Sheila Yasmin Marikar
June 10, 2024


Sheila Yasmin Marikar

Sheila Yasmin Marikar’s work has been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Economist, Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek, Vogue, and many other publications. Her New York Times Magazine profile of the chef Gaggan Anand was selected for the 2021 edition of Best American Food Writing. Sheila began her career at ABC News. A native of New Jersey, she is a graduate of Cornell University, where she studied history. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband. For more information visit Follow her on social media @sheilaym.

Q. What inspired you to write Friends in Napa?

Sheila: A while ago, my husband got into a series of murder mysteries set in Napa, which is one of our frequent and favorite places to get away. It got me wondering whether I could craft a similar novel with my own spin — darkly comedic, with a focus on the relationships between the characters in addition to the mystery.


Q. Wine country is a very interesting setting for a mystery. What was it about Napa?

Sheila: In the popular imagination, Napa seems like a fantasy land of sunshine, rolling hills, and never empty glasses of wine. It can be that, but there’s also the reality of it — Napa has its problems just like anywhere else. And as anyone who’s ever had one too many knows, things can go off the rails when you get drunk. In Napa, it’s very easy to get drunk.


Q. Can you share more about the group dynamics amongst the friends? Who graduated from Cornell, as you did – any real-life experiences to draw from…?

Sheila: I drew from a lot of real-life experiences with my “ride or die” group of friends, many of whom came from Cornell, though I can’t say we’ve committed any crimes like the characters in this book — at least not felonies! It’s very tempting to put someone in a box when you meet them — I’ve certainly done this — and, twenty years later, see them as the same person they were when they were young and gangly. The folks in Friends in Napa are very much guilty of that. They think they’re over their unrequited crushes and grudges but they’re not. To my knowledge, there are no unrequited crushes among the Cornellians I know. Some grudges are still going strong.


Q. With all the characters being driven by hidden desires, is there one particular character that you rooted for while you wrote the book? 

Sheila: Anjali. I wanted her to (excuse my French) get the stick out of her ass and “harness her power,” as Venus, a character in my first novel, The Goddess Effect, might say.


Q. There’s a lot of wine talk and high-end dining in the novel. What sort of research did you “have” to do?

Sheila: Oh, I had to do so much research. I did not know that I was conducting research at the time, but an excruciatingly long dinner I had several years ago at a three Michelin star restaurant in Northern Italy served as the foundation for the 21-course meal the gang suffers through at Upsilon. My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I got into an argument at the table. He appreciated the subtleties of the experience; I didn’t see why we couldn’t just get a 3 Euro bowl of pasta — we were in Italy, after all. Everyone in the restaurant knew how bad of a time we were having. I hope we gave them something to talk about.


Q. There’s a mystery here, and definitely a murder (which the reader knows from the first pages). Would you categorize Friends in Napa as a mystery or thriller, or something else (or more)? 

Sheila: I would say it’s a darkly comedic exploration of wealth, status, and friendship. I would like that section to exist in bookstores. I think it would be well frequented.


Q. Is there one thing you wish for readers to take away after reading Friends in Napa?

Sheila: That no one is all good or all bad, context matters, and everyone is more than meets the eye.


Q. What’s next for you?

Sheila: Another romp in my favorite (fictional) sandbox, which I like to call Privileged People Behaving Badly.

Sheila Yasmin Marikar's Latest

Friends in Napa

Friends in Napa

Raj and Rachel Ranjani have invited a small group of their ride or dies from college for a celebratory weekend in Napa Valley. On the agenda: three nights in the couple’s vineyard mansion, a lavish dinner at Napa’s hottest new restaurant, exclusive tastings, and the grand opening of the Ranjanis’ ultra-high-end winery. It’s a reunion of six friends who haven’t seen each other in years. What could go wrong?

To start, there’s the less-than-warm welcome: a brick flung through a window and palpable tension between the hosts. But no worries—all Raj has to do is pop a few bottles of vintage Dom, and the college vibes come rushing back. So do old resentments, animosities, and unrequited crushes. Soon enough, the illusion of friendship shatters like a gossamer wineglass, and one of the friends ends up dead. Everyone has their motivations. Everyone has something to hide.