Hello and welcome to A Cup of Conversation where I am joined by author of The Magic Vodka Wardrobe series, Sheila Patel. Her books have been described by readers as being “full of bizarre characters with wacky names and madcap behaviour – which all add up to a very entertaining, funny, and unusual read…” and “There’s a lot of vodka consumed and a lot of dancing performed in a Tardis style wardrobe with its own disco and bar man. It is a laugh a minute and would be an ideal holiday / travel read.” So I’m truly delighted to say we have hit it off within the Writing Community across Twitter and Sheila is certainly one to put a smile to my face and make me giggle with her quick wit and fun personality. I hope you enjoy her interview!
1. You’re the youngest of seven children. How does your experience of growing up as the youngest of seven translate into your writing?
Being the youngest of seven kids makes you shout a lot, but the best thing is you pick up a lot of tricks and get away with murder. You can hide in plain sight, listen to all the gossip and study crazy cultural rituals, then write about them later. However, growing up in Bradford in the 1970s, there was always going to be stuff to write about, the growth of the Indian community and of course, the curry revolution!
2. Have you always been a writer?
I started writing three years ago, firstly just one-page short stories to email to my nieces. Before I knew it, I had enough for a short book. Before writing I had more grown up and responsible careers. I worked all over, in Engineering, as a Director of my own company, on a Wind Energy project in China, and very recently on a project at the University of Liverpool.
3. You have written a three-part series The Magic Vodka Wardrobe. In a nutshell, tell us what your stories are about.
The series follows the lives of Shaz and Trace, two Punjabi sisters who have a magical wardrobe in their bedroom. Instead of discovering Narnia they find an Indian barman in full turban and beard and a glass dance floor. This is where the girls go to escape their daily lives as accountants and their possessive parents, who run the corner shop downstairs and look forward to lottery night. It’s Pride and Prejudice on speed, mother and her sisters are trying to find suitable husbands but the girls party on vodka and outrageous outfits in the wardrobe. There is lots of music in the book plus themes such as Star Wars, Avengers and heavy metal music. Lots of colourful characters visit the shop, Tattoo Tony, Dammit Janet (the Buddhist nun), Skinny Rita, Betina the dog walker and of course the love interests Channing Chopra and Rajeev and his pet goat.
4. Which of your characters is your favourite and why would your readers like them?
Lol, it would have to be Aunt Sheila. She’s the outrageous Aunt who parties with the girls in the wardrobe, on husband number four, buys and sells all products bamboo, usually knocked off or brought over from China. Emm, I did work on a bamboo project in China! She rides a bamboo bike in legwarmers and heels and is usually around to save the day.
5. What are you currently working on?
I’m working on Book 4 in the same series. It starts with Shaz singing ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ as she is on holiday in Sydney. Other themes in the book include The World Cup, Beast from the East, Rescue of the Cave boys.
6. Who has had the most significant impact on your writing and how have they supported your journey as a writer?
I would say my nieces, who happen to be accountants and live over a corner shop in Yorkshire! They have some great tales from both work and shop life.
7. You ran a successful training company in Liverpool City centre for over ten years. What did you take away from this experience?
I was 24 when I set up the Training company. Over the duration of ten years we had hundreds of students pass through our courses, mainly school leavers. It was the best experience and I loved working with young people. It’s the first time I saw people go out all night and go straight to work in the morning, still intoxicated.
8. What three pieces of advice would you give a new writer?
Have confidence in your work, if you really want to publish a book then do it and be patient.
9. What two things do you do to support other authors?
I tweet fellow writers, read & review books. I’ve helped my pal Don Johnson from Ecuador who is 81 publish over 20 short stories about his treasure hunting days. I copyright his material for him. He’s a very interesting and talented guys, we have become very good friends. I see a sequel, The Rum Wardrobe goes to Ecuador!
10. What do you do for relaxation?
Boy can I relax, I have a box-set neck to prove it! I live near the coast, so I walk the dog and go to the pub. Chloe, the Bernese Mountain dog is usually ready for a drink following her walk. Also, I have a super huge crazy family on speed dial. They are all experts at making video calls day and night to tell me their allotments are doing well, or their cataract is back, gotta love them! Yes, I spend a lot of time on the phone.
11. What are your three main goals for the next three months?
My youngest is eighteen and just finishing his A Levels (shouts at him from pc to get back to work) I’m looking forward to having no kids at school, no more Parents Evenings or Harvest Festivals. I found attending the school concerts pretty painful.
I went to look at a caravan over the weekend, there’s no sign of the boys leaving home so I may need a place to escape to, with the dog.
Seriously, my three goals this year are to get Book 4 published, improve my writing and do some travelling (going to Copenhagen on the weekend)
Thank you Soulla for talking to me today xxx
Thank you for joining us Sheila (I’m still giggling at some of your answers!) and I wish you all the best with book 4 in your series! Readers, if you would like to link up with Sheila and keep updated with all her news you can do so on her links listed below.
Until next week, Happy Reading, Happy Writing, Happy You.
Big hug, Soulla xxx
Amazon link to books: