Hi Suleena and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Two Houses!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
My debut novel, TWO HOUSES, is a contemporary Rom-Com about rival auctioneers set in New York City. Priya and Gavin have been competing since preschool, because of their families’ businesses, and their feud has only intensified since they began working at their respective auction houses. The rivalry heats up even more when they go head-to-head to win the rights to sell a big collector’s art, wooing him at his week-long country house party. Forced together, feelings arise that neither can deny. Now they both have to decide if they can work together for a relationship, or if a life-long competition will prove to big a barrier to overcome.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Gavin Carlyle is here. Because of course he is.
Tension snaps my back ramrod straight and my fists clench at the sight of him, my body getting ready for a fight.
I’ve got too much to do today, and I can’t deal with my mortal enemy since preschool.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- The biggest inspiration for this book was my art history classes in college (see Mom and Dad, I did find a use for that art history degree!). I’ve always loved visiting museums and studying art history, which led me to learn more about some of the different professions in that world. I read books about being an auctioneer as research for this book, and it was so interesting to see the personalities behind art sales.
- This is my debut novel, but the fourth manuscript that I wrote. And by the time it was queried, sold, edited and will be published, I will have written eight full length manuscripts and a novella, and it’ll be about six years since I started writing seriously. Publishing is not an easy road, but I was too stubborn to give up, and I think I wrote a lot of that stubbornness into Priya.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
I love Priya. She’s a workaholic, stubborn, and uses humor so she doesn’t have to handle any inconvenient emotions. She struggles a lot trying to find her place in the family business, and in getting her father to acknowledge her accomplishments. She knows exactly what she wants—to be an auctioneer and to take over the auction house one day, but her father/ boss pushes Ajay to take on more sales and more responsibility. She doesn’t know how to make her father see that her twin Ajay doesn’t want to be involved, and that she is the right child to take over. So she keeps working hard, hoping he sees that she is perfect in the role.
Since Priya was struggling at home and with those dynamics at work, I knew I wanted to pair her with someone who was charming and could introduce some fun and levity in her life. Gavin is just as good an auctioneer as Priya, but he doesn’t have any of her roadblocks, so he can approach his career with more ease than Priya does, giving him a carefree demeanor. When I was writing him, I was surprised to find his life wasn’t that easy either, and he had things he struggled with as well.
In the end, I think their personalities balance each other well.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
It would have to be a scene where there is a lot of banter! I love to write banter, so the scene has to be one that shows the actors have chemistry when they’re going back and forth with dialogue. In this scene, Gavin found out that Priya has taken a client from him who he was also seeing. He’s less than pleased, and he confronts her in her office.
For a sample of that scene, please see below.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I hope they laughed! There is a lot happening right now and a lot of people are going through really tough times. I hope for a bit they were transported to a different world and the time they spent there gave them joy.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m currently doing edits on the next book in the series, TWO CHRISTMASES, which comes out in fall 2022. It’s Sonia’s story, who is Priya’s cousin, best friend, and co-worker in TWO HOUSES. Sonia has felt stagnant at work when she meets a man named Beau from the South who has (negative) opinions about art and the city. She takes it upon herself to teach him about art and show him the magic of a New York City Christmas. When Beau has to go back home for a work emergency, he invites her and she experiences a small town, southern Christmas. But Sonia usually avoids commitment and is fights the feelings Beau raises in her.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: One (1) eBook copy of TWO HOUSES by Suleena Bibra. (Open to US and Canada)
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Excerpt from Two Houses:
Before she can answer, my slowly closing door is thrown open again. This time by one very arrogant, very irate looking Gavin Carlyle.
“You’re stealing my girlfriend?” he growls at me.
Gavin tosses a mini sketchbook and a set of travel paint on my desk. The side where I attached a note to the paint tin saying “For the next time an emergency comes up” faces me. It was the first thing I did this morning.
“It’s fine, Sonia,” I say. She looks like she wants to stay and watch the drama, but my eyes cut to the door meaningfully and she leaves.
“Did you snoop through her mail?” I begin. “I think that’s a federal offense.”
“I was with her when she got it.”
Ewwww. I scrunch up my nose. He means coitusing her. I don’t like the image of those two attractive people making the beast with two backs.
I decline to examine why I don’t like that.
Maybe it’s because now I can’t stop imagining how Gavin has sex. It starts out as a parody, him announcing to his partner he’s going to come using his fast-talking auctioneer voice: “I’m gonna come.”
“Can I get five more seconds?”
“Yes, I have five more seconds.”
“Can I get ten more seconds?”
“Excellent. Can I get another five?”
But then it gets a lot more intimate, fast, and I genuinely start imagining what he would look like naked, sweaty, and slowly kissing his way up my body while I mentally auctioneer with myself to hold out a little longer.
