An agent and a book deal in 2013! What the heel? (See my Priya reference there?)
Author Ayesha Patel, repped by Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency has recently signed with Entangled to publish her NA Romance, PRIYA IN HEELS! Here to give us the behind the scenes on getting the agent AND the deal in the same year and the scoop on Priya, is Ayesha herself.
Ami: I’m aware that your alter ego has other work out there, so can you give us your background, publishing creds, and tell us how your upcoming book, Priya In Heels came to be?
Ayesha: Love the pun, first of all! I’ve been known for a while as Kaylie Austen who writes YA and adult in both sci-fi and fantasy. I’m Indian, and obviously Kaylie Austen isn’t an Indian Name. I chose that pen name because I subconsciously plucked Kaylie from Firefly and Austen because I like Jane Austen and I grew up in Austin, TX. I’ve moved over to Ayesha Patel, taking my maiden name, to speak to more Indian and Asian readers and also to give readers the chance to pick up a book, see Patel, and know they have a good chance of getting into some multicultural themes in my books. I’m basically getting back to my roots and everything in these new books have strong Indian heritage mixed in with other cultures, as well as tidbits of my life.
As Kaylie Austen, I’ve published a YA sci-fi, Ravens, where children are transported to a parallel world whey they gain super powers and are hunted by humans. That was definitely inspired by my love of XMen. Hellhound is a paranormal mystery where descendants of Greek gods live among us but one of their strongest is murdered and his daughter is given the task of hunting down the accused, who happens to be her illicit lover. Song of the Sirens is a YA dark fantasy where a human girl stumbles upon the horrific remnants of what used to be bloodthirsty sirens, now pissed off more than ever, decrepit zombie mermaids. Come to think of it, they were all published in 2013! So this has been a productive year!
I wrote Priya in Heels (Priya) because I wanted to write something completely different and touch base with my Indian roots. The fusion of Indian/American cultures, familial obligations, prohibited love, taboos, pain, loss, the very epitome of my life is in this book. I had this idea for a few months, although I wanted to write it for a year. I read my first contemporary women’s fiction last year and it moved my muse to get this story told. I wrote Priya in a couple of months and absolutely loved it. Honestly, I cried so hard when I wrote certain scenes because they were so close to my heart, and I hope that translates across to readers. I hope readers will laugh and cry with me.
I work in the medical field, so Priya is a medical resident. I also have a cousin named Priya, but my Priya has nothing to do with her! I chose the name because it’s pretty and common, and fans of The Big Bang Theory will recognize it as an Indian name. Priya, like me, loves plaid and tennis shoes vs. heels. She’s into The Big Bang Theory and Battlestar Gallactica.
Tyler, my leading man, is the hot Irish guy with the soul-shattering green eyes down the hall. He’s a lot like my husband, except he works at NASA, which is one of my dream jobs.
Ami: Can you give us some insight on your agent journey for PRIYA? (What book was this for you? How many other books had you queried? How many queries did you send out—to agents, to pubs? Tell us about the call!)
Ayesha: My journey to an agent was a very long one, through more books than I care to remember and enough rejections to literally fill a notebook. I still have that notebook. Some of those books went on to publication, but for the most part, the querying business forced me to take a long, hard look at my writing. I’m embarrassed about the earlier pieces!
While many of my fellow query trench friends signed with agents and publishers, went on book tours and hit bestsellers lists, I tweaked everything from style to genre. I never gave up. No matter how depressed I became, I never stopped. For one thing, I’m a writer and stories will always come to me. For another thing, you never know if the book you would’ve written next will be the one.
I queried Victoria because she was with one of my top ten agencies, she was new, and she repped every genre I wrote. I already digged Entangled and had a good relationship with their editors, so I knew I didn’t mind if Victoria went digital first. She asked for my full based off a query and sample pages. When I saw the email to set up a call, I thought it was just another “Unfortunately, this isn’t right for me…” When I read the email, I though maybe she wanted a revision.
