Conducting author interviews introduces me to so many authors I might not have crossed paths with. Shameez Patel Papathanasiou falls into that category. A fantasy author living in Cape Town, South Africa, Shameez probably never put on her list of people to “meet” a women’s fiction author in Ohio. But technology is so good to us, and I’m thrilled to feature Shameez and her forthcoming debut, The Last Feather. Publishers Weekly calls the book, which is the first in a trilogy, “a fierce, appealing story of determination, magical spells, and the bonds of friendship,” and Goodreads reviewers are loving the book. One reviewer wrote that the novel is “an unexpected adventure that had me turning the page late into the night for ‘just one more chapter,’ ” while another said, “It’s fantasy and magic all wrapped up in such a wonderful, heart-warming easy read that ties in with every day life.” And those are the reviews coming in before the actual release, which occurs on July 19. The months leading up to a launch can be insane, so many thanks to Shameez for answering my questions.
Christina: Congrats on the upcoming publication of The Last Feather, which has been described as a “threat-and-danger, hidden-world fantasy with touches of Suzanne Collins, which fans of VE Schwab or Sarah J Maas will love.” What inspired the book? Are Cassia and Luke, the main characters, based on anyone in particular?
Shameez: Thank you so much. It’s hard to say what inspired the book… the very first version of it was born during NaNoWriMo many years ago. While I’d let go of those characters and the very messy storyline, I hadn’t let go of the magic system that was brewing at the back of my mind. Eventually years later, Cassia and Lucas snuck up on me, out of nowhere and based on no one, but they fit into the world that had already grown into something in my subconscious.
Christina: Your author bio states that you write “fantasy worlds with magic, monsters and someone to fall in love with.” What is it about the fantasy genre that you find so compelling to write about? With respect to “someone to fall in love with”–how important is the romance aspect in your work?
Shameez: I love the endless possibilities that exist in fantasy. It’s an entire universe with rules that could differ from the ones we live in and more often than not, it has a happy ending, and I think we all need more of that. Regarding the romance aspect: YES. Romance is my other love, the other tale in my heart that wishes to be told and combining it with my love for fantasy has been a treat.
Christina: Every author has a different story about their journey to publication. What’s yours? Did anything surprise you along the way?
Shameez: Well, yes. I’m surprised that any of this is happening. It’s been a lifelong dream to be a published author of fiction, especially fantasy, and when I’d started querying and submitting, I did it with high hopes and low expectations. No part of me could have been prepared for that offer email that reached me at 22:00 on a weeknight. I was in bed, drifting off when the email arrived, part of me thought I’d been dreaming.
Christina: You work as a civil engineer, a field with a different sort of creativity. Does your day job inform your writing? Do you see any parallels between engineering and writing?
Shameez: My day job feels so incredibly far removed from my writing that I feel like two different people when doing it. Although, I have been toying with an idea that blurs the lines somewhat.
Christina: Mom is another role you play. Do you have any tips for writers who are also trying to birth books and raise children or anyone juggling multiple responsibilities (which I guess includes us all!). What works for you?
Shameez: Yes, I do. A trick I discovered is that your best tool is your phone. It’s small and easy to move around and almost always has an internet connection. Whether you’re using it to squeeze in a few hundred words in the doctor’s waiting room or using it to read a few pages at night beside your sleeping child, it can be incredibly useful, especially for a first draft.
Christina: I love asking authors about their pets, and you have two cats named Turbo and Charger. How did they get those adorable names, and can you tell us a little bit about them? Any sweet stories to share?
Shameez: Ah, my little furry, mischievous loves. Turbo was the first to arrive, gifted to us by a friend. My husband was obsessed with turbos at the time (he is in the motor industry) and we playfully decided to name her Turbo because she’s a little zoomer! A couple months later we rescued another cat, and to compliment the first one, we named her Charger. And she’s a softie. A sweetheart who wants intense cuddles once a week only and then would like to be left alone, unlike the other, who wants intense cuddles all day long. A sweet story? Well, if you ever see me out and about with my laptop and charging cable, the reason it’s covered in insulation tape is because Turbo has chewed through it.
Christina: What does literary success look like to you?
Shameez: Ooh, big question. The goals keep moving. At first, it was to get a full manuscript request, then it was an offer by an agent, then an offer by a publisher, then an offer for another book and right now, it’s that The Last Feather is well-received (which so far, from early reviewers, seems to be the case), and loved. I hope my characters become yours, and that readers feel close enough to them to talk about them, write about them, create art for and about them. That’s my version of success, at least… knowing that the story comforted readers.
Thanks to Shameez for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.