NAW Interview with Ayesha Patel

AYESHA PATEL

Ayesha Patel was born in Gujarat, India and later moved to Texas. She quickly found her footing in languages and creative writing and weaves her diverse background into her stories. She currently lives in the beautiful, though rainy, state of Washington with her husband. She also writes sci-fi and fantasy as Kaylie Austen.

NAW- Tell us about your book, Priya in Heels. How did you get the idea for it?

Priya in Heels is a multicultural contemporary NA (new adult) romance. While romance plays a large role in the novel, other focuses include Priya’s relationships with her parents and friends, as well as the emotional growth of becoming an independent woman who has to deal with the consequences of her love affair.

The idea for this novel springs from my own life, a loose portrayal. Each chapter contains a handful of real people, events, and places, although my life isn’t as tragic as Priya’s. I wanted to capture the deep bond between a woman and her parents, especially within the Indian culture, as well as where Priya fits in the American life when she straddles two different worlds.

Official blurb: 

Love doesn’t conquer all…does it?

Priyanka Patel is the epitome of an obedient daughter. She’s finishing up her medical residency at one of Houston’s busiest emergency departments, and has agreed—albeit reluctantly—to marry the man her family has chosen for her. The only thing that can derail the “perfect”life laid out before her is the sexy musician down the hall who wants into her life…and into her bed.

Tyler O’Connor has been infatuated with Priya since she treated his sprained ankle in the ER, and after saving her from a brutal attack, he can’t get her out of his head. When Priya puts her family’s wishes before their relationship, agreeing to an arranged marriage with another man, Tyler is devastated.

But love is fierce and unreasonable and clashes with the carefully sculpted life her parents want for her. Is going after her heart such a big deal, or will it truly unravel Priya’s world?

NAW- How long did you take to finish the book? How did you decide the title?

I started Priya in Heels because I really wanted to get the story out, but I wasn’t truly feeling it so I put it away for about a year after writing a few chapters. When I picked it back up, I finished in about a month, but spent several months editing on my own. Of course, I spent an additional couple of months working on this novel with my editor.

The title was the most difficult thing to come up with out of the entire writing project. I’d changed it three times, but Priya in Heels was catchy and fits. The first line of the novel says, “Women who wore heels all day belonged in a mental institution for heinous self harm.”

Incidentally, Priya hates heels. They ended up becoming a metaphor for Priya’s growth and coming into her own. Heels, much like her love for Tyler and the decision to be with him, are new and uncomfortable at first. They may make her feel sexy and like a different woman, but they hurt. It takes time and effort to become comfortable and confident in heels, and for some women, it’s harder than others. For Priya, it was definitely a struggle.

NAW- What can a novice reader expect from Priya in Heels? What drew you to this genre?

NA is a new and hot age group, and some consider it a genre. It generally has a high dose of sexuality and the movement of a character from young adult to adulthood. It’s not quite immature but not fully mature attitudes. While Priya and Tyler are educated characters and closer to mid 20’s than early 20’s, they, especially Priya, are experiencing firsts and how to live life on their own decisions and not constantly seeking or acting on their parents’ approval.

Unlike many NA’s, Priya in Heels does not contain a high heat level. Also, it’s multicultural, meaning the characters live in America but have foreign roots. Priya’s Indian heritage plays a large role in what she is and how she behaves and the basis for her decisions.

The thing that I like about multicultural contemporary NA romance is that there is so much in this book. It’s not just romance. It’s real life, it’s colorful, it may teach readers a few things about Indian culture, it’s insightful, it’s torrid, it’s sad, and of course I can’t resist a sweet romance.

NAW- Tell us about the character of Priyanka Patel. How did you develop the character?

Priya is a medical resident, a lover of Battlestar Gallactica and plaid, has the desire to dominate ComicCon one day, and has a Dr Pepper addiction. She was born in India but grew up in Texas. She does not like heels or wearing make-up, and to this day, does not how to do anything to her hair other than straighten it. She’s intelligent and nerdy, but still has a bit of an immature side to her.

She lives on her own with her best friend, who is also Indian, but she still abides by her parents’ rules. She’s never dated, never had a boyfriend, so Tyler is the first of many things. She’s been perfectly content in obeying her parents, who keep her first in their lives and look out for her best interests, but loving Tyler is the thing that breaks them. Not just because he’s a man who may ruin her future, but because Priya is supposed to marry a certain dentist from Dallas.

Developing Priya, since she is based a lot off of me, was very easy. The story wrote itself in many aspects, and I had a wonderful time picking through my life and memories and desires and placing them in this novel.

Book cover Priya in Heels

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

I was born in Gujarat, India and was raised in Texas. I love culture and am proud friends with people from all over the world. I love food, too, and can cook cuisines from several countries. I’ve learned seven languages, but am only fluent in three. I’m a diehard Seattle Sounders (futbol, aka, soccer) fan. I’m a former Longhorn (UT), current Huskie (UW), and science and medicine are like second nature to me. When I’m not writing, I work in labor and delivery and surgery. As stressful and high-adrenaline as it can be, it keeps me rooted in sanity. Otherwise, I would be at home with all these characters in my head!

I live in a Marvel Universe household, so I thoroughly enjoy anything Marvel related and am a collector. I’ve adopted on my first pets, Yorkie puppies named Gambit and Rogue, and they’ve been a sweet, loving addition to the family. Those are just a few things.

NAW- Tell us about your other works. You also write science fiction under a pen name, right?

My first published novel is Ravens. It’s YA sci-fi, Marvel-ish, about a girl who is teleported into a parallel universe where she gains superhuman powers and human enemies.

Hellhound, a paranormal mystery, is about the world of descendants of Greek gods and the  Hellhound, a ruthless hunter, who must solve the murder of her father before times runs out.

Song of the Sirens, a YA dark fantasy, is about a girl who comes under the protection of a merman when her father unknowingly unleashes zombie mermaids (they’re actually immortal mermaids who were imprisoned and left to starve, but are now as insane as they are hungry).

All of these books are written under the pen name, Kaylie Austen.

NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?

I have so many authors who I like, because there are many, many inspiring and talented writers, that it’s difficult to name just a few. But, from the top of my head, I’ll go with two classics: William Shakespeare and Jane Austen; contemporary:  Shelle  Sumners and John Green; fantasy: Ann Aguirre and Anna Banks; sci-fi: Marissa Meyer; and Indian historical: Indu Sundaresan.

NAW-What are you currently reading?

I’m short on time at the moment as I prepare for my release, plus I’ve just finished a YA multicultural, but the book at the top of my reading list is YA sci-fi, These Broken Stars by Ami Kaufman.

NAW- What will you be working on next?

This depends on certain decisions made by my agent and my publisher, each who have two different projects of mine. Either way, it will be multicultural. If things go according to plan, which they rarely do, I’ll have a long line-up of multicultural projects that will touch on racism, war, love, and pain. I’m very excited about all of them, and I hope to share them with the world one day.

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