In Linda Gunther’s debut novel “Ten Steps From The Hotel Inglaterra”, I really enjoyed becoming acquainted with the Sikh character who has a significant influence on Charlotte (Charlie) Sweeney – the lead character of the novel. Gurjot’s character adds a lot to the story; despite a short interaction with Charlie, he has a profound impact on her.
In an interview with Linda I asked her reasons for interjecting a Sikh in a Cuban romance and adventure story. I would like to share her responses with the readers of Sikhpoint.
Interviewer (Colleen Garnett): Can you give us an overview of your new novel?
Linda Gunther (Author): The book is titled “Ten Steps From The Hotel Inglaterra” – a woman’s romantic adventure in Havana, Cuba. It’s about a business consultant, Charlotte (Charlie) Sweeney, who longs to escape the frenetic pace of the high-tech Silicon Valley world for the holidays, deciding to embark on a photographic journey to Havana, Cuba. She is encouraged to undertake this trip by her best friend, Carla Lopez but discouraged by her boyfriend and business partner, Doug Adams. On her journey, Charlie meets the mysterious and attractive Enrique Ruiz and gets embroiled in a dangerous international plot. She also befriends a Sikh Indian named Gurjot Singh and also gets to know his family members, who are helping him celebrate his 80th birthday. Charlie is enchanted by Gurjot’s great granddaughter, Sunita. The story culminates in a personal life transformation for Charlie, which will impact the rest of her life.
Colleen: Why did you create a Sikh character in your book, and how does he impact the main character, Charlotte Sweeney?
Linda: I wanted someone mystical in the book; someone with inner wisdom. The main character, Charlie Sweeney, is in the midst of grieving her sister’s suicide, and feeling guilty about having lost touch with her sister’s three young children. This is one reason for her solo trip to Havana. Charlie also has some fears that limit her. For example, she is terrified of heights, including airplanes and steep cliffs. In Cancun, Mexico, on a stopover before Havana, she unexpectedly befriends Gurjot Singh and his enchanting Sikh family. Gurjot challenges Charlie to be brave, overcome her fear of heights and accompany him on a somewhat daring parasailing adventure. His family is shocked at his plan to parasail, and beg him not to follow through. He’s stubborn and not only persists but also invites Charlie to parasail with him in celebration of his 80th birthday. Gurjot persuades Charlie to face her fear of heights ‘like an angry dog’ and find the bravery waiting to emerge from within her soul. What is so memorable about the relationship between Charlie and Gurjot is the instant bond that blossoms between them during the course of just one brief hot summer afternoon.
Gurjot’s sense of humor is infectious and delights Charlie. His parting gift to Charlie is a stunning deep blue crystal, wrapped in a velvet cloth. Charlie carries that gem with her throughout her journey to Cuba where she will need inspiration and support to face a traumatic, life-changing event. The memory of Gurjot’s gentle and supportive spirit helps Charlie through the emotionally-charged scenario she faces upon her arrival in Havana. What is so magical is that Gurjot’s gift also gives Charlie a surprising link to her sister Priscilla, who visits her through the dancing light of the blue crystal, during her darkest moments in a Havana hotel room.
Colleen: What do you know about Sikhs from your experience in Silicon Valley and your travel to India?
Linda: Linda Gunther (Author): Well, first of all in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I lived in London, England for six years where I was a teacher, counselor and English As a Second Language advisor for the Ealing Education Authority. I met many wonderful Sikh Indian families; and became very close with one Sikh family in particular because their 7 year old son was in my class for two consecutive years. His mother was the daytime babysitter for my newborn son while I was teaching her young son at primary school. We became very close. Then later, throughout my 20 years in Silicon Valley, as a Human Resources leader, I’ve been fortunate to meet and work alongside many Sikhs. I also traveled to New Delhi to facilitate management training programs with Indian managers. My Sikh friend in California actually gave me some saris to wear in India, as I was also invited to a Sikh wedding for one of the engineers in New Delhi. It was the event of a lifetime.
I have been so impressed with the gentleness Sikhs bring to leadership and complex business situations, yet their perseverance to succeed and prosper is also great. It’s such an electrifying combination. Just about every Sikh I’ve met and worked with has an internal “light” that shines through at all times. Commitment and the desire to solve problems and move forward is also important to Sikhs. The positive spirit of Sikhs has always been inspiring to me as a business professional; always interacting with a smile and a kind word. The Sikh belief to live an active, creative and practical life of truthfulness, fidelity and purity encourages me to do the same. For me, also the principle of becoming “whole” is important, as I believe is the same in the Sikh culture.
Colleen: How can people get your book and engage in the story of Charlie Sweeney?
Linda: People can buy the book on Amazon.com. Just type in ‘Ten Steps From The Hotel Inglaterra by Linda S. Gunther’ and pick it up either as a paperback or in electronic form for Kindle.