Ugh, I’m angry at how much I want him. How much I always want him.
“As lovely as Stella is, I’m not trying to steal your girlfriend.” I lean back in my seat. He opens his mouth to contradict me, and I cut him off. “I am going to steal your artist though.”
“It’s the same thing,” he says, anger still in his voice.
“I don’t know how you do business over there at your establishment, but I can promise you, you don’t have to sleep with all of your sellers.”
“You’ve gone too far this time, Gupta.” He paces in front of me.
“You’ve stolen enough sellers and buyers from me in the past. The Annunciation painting, then the Rembrandt, then the Striker Collection. It’s the nature of the business.” I shrug. Never mind that I reacted the same every time he stole one of my clients. Even worse really. Hence the voodoo doll.
He doesn’t answer, pacing himself into quite the state.
I can’t help twisting the knife a little more. “But, you know, if you were treating her right, she wouldn’t be open to other auctioneers.”
Gavin barks out an incredulous laugh before he can stop it. “Seriously, Riya?”
God I hate it when he calls me that. A nickname makes our relationship feel intimate, even though it’s really about hoping the other person fails, spectacularly and publicly and often irrevocably, ruining their reputation so the other one can win bigger.
“Yup. I can make her happier than you can.”
“Apparently, Mr. Steal Your Girl.”
“It’s Ms. Steal Your Girl, please.”
He inclines his head. He looks calmer than when he walked in, and even takes a seat in one of the leather chairs in front of my desk.
It’s kind of anticlimactic, really.
“Okay. I can acknowledge that was well played,” he concedes.
I ruthlessly squelch the surge of pride that rises at the praise. I don’t need praise from him. “Does she want to be in my sale then?”
“She told me this morning she wants to break the exclusivity clause in her sale contract, so yeah. She’ll probably be calling you soon to let you know.”
I try not to gloat, satisfying myself with a nod at the admission. And make a mental note I need to resend the sketchbook and paints. Have to keep my clients happy.
“How did you even… When did you even…”
“Bathroom,” I answer simply. That should be all the answer he needs.
Guess that’s not all the answer he needs. Trust a man to not understand the level of camaraderie that occurs in a women’s public restroom.
“It’s all right, anyway,” he says. “This way I won’t feel bad when I get the Richmond Collection.”
“Ha! Did you hit your head when you barged through my door?” I glance down at my computer quickly, minimizing the windows with work for Harrison. So everything.
“We’ll see who’s out of their mind when I’m on the rostrum, selling all of his pretty art.”
I swallow. I’ve seen him lead auctions from the raised platform of the auction room, and his command of the room is impressive. All eyes are on him, and not just because he’s in the front of the room, but because he’s in turn charming, funny, and aggressive in leading the sale and driving the prices up.
I love the rush of the rostrum myself. All the work of setting up a sale, putting together the exhibition and the catalog, for that one moment. That one moment where the energy of the crowd depends on how excited I can get them. There’s nothing better than hearing bid after bid, surpassing the reserve, a minimum price required before a piece can be sold. And if it surpasses our internal estimate, it’s a very good day. The frenzy (and hopefully it’s a frenzy and not just me talking to myself) culminates in a sale, the point of my job. Months of work for a few minutes of action per item.
“I’ll make sure to save you a front row seat, when I’m on the rostrum, so you can see how it’s done,” I say sweetly.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
“A sparkling, hilarious rom-com about rival art auctioneers….This enemies-to-lovers tale hits all the right notes.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Mixing love and art might end up being an epic disaster…
…or the beginning of a beautiful collaboration.
If there’s one thing Priya Gupta wants, it’s to land the collection of the year for her family’s NYC auction house, gaining the approval of her father in the process.
Running an extremely close second? For a very small sinkhole to open up under the feet of Gavin Carlyle, her childhood rival turned auction-house competitor, so she never has to see his smug, irritatingly handsome face again.
Neither of those options seem likely, especially since Gavin is dead set on winning the same collection—and his pockets are as deep as his family’s extensive art world connections. Plus, he has charm to spare. Though Priya would walk over hot coals before ever admitting that.
When they are both invited to a posh country estate to spend the week wooing the prospective client, their longtime rivalry creates sparks, all right, just not the kind either Priya or Gavin ever expected…
Meet the Author:
Suleena Bibra studied art history in college and loves to travel every opportunity she gets. A bit indecisive, she has worked as a museum intern, lawyer, workers’ compensation adjuster, and private investigator. Author is best, though, so she can continue living out a bunch of other careers without changing out of her pajamas. Suleena writes RomComs heavy on banter, shenanigans, and aggressive whimsy. She spends the rest of her time annoying her bulldog with her love.
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