Hey everyone I am Mili, the new addition to the team, today we have a special guest with us, Sheena Patel, a wonderful writer and assistant director for films and TV. She’s someone who was born and brought up in the vibrant neighborhoods of North West London. She’s not just about movies and TV shows, Sheena is also a part of the cool gang known as “4 BROWN GIRLS.” And guess what? We’re going to dive into a chat about her fantastic book, “I’m a Fan.”
“I’m a Fan” received the British Book Award and was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It was also a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Jhalak Prize. Sheena, the author, was selected as one of the Observer’s Top 10 best new novelists in 2022. Sheena lives in London, UK.
So, let’s get ready to hear all about her journey, experiences, and this intriguing book!
Mili: Congratulations on the remarkable recognition your debut novel “I’m a Fan” has received, including being longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2023 and shortlisted for several other prestigious awards. How does it feel to have your work acknowledged in such a significant way?
Also, if I may add in about this statement, ‘4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE’ I am seeing that you precisely mentioned a color, why Brown? would you like to share it with us?
Sheena: For your first question, It’s incredible and very unexpected. I’m extremely lucky for my work to have been received this way, it’s beyond my wildest dreams really.
And secondly, lol, because we have brown skin.
Mili: Could you provide insights into the inspiration behind “I’m a Fan,” its exploration of unequal romantic relationships, and how you responded to feedback about its dark themes?
Additionally, could you discuss your approach to interweaving power struggles in personal relationships and broader society, along with the intended takeaways for readers from these explorations?
Sheena: I think that says more about your friends than anything else. I wanted to write something scary and I wanted to frighten the reader, I thought books written by Brown authors felt too safe, I didn’t want it to be a place where the reader felt ‘seen’ or comforted, I wanted to scare the living daylights out of them. And as for the inspiration, it was watching the attacks on the Capitol in 2021 and seeing Trump command these hordes of fans to destroy something they supposedly loved. There was a video of one of them inside saying, this is an act of love, and I thought this is exactly what it’s like being in a one-sided relationship where one person makes all the effort and the other sits back.
I don’t have a message. It’s not for me to say that, I’m less articulate than the book in that sense. To be honest I don’t know how I did it, I threw a load of things together that seemingly didn’t go and wanted to see what would happen.
Mili: “I’m a Fan” raises thought-provoking questions about relationships, power, and societal norms. What conversations or discussions do you hope your readers engage in after experiencing your book?
Sheena: The shadow of ‘Fan’ is ‘fanatic’ so i hope that it is clear how it relates. For your second question It just came out that way, so I followed what came out.
Mili: Could you share some insights into your writing process? How did you approach crafting the characters and their dynamics, as well as building the intricate plot of the novel?
Sheena: I didn’t have a plan, I did a lot of thinking and watching of documentaries and I have read avidly all my life. It was a very intuitive writing process, almost like being in a dream state.
Mili: Honestly, I’ve met people similar to the narrator in real life. Is your character inspired by real events? It’s not really strange; it’s something common and usual in reality, right? But many say it’s not what they usually encounter. What’s your take on this? What do you say to those who are hesitant to read it because they find it too gloomy?
Sheena: They can do as they wish, no one has to read this book. I think the behaviour displayed in the book is a lot more prevalent than we like to admit.
Mili: I’ve been really curious to ask: If you had to pick your top two favorite books, which ones would you choose and why?
Sheena: It’s hard for me to select just two; there are so many I like.
Mili: Last question for today, your novel has been hailed as an Observer Best Debut Novel of 2022. How has this recognition impacted your journey as a writer, and what advice do you have for aspiring authors hoping to make a similar mark with their debut works?
Sheena: Getting on that Observer list really changed everything, I was on a wider lens suddenly from being with a very small publisher (Rough Trade Books) from that, Foyles gave me a window display for six weeks in the summer so I had this beautiful billboard – it was really magic. I was writing and performing and self-publishing with the collective so I was already making with my friends, I would definitely recommend that.
Wow, what an amazing conversation we’ve had with Sheena Patel, a true gem from North West London! Her insights into the world of filmmaking and her passion for storytelling are truly inspiring. And let’s not forget about her fantastic book, “I am a Fan,” which promises to take us on a captivating journey. It’s been a pleasure delving into her experiences, and we can’t wait to grab a copy of her book and explore the world she’s crafted. Thank you, Sheena, for sharing your incredible stories with us!
Buy I’m a Fan Here