Books set in India, protagonists of Indian origin, books published in India for the children there, books that are niche and multi-cultural and the power of universal stories – a lot of things to talk about.
I have been published in Singapore, US, UK and India. I was published in India after I had moved to the UK – primarily for two reasons. I wasn’t having much luck placing my Indian stories in the UK or US publishing market and I wanted to be published in my home-country.
After almost two years in the slush pile, my first book was published in India in 2006 – the year I moved to the UK. Then after 6 years of trying and getting rejected in more than 3 continents, I finally placed 4 books in India in the same year – which have been coming out since 2013 to 2016.
When I wrote and sold the stories to Indian publishers, I thought these stories were niche – they won’t be even considered by western publishers. And then I went into schools with my books and the reception was amazing. Kids from all backgrounds loved it and had great fun with all of the books I thought were Indian by nature.
Now there is excitement in the air about the possibility that two of my Indian books might have been sold to Europe and other parts of Asia at Bologna. (More on that when it turns into reality).
So they are universal and they were not niche at all. But I am not sure I could still place them in the UK by submitting to a mainstream publisher. I once received a rejection letter that said the story is great. But they are a more mainstream publisher and I should try a multi-cultural publisher. I was taken aback. That was 6 years ago. I am not sure that has changed much now – although Walker gave me an opportunity to write Indian stories for their Racing Reads.
With the LBF happening this week and some recent discussions on diversity and the report that was published yesterday by SpreadtheWord – I ask myself – has anything changed in the last six years.
It is not all bad news I think – as I said I have a book out with Walker in 2010 and another one contracted and written to be published soon. There are brilliant writers from Asian backgrounds who are doing great work here – Sarwat Chadda, Sita Brahmachari, Jamila Gavin, Bali Ray and so many more. Indian writers for adults regularly appear in award shortlists.
I was talking about this to friends on Facebook who had just come out of a diversity seminar at the LBF – we need more editors, agents and publishers who are from ethnic backgrounds who would champion the cause. We need the industry to actively seek out books in translation and books from other countries that could bring a new perspective to the children here in the UK.
So this is what I suggested on Twitter that garnered immediate support from many UK authors. Let’s have a twitter chat. Tell me what you think – as a writer from Indian background – are you able to write the book you want? As an Indian publisher do you get western publishers to look at your bookshelf seriously? As a parent, teacher and a reader what do you think you want to read about – just how arranged marriage works? or how we are influenced by the colonial raj? What do you think about contemporary Indian books? Where can you find them? If you can find books from other cultures in your bookshop would you pick them up? Would you recommend your children and students read them? Would an average reader do the same?
The list is very long – there are so many things to talk about. If you have a view and you want to discuss, join me on Twitter on 24th Apr 2015 (Friday) at 6 pm GMT with hashtag #storiesfromIndia.