S M Patel has given most of her life and career to fighting fraud and financial crime in banks. May be that was an overhang of her childhood which was spent in reading her grandfather’s vast collection of financial crime, espionage and other crime thrillers.
Her only claim to fame as far as writing goes though is the humour column she used to write for a college magazine. (Thankfully, that was from a time when every forgettable written word didn’t leave an online footprint forever.) Before that, she also wrote some poems in school, that clearly didn’t go on to become a national treasure either.
She was born and raised in a leafy suburb of South-Western Mumbai, but given her reclusive tendencies, she currently lives and writes in her penthouse in Pune, where she resides with her husband and a very naughty ginger tabby.
TBE: Can you share something about your book ‘The Akashic Plane’ that isn’t in the blurb? What brought about the idea for this story?
S M Patel: The idea of ‘The Akashic Plane‘ came to me, and let me preface my answer by saying that this might sound really bizarre. I used to have a dream as a child that I am flying inside my home. It was a recurrent dream that was so real, that it used to make me feel like I can do this whenever I want.
What’s even more bizarre is that after growing up many years later, my sister told me that she had the exact same dream!!! An identical experience shared in our dreams! That’s what got me thinking whether this out of body experience is a real phenomenon. It was very real for me. And since then, I’ve read a lot of literature on the topics of out of body experience, near death experiences and astral travel etc.
My research showed that people had had the same experience in deep meditation and some after a Kundalini awakening. And bam! I hit upon the idea. This had to be the most under recognized but real super power out there that was possible with Tantric Yoga. I almost felt responsible to share this with the world.
TBE: Your plotting in ‘The Akashic Plane’ is so tightly done, especially the way you handle the release of information around Akash figuring out his superpowers. Do you start a project by plotting, or do you figure it out as you go along?
S M Patel: I have to pre-plan a book. I have to know my chapter outline and chapter summaries before I start the process of writing. Once I have that figured out, writing is actually the easiest part 🙂
TBE: Your book blends together elements of mythology, fantasy, and modern-day events. How do you approach the research and development process for your novel?
S M Patel: Amazingly I did the most research on the metaphysics domain. Mythology on the other hand, I have grown up learning through my family especially my mother, who is the most well read panditain on the scriptures that I know of. She has read every book and story out there in the Shiva Purana, Vishnu Puranas, Upanishads, etc. As for the fantasy part, I deliberately did not research what’s out there. Because that I wanted to be purely my own creation.
TBE: ‘The Akashic Plane’ is something of genre mash-ups, combining elements of mythology and fantasy with those of thrillers and suspense novels. How would you describe your book and your writing style?
S M Patel: Yeah, I took the creative liberty of blending genres a bit. I want to say that my writing style is a sort of Slice-of-Life Mytho-Fantasy with a touch of magical realism in it, and not a runaway fantasy book. Yes, I wanted to give the reader an escape from the drabness of reality but also give them goose bumps about how much of the magic could be real.
TBE: Your book is fast-paced and has a thrilling plot. How do you go about constructing your story and creating tension and suspense for your readers?
S M Patel: I like to have a lot of content, and plot twists. Because my writing is not so great that I can fill three pages describing a beautiful sunset 🙂 I’ve mostly done business writing and constructed emails through most of my career. So, you can imagine how hard it is for me not to be crisp. So that’s where thinking through the plot and having all the plot lines mapped out helps me construct something that comes across as fast paced to the reader.
TBE: What challenges have you faced while writing in this genre, and how have you overcome them?
S M Patel: The biggest challenge was to classify this book into a genre. Most mythology genre books are a re-telling of mythology, (and that genre is great by the way, though I don’t agree with the category name ‘Mytho’.) My book however was more cross over with elements of a modern thriller, and we struggled to find any nearest neighbors to slot it alongside.
TBE: How was your publishing experience with Leadstart?
S M Patel: In one word, fantastic. Leadstart is an extremely professionally run organization. The people I worked with were great! I was truly impressed with them every step along the way.
TBE: Can you discuss your creative process for writing, including any unique habits or techniques you use?
S M Patel: I’m a low maintenance writer. I have no requirements, as such. I just need my iPad and portable key board and I can pretty much sit down anywhere and write at any time. Zero fuss there.
TBE: What works or authors have influenced your own writing, and how so? Can you discuss any specific books or writers that have inspired you?
S M Patel: I have recently started reading mostly our Indian Authors, because I’ve been thoroughly enjoying them. I’ve read most of Amish’s early books, all of Ashwin Sanghi’s books, many of Chetan Bhagat, Mukul Deva, Ravi Subramanian, Anuja Chauhan, etc. and some lesser known authors’ books too. But the one Indian author I am very inspired by is Ashwin Sanghi, hands down. The part about his writing that inspires me the most is the light he shines on our rich cultural heritage. I guess you can see how it comes out in my books as someone very proud to share this perspective, in my own small way.
TBE: What message or theme do you hope readers take away from your writing?
S M Patel: In today’s day and age, where we look upon the West to assure us that Yoga is a cool workout routine, or convince us that our deities are just mythology, I wanted to share my view of the world. And my view is that Hindu deities are actually great timeless souls (ParamAtma) and not characters of a book or some mere historical mortals. And my view that Yoga and meditation could link us to our own astral self, that can help us exploit our full mortal powers.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
S M Patel: Yes. I’ve started working on the sequel to The Akashic Plane. I have the story and the characters all slowly forming in my head. More to come!