere. I’ve struggled for ten years, and now all of a sudden, I have all of these ideas. It’s all going great. Fingers crossed.

Zibby: That is so inspiring because I know there are so many people out there who feel like the tides will never turn. If it’s been this long, then that means that it can’t change on a dime, but it doesn’t work like that.

Disha: No, it doesn’t. I feel like you find the right idea and the right moment and the right passion for an idea. They all come together. It happens. It just happens.

Zibby: How is your daughter behaving these days?

Disha: Much better. She sleeps at night. She can fend for herself a little bit. She goes to preschool now. That’s just made such a difference in my life. I have a couple of hours to myself. I don’t have to rely on my husband coming home to be able to work. It’s made a huge difference. She’s having a ball. She was in New York for a week. She went to all the playgrounds. She checked out the playgrounds in New York and had pizza. She’s having a great time.

Zibby: I’m sorry, I wish we had had this scheduled before. We could’ve hung out in New York. I’ve survived having four kids here and have been to many a playground. At this point, I’m like, I’m just not going. I’m just not going. It was a beautiful day yesterday. I’m like, which parent could take my kids to the park with them?

Disha: I’m glad you’re at that stage where you can do that. I still have to be there for most of her playdates. I’m waiting for the day when I can just hand her off to other people.

Zibby: That’s a nice day. That’s very nice. Then even with my older kids, at least my son, one day, he was just like, “All right, I’m going to go meet someone on 86th Street.” I’m like, “Okay.” I guess that’s how it happens in life. We didn’t have a conversation. It was just so obvious one day that, of course, he could do that.

Disha: I think parents of young children need to hear this more because it just seems like such an unachievable dream right now, what you’re describing.

Zibby: I still have an eight and nine-year-old. I still have moments like described in the book where I’m just like, seriously? I’m going to take a deep breath. I can’t believe this is happening. Then I do have encouragement from my older kids where I see —

Disha: — You know what, potentially, it works into, so that’s a good one.

Zibby: It is hard to believe when you’re in the throes of it. Then you have moments of recognition and escape with great books like this where you’re like, oh. It gives you the fuel to keep going even through the hardest times when you can laugh at something that is going on.

Disha: I’m relieved that you don’t know these people in real life. I find a lot of people telling me that. We loved your book, and I’m so glad I don’t know anyone in this book.

Zibby: There are bits and pieces of everybody. Like you said about you in your character, there are bits and pieces of people in each of them who I can sort of recognize. There are all these mom tropes. It all works out. Then sometimes it works out really well, like for you, so there you go. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Disha: Two pieces of advice. One would be to just keep going like I did. I know it seems like a long road. I’ve had many moments of just giving up. Ten to twelve years, it’s been that long for me of just, keep going. My second piece of advice would be, get yourself an agent. I feel that’s a mistake a lot of aspiring writers make, trying to do it yourself. Someone told me this about three years ago. That’s been the best decision I’ve made. Just leave all of the other stuff to someone else who has the experience and the knowledge. You do the writing.

Zibby: That is smart. The last thing I wanted to ask about is your grandfather, who you thanked in the acknowledgments. Tell me about him.

Disha: He was just the loveliest man. He passed away about six years ago. If he was alive, he’d be the proudest. He’d be at every bookshop. He’d be handing me my pen to sign every book. He was an accountant, actually, by trade. He never had the opportunity to become a writer himself, but I think I get my writing abilities from him. After he passed away and we were clearing his belongings, we found all my school essays, all the scribbles and notes. He’d saved everything. It’s just lovely. Even when I was about four or five, I had this habit. It’s grown with me. I’d make up stories and chat to him about random dreams I’d had or make up things. He always sat down and listened to them like they were actual stories. I remember so vividly, him telling everybody, “This one’s going to be a writer.” He was the first one who engrained that in me. I think I still carry that. I can still hear his voice in my head going, “That’s an amazing story.” He was the biggest cheerleader. He’d be so proud. I married an accountant, so I’ve kind of made up for his — he was always like, “Either you’re an accountant or you’re a writer.” I’m a writer now and married to an accountant, so I’ve fulfilled all his dreams.

Zibby: That is so wonderful. I had a grandmother who was similarly proud and encouraging. Anytime she would call me, she’d be like, “You writing anything? What are you writing? What are you doing?” She passed away a few years ago as well. I wish she were here. I have a novel coming out next year. I’m like, oh, my gosh, it would be so nice. Like you said, you carry it all with you, all that encouragement. Keep going. Like him, she was like — I’m like, “Gadgi, why don’t you write?” She’s like, “I’m more of a letter to the editor type of writer.” She would always sit and write her local Dayton, Ohio, newspaper and write letters to the editor all the time by hand and mail them in. It was so sweet.

Disha: It’s what you need as a child, even. You just need that little bit of encouragement, someone to be cheering you on.

Zibby: Thank you so much. This has been such a fun conversation. It’s early in the morning here in New York, so this is a nice way to start the day here. Thank you for this international podcast. Congratulations again on Dirty Laundry. Very exciting.

Disha: Thank you.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

Disha: Bye.



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