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Sunday 18 January 2015

Author Spotlight and interview: Priya Narayanan

Priya has two published children’s books to her credit. Her first book for 5-8 year olds titled ‘The 
Moon wants to be Spotless White’ was released in May 2013 by Leadstart Publishing and has 
been received well by readers and reviewers alike. Her second book, ‘When Grandma Climbed 
the Magic Ladder’ was recently released in the e-book format, with the paperback expected to 
release later this year. Priya is currently working on a couple of ideas for picture books as well 
as a book for tweens.
(Our review here.)
Author website:

Today she joins us for an interview. Read on, and you are sure to find her poetic. personally, I love the stance she takes on different things, and well, we love children's authors because they bring words to life at an age when we need them the most!

Here we go!


Ques: What incited you into authoring a children's book?

PN: Well, I’m basically a poet at heart and writing poetry is an impulsive and ongoing thing for me. 
And then, I also write short stories when I find something interesting to write about. So when I 
became a mother, I instinctively started conjuring a variety of stories for my kids – stories that 
were rooted in the cultural and geographical context of our country, but just as fantastic as 
your Enid Blytons or Hans Christian Andersons. 
The thing is, even though writing for Indian children has picked up in the last decade with a 
number of dedicated publishers doing a wonderful job, the first books that jump out at you at 
any bookstore are Western publications. You’ll find a Ruskin Bond or Sudha Murthy or Anushka 
Ravishankar book nestled comfortably in the rear racks, while the front row is stacked with 
Barbie, Dora, Geronimo Stilton and the Wimpy Kid. And while I’m not against them at all, I feel 
that children here could do with more stories that they can identify with, stories that have 
Indian protagonists doing some fantastic or even crazy stuff! 

So, coming back to your question, the thought of contributing in a small way to the pool of fun-
filled but meaningful stories with an Indian context was what egged me to write for children. 
And to be sure, I found it a whole new ball game! It was exciting to step into the mind space of 
little children and start to think like them.

Ques: The story is very subtle and simple with minimal characters, endearing ones at that. How did you go about the plot etching and character-sketching?

PN: When writing for children of the 5-8 year age group, it is important to keep the plot simple and 
characters to a minimum so that the readers don’t get confused. At the same time, the characters should be strong enough to leave a lasting impression. When I first had my story idea, I was clear about two things. One, that the story would be set in small-town India, because there is an irresistible charm associated with a quaint little town flanked by a river on one side and hills on the other that I hoped to reveal to my urban readers and two, the protagonist would be a girl, because – why not? After that, things kind of just flowed. I spent a lot of time getting the ‘voice’ of the characters right, specially the Moon’s. I wanted him to be the one to add the necessary humour to the story, while Dhobi kaka would add the mature bit. As for Mitu, I wanted my readers to identify with her; so I kept her as real as possible in her moments of wonder, dilemma, gaiety, fright and other emotional ups and downs as she encounters various twists in her adventure. 

Ques: Moon has long been a subject of children's fondness with its  being called the chanda mama, yet it hardly found a place as a character. Your book brings a different side of Moon, and features it as the protagonist. What is your take on this?

PN: That’s true. Even in the best of children’s books, the moon is just the moon. Children’s books 
are filled with animals, trees, toys, vehicles and even maps and backpacks that talk! But never the Moon, even though it’s the one thing that all children are enamoured by in the night sky. However, that never was the case with me. Growing up, I’ve imagined the moon to be so many things – a giant idly, secret door to a parallel universe, a giant’s mouth and what not. So when I was discussing the Moon with my five year old in that vein, I thought -what could be more exciting than having the Moon talk to you? 
And I continue to push the limits of my imagination even now. For instance, in my second book – When Grandma Climbed the Magic Ladder, I’ve come up with a completely different explanation to what the dark spots on the moon are . . .it’s really fun to see things in a different light. Finally, truth be told, I do have a special corner for the Moon in my heart –and he somehow finds himself in every story I write, be it for children or adults!

Ques: Inculcating the habit of reading among children in this age of reliance on devices that have invaded even childhood, your views, observations and endeavour?

PN: Well, there are two sides to your question. The first is inculcating the habit of reading, for which 
I feel we shouldn't restrict the medium –be it an e-book or printed book. This is because the moment you put that kind of restriction, a child will stop reading! So as far as children are ‘reading’ a book and not ‘watching’ an animated version of the book, I think e-books are just fine. And they offer variety for children who get bored too soon, allowing them to switch between the digital and print books. 
To answer the second part about the invasion of devices in our lives, frankly, I don’t think that 
can be stopped now. Technology is a double-edged sword, and it is up to parents to regulate 
how much their children use these devices. As for me, I believe everything in moderation is just 
fine. That said, there is a certain charm to print books that can be touched, smelt and toyed 
around with, that an e-book does not offer. Picture books come in various materials – cloth, 
plastic, paper, hard board- and with a play of textures, smells and sounds . . . infants and 
toddlers cannot get these important experiences through e-books. 

So parents should aim to use digital media as tools to complement print books rather than use them in isolation, and help children value and love print books rather than be wary of them. In my opinion, e-books should ideally be introduced when a child is already reading chapter books. That way, since they’re at an age when they can appreciate the pros and cons of things, they can decide for themselves the medium that best suits their sensibilities.

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Kritika's bookshelf: read

Angels & Demons
The Story of My Life
The Hunger Games
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
A Tale of Two Cities
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
Sense and Sensibility
A Christmas Carol
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Time Machine
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Da Vinci Code

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