Really enjoyed an email interview with Suzanne Sangi, the author of Facebook Phantom, who’s debut novel has a gay protagonist.
It’s only supernatural, Suzanne Sangi, the teenage writer of paranormal fiction, tells Time Out
At first glance, Suzanne Sangi’s book Facebook Phantom is easy to dismiss as one of the countless young adult books that deal with the paranormal. After the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, the market has been flooded with vampire clone literature. But a closer read reveals some solid and plucky writing by this 17-yearold debutant writer. Bangalorebased Sangi writes about the fascination that social media holds for teenagers through the story of three friends – Sonali, Neel and Joanne. “Facebook Phantom is a paranormal romance,” Sangi wrote, in an email interview with Time Out. “It is more or less a psychological thriller which takes you into the world of the supernatural right at the heart of technology.
In the book, Sonali, better known as Li, starts chatting with a mysterious stranger called Omi Daan on Facebook. Daan is “melancholic and extremely good looking”, with a penchant for putting up beautiful cover photos on Facebook. The harmless flirting soon reveals a stalker side to Daan, plunging Li into a dark world full of dangers. “As Li and her friends try to free themselves from the hold of this Omi Daan, they realise that it is not easy to escape such darkness once you’ve been drawn in, and discover the depth of their friendship,” said Sangi, a student of Mount Carmel College. “Facebook Phantom was inspired by this world’s general obsession with the fascinating social networking site – Facebook – and also my personal taste for all things paranormal.”
For a debut book, Sangi’s writing is assured. Further, she takes on the topic of social media, a theme that most young adults can easily relate to. “As a teenager, I very much know what it is to be obsessed about something and I’ve tried my best to bring this to light in the book,” said Sangi. “Whether it is chatting with a crush or gossiping with friends or reaping crops on Farmville, Facebook is a whole new level of obsession. I am in absolute awe of the addictive nature of this site, and since we’re all only human, we tend to overdo things a bit sometimes. But whatever the matter, long live the Facebook Era!”
Sangi is an avid reader and it’s evident in her book – Li loves reading as well but all that takes a back seat when she starts chatting to Daan. While some of the twists in the plot seem forced and slightly contrived, Sangi’s characters are very real.
Interestingly, she introduces the dapper Neel as a gay teenager, most probably a first for an Indian young adult fiction book. “Neel Sarathy is my favourite character in the book,” said Sangi. “He is insanely hot, with an impeccable fashion sense, free, humorous and kind. His relationship with Li has been so exciting to write, and I have to admit, I’ve always had a soft side for gay people and find them to be the most frank and humorous friends you could ever have – they always seem to cut through all the crap in life and look straight into the heart of a person. And I absolutely admire their immaculate fashion sense!”
As an extension to exploring her fascination with alternate sexuality, (spoiler alert) Neel later finds himself attracted to his best friend, Li. “There is an interesting story to Neel turning straight,” Sangi revealed. “When I was in high school, I had a surprisingly strong crush on a girl and this boggled my mind since I am/was absolutely sure that I am straight; she just made me so happy and it was nothing sexual. I did get over her in a month or so and it never happened again. When I was writing about Neel, I imagined the same thing happening the other way round – where a usually gay person suddenly falls for the opposite sex – and it made sense to me.”
Facebook Phantom, apart from being a paranormal romance, is also a Bangalore book, where the characters vend their way through the city. “[I am] a Bangalorean in heart and soul, I have written the entire book based on Bangalore and its cool people,’ explained Sangi. “This familiarity is something I cherish about the book.”
Facebook Phantom, Duckbill. R199.
|Ask a silly question
Who would you rather befriend on Facebook – a ghost or a vampire? A vampire. Hee hee. The aftermath of Twilight still hasn’t left me, and I would rather date/ befriend a vampire any day.
What do you think a ghost’s Facebook wall would look like?Frequent status updates of how hell sucks, dangerous trips back to earth and cool sneak peeks of heaven. A profile picture which keeps flickering and changing every two seconds – that would be killer!
Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling or…? JK Rowling forever. Nothing beats the brilliance of the Harry Potter series. Oh! And Rick Riordan can make me laugh!
By Bijal Vachharajani