Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Sajni Patel Interview - Isha, Unscripted

Photo Content from Sajni Patel

Sajni Patel is an award-winning author of women’s fiction and young adult books, drawing on her experiences growing up in Texas, an inexplicable knack for romance and comedy, and the recently resurfaced dark side of fantastical things. Her works have appeared on numerous Best of the Year and Must Read lists from Cosmo, Oprah Magazine, Teen Vogue, Apple Books, Audiofile, Tribeza, Austin Woman’s Magazine, NBC, The Insider, PopSugar, Buzzfeed, and many others.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
My earliest memory of writing was at the age of ten. I wrote a short story about vampire bunnies before I even knew what a plot was. I even had artwork to accompany the piece and had shared it with friends and teachers. I’ve been writing ever since and knew that creating stories would always hold a strong presence in my life.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
Mexican Gothic is my favorite book in my favorite genre, horror. There’s some romance in the story, which only adds to the connection and complexity of characters. I listened to it on audiobook at night with the lights off, and it’s so deliciously creepy and visual.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
My debut novel, The Trouble with Hating You, is a romcom that touches on some deeper issues within society, such as sexual assault, cultural and gender expections, and trauma. I was very nervous about calling out some of these issues because I didn’t know how Indian readers would recieve this. The last thing I want to do is be problematic. I never expected to receive such an outpouring of thanks from readers who saw themselves in my main character, particularly Indian women. Being told that they saw themselves for the first time in a book, or felt really seen because of certain issues they’d faced, or that my words helped them to process trauma and open dialogue with loved ones, to know they cried with the main character because they knew exactly what she went through…is something I would never have anticipated. These messages are very touching and I’m thankful for them. I’m thankful for being able to connect with readers on such a personal level and know that my words, not only entertained, but helped someone.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling connects people across space and time. It helps us to understand other perspectives, learn empathy and compassion, support one another, and feel part of a whole. Whether we’re telling the story or reading it, we get to exercise our brains and unleash creativity, potentially dealing with real-life problems.

Can you tell us when you started ISHA, UNSCRIPTED, how that came about?
I started Isha, Unscripted in 2020 with the goal of writing comedic women’s fiction with romance in the very background. A layout in an arts and culture magazine featuring my debut novel, The Trouble with Hating You, next to a local celebrity’s new book, Greenlights, triggered the rest.

This story started out as a way of addressing some things that I was facing at the time and highlighting the friendship that I share with my cousin, Rohan, who inspired Isha’s cousin/bro of the same name. He’s truly amazing and hilarious, and I thought how interesting it would be to show a family bond that wasn’t between sisters or siblings. Over time, with revisions and edits, the romance with a bartender became more prominant, although not the core story.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
I realized that writing drunk characters is hard. I was surprised at the amount of research that went into writing the drunk scenes. There’s a delicate balance between being in the shoes of a drunk character and yet not being taken out of the story. I had to cut back on a lot of these scenes, the sluggish thoughts, the slurred dialogue, the outlandish point of view.

  • 1) Isha is based off of my insecurities pursuing creative dreams over what’s considered logical and times when I’ve felt like I’m failing at being an adult or at being a good daughter.
  • 2) Isha’s cousin/bro Rohan is inspired by my cousin Rohan, who is, in fact, the ultimate bro. The Brohan, if you will.
  • 3) There’s a creepy clown in the book based off a true event while leaving UT campus one day.
  • 4) The story takes place in Austin, TX, my hometown, and features my beloved UT campus, which leads us to the celebrity professor Isha chases down.
  • 5) This celebrity professor of practice is Matthew McConaughey. In 2020, Tribeza (an arts and culture print magazine in Austin) featured my debut, The Trouble with Hating You, beside Matthew’s same year release. The unintentional layout ignited the concept for Isha, Unscripted.
  • 6) Isha, while chasing her former professor, mistakingly wears a pair of red parachute pants that her mother brought from India. It doesn’t reach her ankles and has a crotch hole, so you can bet those pants were real.
  • 7) Isha has a ferocious 6-pound dog Yorkie, inspired by my real dog. Arthritis, asthma, sulfuric farts, and all.
  • 8) I intended to move away from romcoms with this book, but the romance keeps sucking me back in!
  • 9) Thirst-Trap (our love interest) was based on actors Henry Cavill (Superman) and Mena Massoud (Aladdin).
  • 10) Despite growing up in Austin and with a good part of the story taking place on 6th Street, famously known for their bars, I’d never been until last year. For donuts. Of course.
What is the first job you have had? 
I worked at my parents’ bakery growing up. They had the best baked goods in town.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought? 
This haircut is helping.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school? 
Microbiology. I’m a nerd for science.

First Love? 
My husband…

What is your most memorable travel experience? 
In preparation of my brother’s big, fat, Indian wedding, we took a family trip to Dubai and India to shop and sight-see. My brother and I reverted to our childhood days and it was exactly what I needed during that time in my life.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before? 
Never loved before…I carry my emotions for a long time and having a heart break over true love would be devastating. I’m not sure if I can recover from that.

Unwilling to yield to familial expectations, an aspiring screenwriter attempts to pursue her dreams during an unforgettable night of chaos in this hilarious and heartfelt novel by Sajni Patel.

Isha Patel is the black sheep of the family. She doesn't have a "prestigious" degree or a "real" career, and her parents never fail to remind her. But that's okay because she commiserates with her cousin, best friend, and fellow outcast, Rohan.

When Isha has a breakthrough getting her script in front of producers, it doesn't go according to plan. Instead of letting her dreams fall through the cracks, Rohan convinces her to snag a pitch session with an Austinite high-profile celeb: the one and only Matthew McConaughey, who also happened to be her professor at the University of Texas years ago--he has to remember her, right?

Chasing Matthew McConaughey isn't easy. Isha needs a drink or two to muster up courage, and she gets a little help from the cutest bartender she's ever encountered. But when the search for the esteemed actor turns into a night of hijinks and unexpected--albeit fun--chaos, everything falls apart. Isha's dreams seem farther than ever, but she soon realizes who she really needs to face and that her future may just be alright, alright, alright.

You can purchase Isha, Unscripted at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

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