I am delighted to share this fun interview with debut author, Priyanka Taslim! Romcom fans—you do not want to miss out on her debut novel, THE LOVE MATCH, releasing in January!
Q&A with Priyanka Taslim
Let’s start off with a quick teaser about your book—describe THE LOVE MATCH in five words:
Meddling mothers matchmaking their kids!
THE LOVE MATCH is your debut novel. What inspired Zahra’s story?
I wanted to write this epic romance for a working-class brown girl since they’re not often the heroines centered in stories that feel sweeping and swoony. I’ve experienced the minefield of well-meaning but sometimes misguided parental matchmaking attempts as well, so I thought it’d be a lot of fun to then throw that girl together with a boy who is equally unenthusiastic about the whole venture, and what better way to complicate that than by tossing in a whole other crush AND this bustling diaspora community filled with ever-watching aunties? The book is definitely a love letter to a lot of my own experiences, in a way that gently pokes fun at them.
Also: tea! I just really wanted to write about a tea shop!
Since this is a romcom, I have to ask: what are your favorite romcoms?
If we’re going for classics, I love YOU’VE GOT MAIL best of all. Enemies to lovers, mistaken identities, bookstores—it’s such a fun one. But other somewhat older favorites include TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, CLUELESS, WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, LEGALLY BLONDE, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, and ENCHANTED.
With Bollywood romcoms, I love JAB WE MET, KHOOBSURAT, the Karan Johar classics with SRK. There are others, too—I’ve been getting into Bollywood again recently, as well as more international series, which Netflix and other streaming services have made more accessible. Kdramas, for example, are often excellent romantic comedies. HOMETOWN CHA CHA CHA is a recent favorite.
And then of course there are BOOKS. I absolutely love TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE. WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI and all of Sandhya Menon’s other works were huge sources of comfort and inspiration for me. A lot of what I read are contemporary romances by authors of color and they’re so fun and fresh. South Asian authors alone—Adiba Jaigirdar, Farah Heron, Farah Naz Rishi, Nisha Sharma, Lillie Vale—all of these authors are changing the game across categories. I hope more diverse romcoms get adapted into films and series for a whole new generation.
I could talk about romcoms all day!
THE LOVE MATCH is filled with so many fun romance tropes—from a love triangle to fake dating to hate-to-love to secret dating to friends-to-lovers to modern royalty. What was it like bringing all of these beloved tropes together? What are your favorite tropes?
It was so much fun getting to write all of these tropes! I knew from the start that I wanted the book to be deliciously tropey, because like I said, I didn’t see a lot of tropey books about brown girls, or brown characters in general, growing up. It was also interesting to think about ways I could take a trope and subvert it, do something surprising.
I love all the tropes featured in THE LOVE MATCH, but I think I’d like to explore hate to love or maybe rivals to lovers, especially academic rivals to lovers, more someday. I also like mistaken identities, especially when there’s a love square only because two people don’t realize the people they’ve fallen for are actually each other. Honestly, I like most classic romcom tropes and think marginalized authors bring unique perspectives to them that make them feel fresh!
The book is set in your hometown Paterson, New Jersey. What part of the city are you most excited to introduce to readers through your book?
There is an easy answer to this one—the Great Falls! Paterson is home to one of the largest natural waterfalls in the entire U.S. They played a big part in the Industrial Revolution as a power source, so you have this majestic cliffside and roaring water, a natural wonder, completely surrounded by these historic factories throughout the city. The big climactic moment of the book happens at the Great Falls National Park and I’m really excited to introduce readers to this unique setting they might not be familiar with.
What song would you choose as a theme song for the book?
This is so tough because I had a lot of songs I played constantly while writing the book—but I think Conan Gray’s People Watching is a suitable one. In it, he sings about how he always feels like he’s outside, looking in, watching other people live their lives and fall in love. He wants the same. There’s a lot of yearning in the song.
I think this is a song that would resonate with several characters in THE LOVE MATCH, but especially the heroine, Zahra, at the beginning of the novel. She has set aside her dreams for the sake of her family. In fact, she even mentions playing the “People Watching Game” while working at the tea shop, where she and her friends wonder about the inner lives of customers. But then the events of the book force Zahra to step into the role of the main character and live her life, let herself love, even though the prospect of loving is scary because sometimes love comes with loss. Accepting loss so that you can embrace change is a major theme.
What’s up next? Can you share anything about what you are currently working on?
I’m currently drafting another YA romcom that I hope readers of THE LOVE MATCH will enjoy! It’s early stages so I don’t want to say too much, but I laugh at my own puns while drafting it. I also have this other project that hopefully won’t be secret for too much longer, and both have elements that I really loved writing in THE LOVE MATCH, like big, complicated families.