Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Namrata Patel Interview - Scent of a Garden

Photo Credit: Andy Dean

Namrata Patel is an Indian-American author who lives in Boston. Her writing examines diaspora, dual-cultural identity among Indian-Americans and explores this dynamic while also touching on both—the family’s we’re born with and those we choose. Namrata has lived in India, Spokane, London, and New York City. Namrata has been writing for most of her adult life and loves creating characters who are relatable and aspirational. Her heroines range from quiet to kick-ass and her heroes are swoon-worthy, if a little flawed. Her novel The Candid Life of Meena Dave is currently long listed for Best First Novel Prize by The Center for Fiction. Her second novel, The Scent of a Garden, will be released June 2023.

Greatest thing you learned at school.
The ability to think critically. Education exposes us to a broad world where we can discover what we like and push us to learn things we may not enjoy but need to be aware of so that we can engage with the world around us in a meaningful way.

Defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer.
It wasn’t until the summer between my junior and senior year of college when I was in London for a semester. We had an assignment to create a flash story about something in the room and I wrote about my fellow students, gave them back stories, motivations, and goals. It was fun and I realized that I enjoyed it so much more over composition essays. That’s when I knew creative writing was something I would pursue for a long time.

What fiction most influenced your childhood, and what effect did those stories have on SCENT OF A GARDEN?
Books by Jane Austen. I loved the way she went specifically into the lived lives of the people around her. They were reflective of her world and she was not only a sharp observer but a detailed writer. Austen showed the characters in their daily lives, what they did inside their homes. Her fiction is slow and immersive. That’s what I try to do. In Scent of a Garden, I want to the reader to take the time and see the natural world, visualize and grasp the variety of sage. We are taught to keep moving the plot forward and that’s important. Yet, our world is moving so fast, and we are overloaded with so much information and to do lists. Pauses have to be scheduled. I wanted to write a book that allows the reader to just be with it and in it.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I didn’t want anything to do with the outdoors until my late twenties. I hated camping, hiking, and anything that was not a creature comfort. Then I moved to Spokane, Washington and slowly I appreciated what it meant to be an outside cat. Now, I crave the woods and mountains.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
This is a hard one. As a teenager, I read Arranged Marriages, a short story collection by Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni. That book changed what I believed I could do. Until then, I thought to be a writer, you had to be white. I didn’t know that people like me were even allowed to do that, much less have books that I could find in a bookstore. That’s when I knew it was something that was open to me. Of course, I didn’t realize I would enjoy writing until a few years afterwards.

Are there authors that you’re excited to engage/work with?
The best outcome of all of this is the community of authors I am fortunate to have. There are so many authors and we’re always chatting about writing projects, anthologies, etc. Of course, we all have our own deadlines so, for now, it’s just having fun conversations that don’t go anywhere.

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know while writing SCENT OF A GARDEN?
Millie Desai. She is so self-assured. She knows what she wants in almost every aspect of her life and she’s unapologetic about it. And she has killer style. She’s what I would call an aspirational character. If only I could pull off a jumpsuit the way Millie can.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
Practice the craft. When I was starting out, I thought it was really about the brilliant ideas. The story. I wrote so many practice novels that were creative but not well crafted. It wasn’t until I stopped to learn structure and narrative arc, the way stories need to fit into the context of how we process information, that is as important than the concept. It goes back to the first question about education. We are taught to read and write. Beginning, middle, and end. If you want to be a successful writer, then you need to understand how to tell your story with that arc. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but at the beginning, you have to master them to be able to deviate from them.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I had the privilege of sitting next to Sam Shepard on a long flight. Once I got over that OMG part, we chatted for a bit. He was lovely and at that time I was talking about being a writer and not about writing. He told me, if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to finish something. Anything. If you can finish a short story, a poem, a novel, then you know you can be a writer. It’s the ability to prove to yourself that you can do this.

I think about this a lot. We’re great at starting things, but actually finishing a project is what will teach you whether you can do something or not.

What were your inspirations for the character development?
The external environment has a lot to do with it. I want to write about how we live and universal themes. In Scent of a Garden, I explore the impact of a global pandemic but from how it changed what we value.

Then, it’s the ‘what if?’ In Scent of a Garden, it was, what if a perfumer loses her sense of smell? Then it’s the character. How would an ambitious, driven person handle a figurative brick wall while she was speeding towards success. It’s the situation and the characteristics that go hand in hand.

A perfumer in Paris is forced to return to her California roots in an exhilarating novel about family, self-discovery, and taking risks by the author of The Candid Life of Meena Dave . The daughter of proud Napa Valley hoteliers, Asha “Poppy” Patel chose a different line as a Paris perfumer, gifted with a nose for fragrances and business. Until her heightened sense of smell disappears. Her career in jeopardy, her world now muted, Poppy returns home. Maybe tending to her grandmother’s massive aromatic garden, where Poppy’s gift first flowered, will bring restorative hope. But when she arrives, Poppy discovers that the land upon which the beautiful garden once thrived has been uprooted and destroyed. She realizes that the years she spent away from her home have loosened so many ties with the past. Torn between a mother who lives vicariously through her and a father who wants her to embrace her family’s legacy, Poppy is determined to chart her own path of rediscovery. Poppy must juggle family drama, childhood friendships, and a former love to forge a future of her own choosing and, in time, heal an unscented life.

You can purchase Scent of a Garden at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you NAMRATA PATEL for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Scent of a Garden by Namrata Patel.


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