Swéta Rana on ‘Queuing for the Queen’ & The Monarchy

Swéta Rana’s debut book, ‘Queuing for the Queen,’ follows an Indian mother and daughter as they wait to pay respects to Queen Elizabeth II.

Swéta Rana on 'Queuing for the Queen' & The Monarchy

"I’m keen to keep on writing about British Indian characters"

Swéta Rana, born into a Gujarati family in Birmingham and currently residing in South London, pursued her studies in Philosophy and Theology at Oxford.

Later, she obtained a Master’s degree in Publishing from UCL.

Following a brief stint in editorial work, she transitioned into the field of designing and managing commercial websites.

Swéta Rana’s debut book, Queuing for the Queen, revolves around the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the solidarity among various individuals in Britain during the nation’s period of mourning.

The narrative features a British Indian mother and daughter who, despite their differences, embark on a pilgrimage that unexpectedly alters their lives forever.

The novel details the different generations and personalities that joined together to share their grief.

It encompasses a young boy sporting a crown made from a cereal box, eagerly pulling his mother along.

There is also a friendly man donning a khaki raincoat, engaging anyone willing to listen in discussions about his beloved Leeds United.

The novel also has an elderly woman, who has lived her life alongside the Queen, anxiously hoping to reach the end of the queue to bid her farewell.

Bursting with hidden revelations and unexpected moments, Queuing for the Queen pays tribute to the remarkable woman who defined an era and celebrates the exceptional people she diligently served throughout her reign.

We spoke to Swéta Rana about the book, the importance of such a story, and her views on The Royal Family.

What are your earliest memories of writing?

Swéta Rana on 'Queuing for the Queen' & The Monarchy

As soon as I knew how to write, I was doing it every moment I got.

I wrote and illustrated little stories about my family going on holidays to the most exciting place I knew at the time: North Wales.

I still think it’s an exciting place, to be honest!

I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember, so the publication of Queuing for the Queen is a truly incredible experience for me.

Have there been any writers that have impacted the way you write?

I love reading rom-coms and stories I can relate to as a British woman, like those by Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding.

However, growing up I always wanted to read about more characters who look like me.

“And so I also enjoy writers like Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Manu Joseph.”

My reading reflects my cultural experiences, and what I hope my writing is: a rich fusion of British and Indian.

What motivated you to create ‘Queuing for the Queen’?

Swéta Rana on 'Queuing for the Queen' & The Monarchy

The queue to see Elizabeth II’s lying-in-state was such a powerful symbol of community in the face of grief.

It embodied the union we all need, both in society and in closer, personal relationships.

I was motivated by a desire to explore how a key personal relationship – in this case, between a mother and daughter – can be reflected and refracted by the hopes, dreams, trials and tribulations of a whole country.

What was your creative process when it came to the book?

I work full-time as a website manager, and so I needed to plan writing around a 9 to 5 schedule in addition to the other activities I do like courses and volunteering.

“I was getting up early most days to write before work.”

So, I did as much as I could during lunch hours and any free time I got at all.

My agents were an incredible help, and with their direction, I was able to tackle everything quite systematically.

Why was it so important for you to share this story?

Swéta Rana on 'Queuing for the Queen' & The Monarchy

A lot of Queuing for the Queen is about being true to yourself.

In the story, several characters face immense hardship, in an effort to be true to who they are and what they want.

I hope readers will follow these characters’ stories of independence, expression, struggle and triumph.

I hope they conclude that it’s all worth it: that honesty and love and compassion and community will win out in the end.

Which characters resonate the most with you from the book?

The central character, Tania, is a British Indian woman like me.

She’s friendly, loves talking to strangers and always wants to help people.

But she also finds it difficult to regulate her emotions, often taking things deeply personally and struggling to relate to more reserved people, like her mother Rani.

“Tania needs to learn how to step back and breathe a bit, and that’s something I strongly relate to.”

Her journey through the queue teaches her a lot about resilience, although never at the expense of who she is.

What challenges did you have when writing?

Swéta Rana on 'Queuing for the Queen' & The Monarchy

I wanted to tell this story as soon as possible, as the shock and grief at the end of the 70-year Second Elizabethan Age was such a crucial moment in British history.

But that did mean I had to write at an unprecedented pace: from the initial idea to the final manuscript, it took about two months.

I’ve never written so fast before, and it was a real adjustment for me.

My writing agents were immensely supportive though, so whenever I felt I’d hit a wall, a chat with them would help me on my way again.

How did you feel when The Queen passed away?

I was at home, just about to leave for choir rehearsal when the news came in confirming her death.

A single tear escaped my eye, and then I continued on with my evening – a rather stoic reaction, not unlike the Queen’s own famously reserved composure.

“She was such a ubiquitous figure: on our coins and our stamps, on our newspapers and our TV screens.”

I think my tear was for the end of a period of history, the end of the era of my childhood, and the end of a familiar order of things.

How do you view the monarchy?

Swéta Rana on 'Queuing for the Queen' & The Monarchy

I think views on topics such as the monarchy can vary widely regardless of demographic.

I know some older British Asians are very invested in the monarchy, considering the life-altering experiences many of them had when moving to this country.

It’s a complex conversation, but one thing I learned while writing Queuing for the Queen is that different views on the matter don’t have to get in the way of building friendships and communities.

The truth is, I don’t know all that much about Charles.

But it’s difficult to imagine that his reign will have the same lasting legacy as his mother’s.

Elizabeth was Queen for 70 years; Charles simply doesn’t have the time to amass the same levels of goodwill and sheer universality.

I’m not sure another monarch ever will.

Can you tell us about any future projects you’re working on?

I don’t want to give away too much too soon, but I’m keen to keep on writing about British Indian characters.

Although we’re seeing more representation in commercial fiction than ever before, it’s still not very much.

Queuing for the Queen is about being true to yourself.

“I intend to remain true to myself, a British Indian woman telling British Indian stories.”

So, watch this space!

This captivating book offers an exploration of various captivating themes, including family secrets, personal losses, concealed identities and multicultural issues.

Notably, the story sheds light on the transformative power of disconnecting from our technology-driven and hectic lives, allowing for genuine connections and the deepening of relationships.

Swéta Rana’s approach to this topic is remarkably sensitive and compassionate, encouraging readers to reflect on its complexities.

Overall, this thought-provoking and enjoyable read offers a wealth of insights and leaves a lasting impression.

Grab your own copy of Queuing for the Queen here.

Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

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