First off, tell us a little about yourself…

Children’s Author Serena Patel

Hi, I’m Serena Patel. I’m the author of the Anisha, Accidental Detective series published by Usborne. I live in the West Midlands with my family and I love biscuits, cake, books and movies in that order. 

What are your favourite bookspots that people should check out? 

There are so many lovely bookshops, I’m looking forward to getting out to some of them soon hopefully! Tales on Moon Lane, Ottie and the Bea, BookNook Hove, Kenilworth Books to name just a few! My local bookshops are Waterstone Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton and they’ve all been lovely when I’ve gone in to sign copies of Anisha.  

Tell us about your ‘Accidental Detective’ series and of course the next addition ‘Granny Trouble’ out in July 2021… 

In the first book we are introduced to Anisha, she is ten and loves reading. Anisha would love nothing more than to escape into her books and be left alone. However, she lives with her rather large, loud and chaotic family who are always getting themselves into trouble. In this story, Anisha’s Aunty Bindi is getting married and Anisha is reluctantly going to be bridesmaid.

But, the day before the wedding, disaster strikes and Anisha discovers a note pushed through the door which says that the groom, Uncle Tony has been kidnapped! Anisha decides she can’t tell the grown-ups because Aunty Bindi is already very stressed about the wedding so she runs to get the help of her best friend Milo and together they investigate. Will they get everyone to the wedding on time? 

In the second book Anisha with Milo and new friend Govi are competing in the National Schools Science Fair. They really want to win because there is a great prize for first place. But again, disaster strikes and the week before the fair, when the friends are running a test experiment they accidentally flood the school with foam! Or did they? The head teacher bans them from science fair but Anisha suspects foul play and set out to clear her and her friends names in the hope that they can still compete. Who has sabotaged them and why? 

And in Granny Trouble which is out in July 2021 the whole Mistry family set off on a road trip to Leicester. There’s a big festival in town and a famous diamond on display. But disaster strikes and the jewel is stolen in broad daylight. Worse still Granny Jas is accused of being the thief and arrested! Anisha must clear Granny’s name and find the real thief before it’s too late. 

Were you good at writing at school? 

Yes, I loved creative writing. When I was in Primary school, I had a poem published in a local anthology. It was just basically a printed pamphlet but I was very proud. 

What was your favourite book as a child? 

Matilda by Roald Dahl. I loved that she was fierce and determined but also smart and kind. Despite all the mean horrible people around her she found strength and hope. And she was funny. Still love that book today. 

What was it that inspired you to become a writer? 

I had grown up loving books and reading but never realised there were no characters like me in those books. I also didn’t think being an author would ever be an option for me.

I couldn’t see any British Indian children’s authors so I it just didn’t occur to me that I could reach for that dream. It was only when I was older and a mum myself that I realised the importance of representation in books.

How would my children see themselves as worthy of taking up space in this world if even the books they loved lacked any resemblance of the life they were living, of their culture, of their family?

This awakened my own childhood dream of becoming an author. I wanted to tell the stories that my own children and children like them would be able to see themselves in. But also books that all children could read and empathise with. It is so true that books can act as both a window and a mirror and that’s what I try to achieve with Anisha. 

What are common traps for aspiring writers?  

Comparison – watching everyone else around you getting deals and announcing good news can make it feel like it will never happen for you. Focus on where you’re going, you will get there. There’s no one road to success. Which by the way, is a pretty good lesson for life in general.  

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 

Believe, it can happen. Believe that you can do it. Because you can. 

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? 

I was bullied at school and the unkind words were so powerful that they made me want to shrink and disappear away. But I realised that if horrid awful words could do that, imagine the power of words said (or written) with kindness.  

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? 

I’m very lucky to have connected with a great bunch of authors on Twitter and we support each other through all the ups and downs. Some of the best and loveliest are Louie Stowell, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Catherine Emmett, Sophie Wills, Lu Fraser, Mia Kuzniar, Marie Basting, Darren Simpson, A.M. Howell and Samuel J Halpin to name just a few! The children’s book community I have to say is very welcoming and warm, I feel lucky to be part of it. 

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing? 

An event organiser. I’ve been running events for about 15 years now. I once worked on music festivals and awards and at one event I saw the rapper Jay-Z walking backstage. Everyone had to clear the corridor for him and his security to walk through so we all just stood there in silence as he passed. Very surreal!  

Has a book ever made you cry? What was it?  

I’ve just read Boy, Everywhere by A.M.Dassu and I wept buckets. Everyone should read it! 

 What is your writing Kryptonite? 

Getting distracted by Twitter! I have to limit myself on how much time I spend on there especially if I’m on a deadline. 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 

When I signed up to Golden Egg Academy which is a writing course but it ended up being so much more. It felt like giving myself permission to pursue my dream. I was investing in myself! 

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? 

Ooh I’m not sure, a cross between the Tortoise hiding in its shell and the Hare racing here there and everywhere! 

What does literary success look like to you? 

Happy readers who enjoy the books and look forward to the next one. To be able to keep writing! 

Do you Google yourself?

Ha, I did when my publishing deal was first announced.  

And most importantly… What is your favourite biscuit?

Chocolate hobnobs, yum!

Serena, thank you so much for coming on and chatting to the masses 🙂

You’re welcome to come back anytime. (For your biscuit choice alone!)

If you want to find out more about what Serena:

Twitter: @serenakpatel

Getting To Know: Serena Patel