Priya Narayanan is a traveler, writer, designer, and a doting mother of two – all rolled into one. While as a child, she loved to dream, she now has to make do with daydreaming over many cups of coffee and chocolate chip ice cream. She believes that there are stories lurking around every corner, waiting to be captured and revealed to the world. Her debut book, The Moon wants to be spotless, was published by Leadstart Publishing in 2013.
Thank you, Priya, for this opportunity.
Hi. Priya, please tell the readers about yourself?
Hi Arti. The introduction sums me up quite perfectly. To add to that, you could call me a paradox personified at many levels. For one, while I am a person of very few words (I mean spoken words here), I am in love with the written word and can read or write in as many words as you could conjure. I have this great fear of public speaking, but I could be a great speechwriter! Then again, I like what you could call an organized mess and an impulsive routine. J
Apart from being an author, I am also an interior architect. I guess I’m drawn to any and every sort of creative activity. So I love photography and painting too, which I pursue whenever the mood strikes. But though many would argue that cooking is also a creative process, if there is one thing that I dread in this whole world, it’s cooking!
How did you think of writing a book? Who inspired you?
If I had to pick my favourite mode of expression within the parameters of writing itself, it would be poetry. I have written so many poems, I do hope to compile them into a book of verse some day. At the same time, I have also been writing short stories since long. I like the fact that stories allow you to explore characters in depth and share them with the readers, because in poetry, you can only hope that the reader gets your perspective right. So I hop into the short-story mode every time I get an idea that I feel would be too constrained within the poetic verse.
Writing for children was a natural progression, when I had my first child. I found it a whole new ball game and it was exciting to step into the mind space of little children and start to think like them. And because children are so non-judgemental, writing for them is truly gratifying.
When I won the first place in a contest held by a leading children’s publisher for my story ‘The Jungle Cinema’, the prize was a copy of my story in the form of a professionally laid-out book. It was just one copy, which I had the freedom to replicate and distribute to children around me; but holding that small book in my hand kind of triggered the idea that maybe I should write a book and try getting it published! After all, what writer would not want to see his/her work in print? So when I thought I had just the right concept for a book that 5-8 year olds could enjoy, I decided to approach publishing houses and test the waters. The result was my debut book ‘The Moon wants to be Spotless White.’
How did you think of the plot of The Moon wants to be Spotless White?
I cannot emphasize less, my enduring love for the moon. I can spend hours staring at the moon, imparting a different identity to it every time. For instance, I have imagined the moon to be the open mouth of a giant with a million eyes, a secret door to a parallel universe and what not, through my growing-up years. So when I had to explain the spots on the moon to my child, I decided to do away with stereotypes like the old man or rabbit on the moon. I thought, why can’t the spots be actual dirt patches splattered all over the moon? That triggered a series of ideas that finally culminated in the form of a story.
The cover of the book is very nice. Did you have a say in designing it?
Isn’t it? And frankly, though I could have had a say, given that my editor sent each and every illustration in the book for my approval, I did not have to say anything at all! I found it just perfect in the way it is sketched and painted as well as in the way it captures the essence of the story in just one picture. The illustrator, Suhita, seemed to have read my mind!
How do you manage to find time to write from your busy schedule?
I am essentially two things – restless and a night owl. Much to the chagrin of my grandmother, I am not at all an early morning person. So, after a day spent at work and substantial time in the evening spent with my family, I carve out that ‘me’ time once I’ve put the children to sleep. I like the quiet of the nighttime – it allows me to stare out of the window, undisturbed, and search for ideas in the darkness. And that’s when the moon talks to me J
What kind of books do you read? Who is your favourite author?
I read almost all kinds of books – fiction, non-fiction and books for children and adults alike. But I love the classics the best.
My favourite author has changed with time – it was Enid Blyton as a kid, James Harriot as a tween (would you believe that I got initiated into Roald Dhal’s children’s books only after I had read his books for adults?), Erle Stanley Gardner as a teenager (I loved the Perry Mason series!), Ayn Rand and George Orwell as a college fresher . . . I guess each of these authors kind of complemented the mood I was in at that particular space in time.
Between entering college and now, I’ve read a slew of authors of varying genres and it is indeed a task to pick a favourite. But because of my love for the classics, I’ll pick Fyodor Dostoevsky. What happens with most authors is that you like the first book you read of theirs and then find the next one okay, the third so-so, and so on. But somehow, with Dostoyevsky, I’ve enjoyed all his books equally. So yes, he’s been my favourite for quite some time now.
What book are you currently reading?
I usually read 2-3 books of varying genres at a time. So currently, I’m in the middle of Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’ and Fritjof Capra’s ‘Tao of Physics’.
Any author who has influenced your writing?
I wouldn’t say any particular author has influenced my writing in terms of style, because I’m consciously trying to develop my own. But yes, I love Walt Whitman’s poetry and Dostoyevsky’s prose. And JRR Tolkein’s Mr.Bliss just knocked me off! A quirky story apart, you can feel the love he had for his children in every page of the book, which he himself has illustrated. Back home, I like almost all of Kushwant Singh’s short stories and at the risk of sounding predictable -Ruskin Bond’s work both for children and adults.
What is the next project that you are working on? When is the next book scheduled for release?
My next book is also an illustrated story for 5-8 year olds. It deals with the topic of death in the family and I have tried to approach the subject with a lot of sensitivity. It is expected to release early next year and I hope readers will receive it with as much love and enthusiasm as they have given my debut book – The Moon wants to be Spotless White.
Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
I can only say – ‘don’t procrastinate’. Whether it is with putting your pen on paper and getting those ideas rolling or reaching out to publishers with you manuscript, just don’t get tangled in the web of the everyday routine and put things off for some other time. Because that ‘later’ never really comes.
Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts with your readers.
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Next on the Author Interview Series: Interview 16: Milan Vohra on 31st July 2014