ARLINGTON – Young Arlington author Lavinia Dasani has lived almost as worldly, adventurous and globetrotting a lifestyle as the spies, billionaires and lovers between the pages of her self-published novels.
Almost. More on the romance, humor and well-traveled side – less the danger and intrigue.
The promising new writer’s own story is definitely exotic.
Dasani, 22, was born and raised on Mauritius, a tropical island dot on the map in the Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles off the southeast coast of Africa.
From the time she was 13, between homework, watching her favorite American crime dramas, and daydreaming about her future while relaxing on the yellow sand beaches of Mauritius, Dasani knew she wanted to be an author.
“I was inspired to write to make a better life for myself,” Dasani said. “My parents got me going and gave me a lot of support, and I started writing for myself.”
Publishing her novels is a dream come true.
Dasani was at the Arlington Library earlier this month to debut her newest thriller, “The Spy Within.” It’s the first in her Tame Series of young adult action romance novels. It’s set in New York City amid a world of secrecy, danger, billionaires and business moguls. The story explores the chemistry and exchange of power between two robust and tenacious individuals. It follows her first book, “Affair of the Heart.”
Creole is Dasani’s native language, but she is fluent in English and French. While writing, she is also studying Psychology online through Open University, a U.S.-accredited institution in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.
So how did the aspiring writer wind up in a small town over 10,000 miles away from her island roots?
Modern romance – her mom’s, more specifically.
Her mother and stepfather, who then lived in Darrington, met on Facebook and started chatting before switching to Skype. Their relationship grew closer over a year’s time before they met in person on another island close to Mauritius, the Seychelles. That’s where they wed.
It was another year and an arduous immigration process before the family, including her younger brother, arrived in Arlington five years ago.
Dasani said it took some time understanding the cultural differences. She missed friends and family, but embraced the chance to build the new life right in front of her.
“There are things that would have taken me more time to accomplish if I hadn’t moved to a new country and studied the environment around me,” she said.
Dasani attended Arlington High School for a year-and-a-half, graduating in 2015.
At first, high school was awkward compared with her British school system upbringing.
“I had no idea what to do, or what was considered appropriate or how others were perceiving me,” Dasani said. “After a while, I had gotten the gist of it. I loved all the after-school sports and activities they offered.”
She said students and teachers were welcoming and helpful.
Like acknowledgments at the end of a book, she thanked two teachers who were especially encouraging: ELA teacher Kim Ramirez and college writing teacher Marilee Herman.
“I loved the range of cultures in Mrs. Ramirez’s classroom, plus she was always so welcoming and let us new kids have lunch in her classroom or hang out where there was a free period,” Dasani said.
Herman, now interim assistant principal, was a great influence her senior year.
“Her range of knowledge fascinated me and indirectly pushed me to further concentrate on my writing and pursue my dream of becoming a writer,” Dasani said.
Herman remembers debating with Dasani about the syntax of sentences and the structure of writing. She isn’t the least bit surprised Dasani’s name is on book covers.
“Lavinia is determined to the core,” Herman said. “It is that unflagging persistence that has led to her completion of her novels.”
Dasani said she draws ideas from her experiences and keeps them in a journal. More often than not, her rule of thumb is “If it stays in my head for a week, it’s worth writing about.”
What inspired Dasani’s writing the most were the characters, character development and plot lines she studied watching her favorite American TV shows, “CSI: Miami,” “Charmed” and “NCIS.”
Dasani said the shows got her creative juices going about the importance of writing strong and powerful characters who rise to the occasion and reveal their humanity in times of adversity. Case in point: Ziva Dave on NCIS, an Israeli Mossad agent who becomes a critical member of the NCIS team before a terrorist attack forces her into hiding.
“To have a character with all its defects and strength go through life and tackle whatever comes their way in their own ways, was something I really wanted to write about,” Dasani said.
Like any author, there are parts of writing Dasani eschews.
“Editing and proofreading is the hardest part,” she said, “So often, I read back something I wrote and think, ‘Why did I do that?’”
Dasani said she preferred going the self-publishing route, on Amazon and online.
“I want to have control of my stories,” she said.
Dasani knows that online publicity is crucial to building a following. Fortunately, her brother is a software engineer and has helped establish her online presence developing her website, blog and other features.
Dasani hopes to inspire other young authors and entrepreneurs to believe that if she can thrive in a career she loves, so can they.