If you’ve been following my series of weekly #ownvoices author interviews (which will have a dedicated page soon, I promise; I’ve been redoing all kinds of things around here and my brain is exhausted) you may be starting to think diverse books only exist in science fiction. While it’s true that science fiction has the highest number of diverse books, there are diverse books in other genres, and Shaila Patel is here to prove it! Her debut novel, Soulmated(all Amazon links are affiliate links), is a paranormal romance featuring all kinds of exciting concepts I’ll let you discover for yourself.
Two souls. One Fate.
Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.
Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.
When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.
Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?
Want the book already? Pick it up here.
Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Soulmated?
Soulmated is a young adult paranormal romance told in dual points of view. Liam and Laxshmi (aka Lucky) are both teenagers struggling with parental and cultural expectations, and wish for nothing more than the freedom to make their own choices and control their own lives. As they’re falling for each other, they realize that some decisions come with hefty consequences—and in that they have no choice.
What part of the story came to you first?
The very first thing that had come to me was Laxshmi’s name and nickname, believe it or not. I remember listening to a radio news announcer who pronounced her own name Laxshmi as Lack-shmee. It struck me as odd, especially since the name is pronounced Luck-shmee. I wondered why she’d say it that way and remembered how often American teachers mispronounced my own name. Maybe the radio announcer never corrected her teachers, and the name stuck. That became one of my first scenes in the book—Lucky correcting her teacher. As for her nickname, I had a shopping bag from the clothing store, Lucky Brand Jeans, in my closet, and since Indian-Americans sometimes pick a nickname that’s easier to pronounce, I wondered if my character Laxshmi would have picked a shortened name like Lucky. The origins of her nickname didn’t turn out that way in the story, but along with that first scene, thinking about my heroine’s name helped give birth to Soulmated.
Did you deliberately focus on creating a diverse book, or is that simply how your books have evolved?
Choosing an Indian-American heroine made the most sense for me. It was an easy character for me to write because I, myself, am one. I don’t think it was a conscious decision to create a diverse book, but I do remember thinking how much I would’ve loved to have read a book like this as a teenager.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting Soulmated published?
I was one of those authors who was lucky enough to get a publishing deal right out of the gate. But while there wasn’t a challenge in getting it published, there certainly was pressure in polishing it enough to make this #ownvoices novel the best it could be. An #ownvoices novel is one where a main character is part of a diverse community that the author him/herself belongs to. Considering the relative lack of #ownvoices authors in the industry, the pressure to impress was nerve-racking. During the editing stage, I sometimes felt like I’d be letting my fellow authors of color down if I didn’t polish the manuscript to a high enough sheen.
How would you like to see representation change in the next 5 years?
I’d love for representation of diverse characters to be so commonplace that we don’t have to call them diverse characters anymore.
Who is your favourite #ownvoices author right now?
Cindy Pon for young adult and Sonali Dev for adult.
What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?
I’m working on Book 2 in the Joining of Souls series and also an #ownvoices new-adult interracial romance. While I continue editing, I’m waiting to hear back from my publisher about Book 2, and hoping to finish my new-adult in the next month for my agent to start submitting.