Serena Patel has taken 2020 by storm with the publication of two Anisha, Accidental Detective books, the first in March and the second in September. Anisha has all the skills to solve mysteries alongside her best friend, Milo. Both books are entertaining, funny and full of insight into a busy and noisy Indian family life. Serena kindly wrote a piece about the beginnings of Anisha for the FCBG.
Five years ago, I started scribbling notes and ideas about a girl and the story of a family. I knew I wanted her to be determined and feisty, clever and kind. The rest of the story was blurry and took time to shape but she was always very clear in my mind. That girl was Anisha and I didn’t know then that she would one day have her very own series, that she would feature on the cover of books and that readers from all over would see themselves in her.
In the beginning Anisha’s story started off very differently. I had a magical key and a door to another world. There was some humour but it was all a bit messy and unclear. I took 3000 words to the Golden Egg Academy in 2017 where my first ever editor, Emma Greenwood saw some potential in my writing. At our first meeting she said she thought the heart of my story was not the magic at all, it was the humour. She asked me if I’d be willing to rethink my idea, re-shape it into something new. I later learned this was an essential part of being an author. The ability to re-imagine an idea, take suggestion and critique and use it to create something new from the foundations of the old.
And so, I began writing about that same girl and her family. I thought about my own background and how weddings were extremely boring to us kids. I thought about how weddings bring out the best and worst in families and all the potential for mishaps. And that is how the idea for a kidnapped groom came about. As I wrote a bit more Emma said to me, do you realise you are writing a mystery? And the truth was that I hadn’t thought too much about what type of story I was writing. But once I realised it became much easier to see how the story might develop.
That same year, as I sometimes did, I entered some of my writing into a competition. I sent the first couple of chapters of the story I was working on with Golden Egg. I then forgot about it and carried on writing, honing the idea, shaping the story. That is, until the phone rang one day to tell me I had been selected as a finalist for the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices anthology! For anyone who hasn’t come across this before, what it means is that my writing was being included in an anthology with eleven other unpublished writers and being circulated to agents and publishers! Within the first week of having had that call I was receiving requests for a full manuscript. I hadn’t finished writing it yet so that caused some anxiety but people in publishing thought my writing and story were good! This was a real moment for me. I worked quickly with Emma advising me and in a very short amount of time I had a finished manuscript.
After that things are a little bit of a blur. There were lots of emails and phone calls and a meeting with the wonder Kate Shaw who said she loved my story and wanted to help me find the right publisher for it. First, we worked on it some more. I was quickly realising that the work was far from done.
Then we went on submission to publishers. A nerve-wracking time. But we did find the right publisher and then, with the help and guidance of my wonderful editors, we worked on the story some more.
The Anisha Accidental Detective titles are published by Usborne, and available to purchase from all good booksellers.
Any opinion expressed may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.