When I go into schools, children often ask me these questions. I thought I’d share some of the questions and answers here, just in case you too wanted to know.
Q) How old are you?
I was born in the year 1972. I’m sure you can work it out how old I am now.
I know now that on the day I was born, Ceylon became a republic and became the country of Sri Lanka. The largest diamond The Star of Sierra Leone was unearthed.
In the world of books, Watership Down was released in 1972 and so was Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie. All in all a good year then.
Q) If I were not a writer, what would I be?
I always dreamed of being a teacher. I used to sit my family down in front of a blackboard and teach them things. I tutored younger kids since I was ten years old and taught Computer Science for 7 years. And then life happened, I have been a programmer and a project manager in an office.
I love going into schools because it allows me to be a teacher for one day and meet with children and inspire their imagination.
Q) Where were you born?
I was born in India, in a seaside city called Chennai (the British called it Madras). I grew up in Chennai, studied there and went to work there.
Chennai has the second longest urban beach in the world and is home to the Tamil movie industry. Chennai is also the biggest economic centre of South India with many automobile and technology firms making their home here.
Q) What’s your favourite colour?
Well it depends. I used to say Blue for a long time. I still stand still watching a clear blue sky. I love the indigo of the night sky too and the orange and reds of the rising and setting sun.
I love burnt orange in clothes – almost like the colour of giraffes.
I love colours – I love the contrast of white to the colours. I wear bright coloured clothes most of the time.
Q) What’s your favourite food?
I realised that your favourites could change as you grow up. I had never eaten anything other than Indian food for a long time and then I left India and experienced foods from many countries. I travelled a lot and managed to find something to eat everywhere I went.
I’m a vegetarian – so I love countries with fresh vegetables. I seek out fresh food market, cheese and fruits.
I love chickpeas, freshly baked bread, potatoes and pasta. I love cooking, so I’m always experimenting with the foods I like.
Q) What’s your favourite book?
I was a bookworm growing up. I’m still a bookworm now. I’ve read so many books that sometimes I can’t remember them all.
But my absolute favourite is this one, the Kaziranga Trail by Arup Kumar Dutta. Dutta has written many adventure stories. Find out about them here.
I love stories and I used to listen to many stories – my favourites then are still my favourites – the stories of Birbal and Tenali Rama.
I used to read a lot of comic books – Tintin and Asterisk and Amar Chitra Katha comics and the list is endless.
Q) How long does it take you to write a book?
It varies. Some have required days of rewrite and some have been compressed into weeks. A picture book has to tell a story in 12 scenes and 400 words and that’s not easy.
There are some books which I’ve worked on for many years, edited them, revised them, changed them completely and still I couldn’t get them to work.
So, yes, it varies.
Q) How long have you been writing books?
My first book was published in 2003. But I’ve been writing stories, poems, essays and articles ever since I was six.
My first picture book was published in 2006.
Q) Do you do the drawings yourself?
Nope! I have wonderful illustrators that my publishers choose. I have met most of them, I’m proud to say.
I can’t draw a straight line (or a zig-zag) to save myself. That doesn’t stop me doodling though. Find out more about the illustrators of my books here.
Q) How do you write?
I write long-hand for most stories at the beginning. That means I write in a notebook. Then after the first two drafts, I copy them into my computer and then continue on them. Longer stories almost always get into the computer quicker.
Q) Where do you write?
I usually write in my study in my flat. But I can write anywhere – in a coffee shop, in a library or a bus. The rule is I must not have an obligation to talk to anyone – if I have family in the next room then I can’t write. I can’t write to music or to the TV. I have to write when all I can hear are the voices of my characters.
And if you want to know things that I’ve told no one about, here are two fact sheets. Shh! Don’t tell anyone.
There are so many more questions children ask me when I go into schools. About ideas, about inspiration and about keeping the faith – those are best answered face to face to my readers. I’ll let you in on the details when I come to your school.
Do you have a question I’ve not answered already? Ask your parent or teacher to email me the questions.