Nandini Nayar has written a lot of books, from picture books, to books for tweens. We reviewed her book ‘The Chicken That Started it All’ for the Book Week.

Her books have a subtle sense of humor and often an imagination which make you wonder, wow, that was so wonderfully thought of! Her book ‘What Shall I Make‘ won the outstanding international book award in 2010 by the United States Board for Books for Young People. Her book ‘Rani Lakshmibai’ won the first prize in the children’s book category by Federation of Indian Publishers.

Nandini was kind enough to answer our questions about writing for children, her thoughts on today’s publishing industry as well as her favorite books as a child.

Thank you Nandini for talking to us 🙂

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IMC: You have written books for the very young (picture books) as well as older children. Which form is more difficult to write? and Why?

Nandini: They each have their levels of difficulty. With picture books the challenge is to find a topic that will appeal to a small child and convey it in a style that is equally appealing. With some picture book ideas, the stories just happen. With others, I spend a lot of time writing, rewriting and making various drafts and versions before I am finally satisfied.
With books for older children the challenge lies in staying focused for the duration of time taken to write the novel. The original idea is usually very sketchy and the writer faces the task of making it a full length novel, one that will hold the interest of readers from start to finish. Characters, dialogues, descriptions are other details that need to be kept in mind when writing novels. It is like being expected to juggle eight things when you only have two hands. I frequently find myself wishing I were an educated octopus, so my eight tentacles could each write their share of the story!

Long before I wrote What Shall I Make? I was narrating it to my son as I rolled out the chapattis every morning. I would hand him a little ball of dough and then tell him this story. He loved it and would mimic my story, showing me the ‘snake’ and ‘cat’ and ‘mouse’ he had made.

IMC: ‘What Shall I Make‘ won the outstanding international book award in 2010 by the United States Board for Books for Young People. Must have been a wonderful feeling. What was the inspiration behind the book and how did you come up with the story?

Nandini:Awards, recognition and appreciation always give me jolts of surprise. I enjoy writing so much that it seems to me that the awards are unexpected bonuses. Long before I wrote What Shall I Make? I was narrating it to my son as I rolled out the chapattis every morning. I would hand him a little ball of dough and then tell him this story. He loved it and would mimic my story, showing me the ‘snake’ and ‘cat’ and ‘mouse’ he had made.

IMC: ‘Rani Lakshmibai’ won the first prize in the children’s book category by Federation of Indian Publishers. What made you think of retelling Rani Lakshmibai’s story and what kind of research did you do in order to come up with the book?

Nandini: Mango Books was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to retell Rani Lakshmibai for their Mango Classics series. I finally took it on as a challenge. I spent a lot of time reading up about the Rani and the Uprising of 1857 and found the research so fascinating that I was reluctant to start writing. The research was only a part of the writing; I had to imagine the scenes and the emotions of people when writing.

IMC: Today’s children have a lot of Indian based books to read from, unlike us who grew on a staple diet of Enid Blytons. What are your thoughts on today’s publishing industry in India? Are we moving towards the positive direction?

Nandini: I find it encouraging that there are so many new publishing houses in India. It is nice to see so many new authors publishing their work. I am even happier to see that writers today are thinking beyond replicating Western books that have been successful in India. It is time the Indian writer found her/his voice and publishers learnt to appreciate and celebrate them.

IMC: Finally, which was your favorite book as a child? and why?

Nandini: Of course, I loved Enid Blyton as a child. I was thrilled when I stumbled upon Shashi Deshpande’s novels for children. Here were books that featured intrepid children in exciting adventures. The best part was the food they ate and the language they spoke was so familiar. But my real reading in the area of children’s books came much later, as an adult. That was when I discovered Diana Wynne Jones, Anne Fine, Catherine Fisher among other writers. Today I enjoy reading books by Diana Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, classics like Little Women, Pride and Prejudice.

Featured image credit: hsls.hippocampus.in

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