• Thursday, June 30, 2022

Arts and Culture

Finding a new hero for young readers

By: Manju Chandran



IT MAY be the era of social media and technology, but talented authors like Serena Patel are keeping children connected to reading with wonderful books like her new novel Anisha Accidental Detective, which was released on paperback earlier this month.

The story of a science loving 10-year-old, who tries to solve a mystery in order to prevent a wedding being cancelled, introduces a new literary voice and will be the beginning of a new series featuring the young protagonist. The West Midlands based mother of two enjoyed the challenge of writing her book and is looking forward to creating more stories for young readers.

Eastern Eye caught up with Serena Patel to talk about her writing journey, debut novel and plans ahead.

What connected you to writing?
I read a lot as a child, anything and everything really, but the books that stood out in my mind were by Roald Dahl. I think it was his stories that made me want to write, like a lot of authors of my generation I suppose. His stories were funny and full of spark. I loved that.

What led you towards writing your novel Anisha Accidental Detective?
I started scribbling ideas for this book after I had my son. I’ve always written, but I think having my children spurred me on to give it a go. My husband comes from a large family, and I think Anisha is inspired a little by my own daughter; they definitely share an inquisitive nature and a very keen eye. Milo, Anisha’s best friend is an animal lover just like my son. It’s funny how these qualities found their way on to the page.

The novel Anisha
Accidental Detective

What drew you towards children’s books as a genre?
It’s my love of children’s books and the magical quality they posses. Books were the lifeline of my childhood. They transported me to a place where you didn’t need to fit in, and standing out was better. I love that and hope in some small way to pass that ethos on in my books.

Tell us about the story?
Anisha is a science loving 10-year-old who would love nothing better than to sit with a book all day long. Unfortunately, her rather large family have other ideas. On the day before her dramatic aunty Bindi’s wedding, Anisha discovers a note that has been pushed through the letterbox. It says that aunty Bindi’s fiancé, uncle Tony has been kidnapped and will not be returned until the wedding is called off. Anisha keeps this to herself (to avoid the drama) and tries to solve the mystery with the aid of her best friend, so called animal whisperer Milo. Suspects are everywhere and Anisha must find uncle Tony and get everyone to the wedding on time.

What was the biggest challenge of writing the book?
All of it, from the first draft when I didn’t really know what I was writing to the final proofs going to print when I panicked that I’d missed some vital error and it was too late now. But I’d do it all again and I am, so it can’t have been that bad.

Who are you hoping most connects with the book?
I would love it if children of all backgrounds find this book fun to read regardless of the fact that it’s set within an Indian family. But I also really hope there will be some kids who see the book and say, ‘Anisha looks like me’.

What books do you enjoy?
Funny kids books obviously, but I also love a good thriller or mystery. Oh and adventures, I’m a sucker for anything with legends or puzzles and myths – I love myths. So basically, a lot.

Who is your writing hero?
I admire all authors. It takes a special kind of grit to pour your dreams, hopes and heart on to the page. Even more to put yourself through the publishing process and then wait to hear what readers think. It’s an especially weird kind of torture we put ourselves through and I didn’t know it till I started the journey myself. So, I have a new admiration for any author who puts their work out into the world saying, ‘this is me’ and then closes their eyes, crosses their fingers and hopes for the best.

What inspires you?
My children. Knowing I can show them that achieving your dreams is possible is what helped me to start on this path and it’s what keeps me going.

What can we expect next from you?
I’m busy writing more books in the Anisha Accidental Detective series. The next one, Schools Cancelled is coming in September. In it, Anisha  is getting ready to compete in the National Schools Science Fair for a big prize. But the week before the main event, while practising their experiment, Anisha, Milo and new friend Govi have a science mishap and accidentally flood the school with foam. Or did they? Now the head teacher has forbidden them from taking part in the science fair. With a rat on the rampage and a list of suspects, can Anisha figure out who or what sabotaged the experiment?

Why should we pick up your book?
It’s a funny and heart warming family comedy with a mystery to solve and a lobster on the loose, what more could you want?

Why do you love writing?
It’s always been an outlet for me, a place to express myself and be free. I think reading and writing have been the saving grace of my life.

Anisha Accidental Detective by Serena Patel is out in paperback, £5.99 from Usborne. Book two in the series publishes in September.

Eastern Eye

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