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, miners went on strike for the first time since 1926. On a cheerier note, 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, a project manager and did many different roles in a bank. I still work in a bank 3 days a week and write pretty much the rest of the time.
I love going into schools because it allows me to be a teacher for one day each time.
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. I’m a bookworm now. I’ve read so many books that sometimes I can’t remember them all.
But my absolute favourite was the Magic Faraway Tree and I used to make up my own tree people and worlds on top of the tree.
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) 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. Especially for my almost-three year old nephew Isaac.
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.
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? Go to the Guestbook and ask your question.