In Part One, I mentioned that I won’t be writing a traditional review about An Acquired Taste but instead, exclusively interviewing the author herself.
“An Acquired Taste” is not the novel you think it is, and that is a wonderful surprise. It tells a story that hits you hard, catches you off guard and will leave you with a lot of thoughts and feelings to process.
It’s unexpected, and a story that I have never read before. It was bold and told a story that could have fallen flat but worked because of her patience and commitment to telling a very important story.
“Olive was happy with her life in South Africa, until her fiance broke her heart. In order to escape the embarrassment of cancelling a wedding at the last minute, especially with her roaring insecurities, she fled Cape Town hoping to start over in London.
“She was determined to develop the perfect life in London. Without the friends and family that she left behind, she wanted to rely on her new colleague and new neighbour for live advice, but their opinions always seemed to differ.
Her life was on its way quick to perfection as things develop quickly between her and her new boss, Christopher. Christopher was everything Olive has ever wanted. Or so she thought.”
The Lion Mutters: What inspired you to write “An Acquired Taste”?
Shameez: I have always enjoyed writing and reading. Since I was a child I started writing novels, most of them left unfinished as I was quickly distracted by anything and everything.
In my final year, I was writing a thesis and planning a wedding. I needed an outlet, I needed to write something other than how bus schedules affect traffic and that was when ‘An Acquired Taste’ was born. I wrote something I wanted to write, something I wanted to read.
The Lion: Something that I was wonderfully surprised to learn about you is that, you are actually a civil engineer by day and a writer by night. How did that inform your experience writing “An Acquired Taste”? Where there any parallels between your live and the book?
Shameez: It was an outlet for me. The anxiety and stresses that I was feeling was given to Olive to deal with. It does become quite obvious that Olive is very easily stressed and extremely anxious. She was experiencing a lot of my emotions, but for her own reasons.
The Lion: Where did Olive come from? Who inspired her or Was Olive and dramatized version of Shameez?
Shameez: She definitely has some of my qualities, although, I would hope that she is an exaggerated version. I think that Olive is who I could have been had it not been for the people in my life who are constantly supporting and encouraging me.
The Lion: In the early pages of the book, you speak about this massive pain that Olive endured which forces her to cancel her wedding and flee. Was there a reason why you chose to tell readers about the experience instead of showing Olive living that moment of heartbreak?
Shameez: She was running away from the heartbreak, literally and figuratively. She avoided everyone, moved away and even then, thousands of kilometres away, she still avoided them.
The Lion: Thomas has a very peculiar introduction, and over the course of the book we slowly get to know him better. While he has his own drama going on I found him to be the voice of reason saying what I was thinking. How did you find him and what was it like writing his character?
Shameez: Thomas… I am smiling just thinking about him. He is a supportive character, not nearly as rich, handsome or charming as Christopher and comes with his own baggage, his own flaws, but he has good intentions. He was what she needed, an unedited version of a man who had experienced real life and the problems that come along with it and he survived. He hid his scars, but never tried denying their existence.
I knew who he was the minute I started writing his character and that made it very easy to write about him, if I could take him with me to my other novels, I probably would (rest assured, that I will not be doing this!)
The Lion: I want to commend you on writing a character like Christopher “Prince Charming” Anderson, or as I liked to call him “Slightly Creepy Prince Charming”‘.
He initially comes across as perfect but his relationship with Olive is a mess. He has such flaws but she ignores those for the good days. She reasons away the really bad moments for all the slightly good ones. Just when you think, this will be the moment that breaks that camel’s back, you pull them back from the brink until you push them further again.
It’s a relationship I haven’t seen written before in a book. I don’t want to spoil what their relationship is about but what made you want to tell such a story with them?
Shameez: It was terrifying for me to realise that some women would sacrifice themselves, their pride and their preferences just so that they are not alone. I was always the first person to shout, “Leave him! He is not worth it!” and I truly believed these women were worth more, but they did not think so. I wanted to understand what they were thinking. Loneliness is an interesting concept, something I struggle to understand, because of how comfortable I am by myself.
The Lion: What was there ever a moment of doubt in the story you wanted to tell with them?
Shameez: Well, yes, but only because I was afraid people would think I was being abused, as I was a newlywed. But other than that, no. It increased my rate every time I had to write about it, but I wanted to do it.
I wanted Olive to react differently many times, but that would be taking on my own point of view. I needed her character to develop appropriately.
The Lion: What was the one thing you want everyone realize about the Olive and Christopher relationship?
Shameez: There will always be someone else to fall in love with and who will fall in love with you. There’s no reason to settle for something else, because you think that this is it, it’s not.
The Lion: Moving on, I like that you address big romantic gestures because in the book there is a really big gesture made, have you ever made one or had one made for you Shameez?
Shameez: Nothing as big, but then again, I have never dated someone as rich! Yes, over the years, romantic gestures have been made, but gestures that only I would appreciate. They were personal, quiet and not advertised, just the way I like it.
The Lion: I know you’re a huge movie lover, the story lends itself to be very cinematic. Have imagined which actors would play the roles of your characters should a movie adaptation happen?
Shameez: I have given it some thought and over and over again, I keep changing my mind.
Olive: Alia Shawkat
Thomas: Tom Hiddleston (Name coincidence? Maybe, maybe not)
Christopher: Tough one, because Christopher is truly GORGEOUS, so perhaps, Ian Somerhalder, although his pretty blues will need a change.
The Lions: Why An Acquired Taste? I had mentioned to while reading the book that I found it to be an acquired taste. You wrote the book in a very particular style in the start but about 100 pages in, you up the anti and things move a lot fast. Was that intentional?
Shameez: Yes, it’s how I imagined these situations feel, you go along, with your regular life, at a comfortable pace and then get drawn in by someone, the pace changes and you have no control over it.
The Lion Mutters: What’s next for Shameez, you just completed National Novel Writing Month, are you working on something new?
Shameez: NaNoWriMo gave me the time and the tools needed to finally start my fantasy novel. Without giving too much away, it involves magic!
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of An Acquired Taste by Shameez Patel Papathanasiou, you can get them on these channels: