The following is an interview with author Namrata Patel regarding the recent release of her novel, Scent of a Garden, through Lake Union Publishing. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Patel about her creative process in bringing the story and characters to life, what she hopes that readers may take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of Scent of a Garden! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Namrata Patel: It’s about a perfumer who loses her sense of self and needs to figure out what’s next for her personally and professionally.
I wanted to explore what it meant to be children of immigrant parents who hoped their legacy would carry on. At the same time, the pandemic shook us out of whatever routine we had, and we had to examine what it meant to have work-life balance and quality of life and relationships.
BD: The novel deftly balances the navigation of family pressures and trauma with thoughtful self-discovery. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these narratives together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
NP: Each character comes with a different worldview based on their lived experiences. It was important to me to have an immersive story that offered the reader multiple perspectives and that, many times, pressures are collective, but the choice is individual. The heroine’s best friend, Millie, thrives in her ambition and is unapologetic about it. Millie’s brother is more passive in how he views success. As part of the process, it was important for readers to understand the why for each character and establish that there is no right or wrong path.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Poppy’s story may connect with and impact readers?
NP: So many ways. For audiences in all stages of life, we’re examining how we work and what that means, along with relationships we may have sacrificed in that pursuit. When I think back to even fifteen years ago, the 40-hour work week, climbing ladders, and pursuing promotions was the only path, and we slid into it. I’m talking specifically about Western cultures and countries. But the world has changed dramatically, thanks to technological advancements, climate change, cost of education, inequitable systems, and a global pandemic. All of us are navigating a new reality and examining where we fit.
There is research, not statistically significant, that Gen Z is fine with carrying debt because they don’t believe that they will live to old age. That changes the frame of how to live. The present becomes everything, and the future isn’t something to prepare for because it may never arrive. Gen X, in particular, is caught between what we believed retirement looked like and what it is in actuality, and we have witnessed that change happen in real-time compared to older generations, where expectations and reality were the same. I believe that Asha’s journey will connect with many in various life stages.
BD: What makes Lake Union Publishing the perfect home for Scent of a Garden?
NP: Two main things come to mind. One is that I have a fantastic partner in my editor, Megha Parekh. Look, I’ve been on the road to publishing for two-plus decades. I understand the industry and its challenges. When I started pitching, my work was labeled “ethnic fiction.” Publishing has improved a bit, but there are still a lot of gates, and some stories can’t go through them. From my very first conversation with Megha, she got what I wanted to do with my novels.
I want to write about assimilated hyphenated lives, not trauma of marginalization. To represent those that grew up straddling two cultures in every space. One of the consistent reader responses to my debut, The Candid Life of Meena Dave, is that they found the story compelling and learned about Gujarati culture. And having a partner like Megha helps get the story fully whole for the reader.
Two, exposure. Lake Union has a distribution powerhouse behind its imprint. Right now, in traditional publishing, strong marketing pushes are rare. Getting your books into the hands of readers is a lot of work, especially for authors with little to no platform. With Lake Union, their digital marketing takes a lot of the weight off me in terms of discoverability for my books.
My debut was selected for Amazon First Reads, which meant thousands of readers got to try me out for free. And because the book appealed to a wide audience, the reviews and word of mouth kicked in. It was then noticed by lists and awards. My second book will have momentum, and hopefully, readers will engage with Scent of a Garden and find it as compelling.
BD: Do you feel that fans of your previous book, The Candid Life of Meena Dave, will easily find a home with this new story in terms of its overall themes and tone?
NP: In the voice and tone, yes. It is a cozy read. It tackles big themes but in relatable and character-forward ways. I strive for texture. If you’re looking for a quick beach read, you’ll read both of the books fast and come away satisfied. If you’re looking for underlying themes, you’ll find the layers beneath the surface you can discuss in book club meetings.
The stories, the setting, and the characters are different. It may work for some and not for others, but Scent of a Garden still feels like a Namrata Patel novel.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
NP: Yes! I’m finishing up my third novel as we speak. It’s about spice masters in Salem, MA, and is set to be released in June 2024. It has a huge cast with feuding families, a lot of secrets, and reckons with generational trauma. It has the foundational historical frame of Gujarati Americans making their mark, in this case, the evolution of a small Indian grocery store that became the Patel Brothers. Fictional, of course.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Scent of a Garden and your other work?
NP: I have a website, nampatel.com, that I do my best to keep updated. You can subscribe to my newsletter, where I go behind the book and share a bit of a”‘making of the book,” including a recipe because I’m a lazy chef and current reads.
I’m also on Instagram (@namratapatelauthor) and @nampatel on Twitter.