You see, I’ve been rejected far too much to get too excited about anything. I hoped for the best, but expected something less. My author friends were practically throwing confetti, which started to get me excited.
I spoke with Victoria the following morning. I always thought I’d jump around and squeal, but I felt that I was pretty cool. Victoria said she loved Priya, and that’s what every author needs: an agent who loves their work. We talked and we clicked.
I posted more in depth about The Call on my blog, but it was all a very laid-back, professional call after a very long and emotional journey. It wasn’t until that evening when I finally listened to the playlist for Priya, which I told myself I wouldn’t play unless the book went somewhere, that it hit me. I Have An Agent. It felt surreal. I didn’t get used to it, or accept it as my new reality, until I signed with Entangled.
Ami: And finally, tell us about the day you found out that Entangled wanted to publish Priya In Heels and how hard has it been not to shout it from every roof top, text everyone and their aunt, post it on every social media site while you waited for the ink to dry?
Ayesha: I knew the editor loved Priya from a LONG time ago. Priya is so much a part of me that I thought a rather unsettling part of me would die if Priya didn’t get anywhere. I’ve wanted to be with Entangled for years, like that boy you’ve crushed on for so long. When they said they wanted the full, it was like that boy finally noticed me. When they said they wanted me, it was like that boy said, “Hey, girl, you kinda fly.”
I was thrilled! I’ve dreamt of being on their blockbuster team for a long while, and this is a dream come true.
The day I found out was actually the day after I signed with Victoria. I sent my editor an email to let her know I’d signed. She responded the following day with a big congrats and oh, great things happen in pairs. I’d just pulled out of the garage, on my way to class, when I had the habit of checking my emails on my phone. Are you kidding how hard it was not to text and drive at the same time!
I missed Victoria’s call to let me know, and I missed half of the emails on my phone as I hurriedly sent back emails during class. You better believe I was on cloud nine, checking my phone all during class, texting during class (bad me!). I’m not going to lie, I have a big mouth. Co-workers and family heard about it, but they weren’t going to spring announcements anywhere. I managed to keep the official, public announcements non-existent until I had the green light.
When I actually signed, of course, was a different day. I happened to be with NYT bestselling author of the Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer, at one of the many cafes we were trying out last month. I’d just ordered coffee and lunch and started up my laptop when the contract came through. It was pretty darn amazing to be with someone who I admire as much as Marissa, as a person and an impressive writer, for that moment.
Ami: I am just getting into the whole NA scene and I love it. I think I speak for a lot of readers when I say we are craving MORE of everything in NA. What can we expect? In other words, I know you can’t say too much about the book but can we get the tiny insider’s scoop on how PRIYA IN HEELS is gonna bring it?
Ayesha: First of all, Priya is multicultural. My NA characters are still young but successful with good heads on their shoulders, which makes the downhill spiral in the story devastating. They aren’t fresh out of high school, but right out of college, settled, focused, logical.
Priya will take readers through my hometown of Austin, TX. All the way across seas to the place of my birth in Gujarat, India. There’s an assumption that all NA romances out there focus on sex, but Priya focuses on relationships; relationships between mother and daughter, family members, friends, arranged fiancés, and prohibited lovers, and what happens when a simple decision in the American culture demolishes a woman who straddles multiple cultures. Readers will laugh, cry (a lot), swoon, and get a look at the world through the eyes of a young woman who is both contemporary American and traditional Indian.
Ami: Thanks for the interview Ayesha, you’ve been awesome! Congrats on your success thus far and we’ll all be waiting to hear the release date for Priya In Heels. I’m also highly anticipating an amazing cover from Entangled!
If you want to stalk this up and coming NA Author Extraordinaire, you can find her—not in real life, but electronically:
Ayesha’s Blog: www.ayeshapatelwrites.com
Kaylie Austen Blog: www.kaylieausten.blogspot.com