About the Author

author Priya Narayanan
This is ME
children's author
This is my son's drawing of me
These pictures quite sum up the story of my life; but if you want to know more, scroll down at your own risk.

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The Concise Story of Me


A Palakkad Iyer, born in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, brought up in Cochin, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Chennai, and married into a Gujarati family - this quite sums up the journey of my life. Along the way, I picked up a degree in Interior Architecture from the renowned CEPT University in Ahmedabad, created two wonderful children and became a published children's author with my book 'The Moon wants to be Spotless White'. 

 
I have always believed that there are stories (and strangely funny monsters) lurking around every corner, waiting to be captured and revealed to the world. When not brokering peace between my forever-at-war children, I conjure up stories for them over many cups of coffee and chocolate chip ice cream. 
 
You could fill in the Guestbook with your comments and keep in touch via my Goodreads authorpage. You could also like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (@moonspotting). I am also a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. You can check out my member page at SCBWI. Goodness! I almost feel sorry for you to be toiling so hard to keep track of me. So if you want none of this, you could simply check my blog every now and then for my thoughts and tips for writing, book suggestions, reviews of books I've read, opinion of random happenings around the world, events and workshops . . . the list goes on.
 
A few confessions: 
1. I am no longer a closet poetess, so beware of sudden poetic outbursts 
2. I have a definitely weird sense of humor- I even surprize myself at times! 
3. I don't share my chocolates with anybody - not even cute li'l kids

 

Interviews
A peek into my journey as an author

PSST: the interviews were done at different times & in different years, so my views could have changed & my memory could have played traunt. If you find descrepencies, please keep them a secret :)

Interview by Krithika Narula for her blog: So Many Books, So Little Time

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.  
 
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!


 
What incited you into authoring a children's book? 
 
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. 

 
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? 
 
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.  

 
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? 
 
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!
 
 

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



 
Interview by Vibha Sharma of Literary Sojourn 
 
How did you pick the topic for your book - 'The Moon Wants to be Spotless White' and what all preparation did you do for penning down this story? 
 
I’ve been in love with the moon from ever since I can remember. I love staring at it and thinking of all the different things it could possibly be, apart from the droning fact that it is a satellite. And I guess at some point in time or the other, every child is fascinated with that white dot on the night sky. So when I thought about writing for children, it didn’t surprise me that the Moon played an important part in my story. 
 
It all started when I had to explain the dark spot on the moon to my tot. I was quite amused by her questions and decided to give her some amusing answers in return, doing away with stereotypes such as the old man or rabbit on the moon. Why couldn’t the spot be something as commonplace as a dirt patch splattered across the moon? That thought sowed the seeds from which the story eventually sprouted. My challenge was to take that very ordinary explanation and turn it around into something extraordinary. 
 
Frankly, I did not prepare much before putting my thoughts on paper. The moment the story took shape in my mind, I ran for pen and paper and wrote it all down at one go, lest I’d forget some part! Of course, by ‘wrote it all down’ I mean the basic idea, which served as both the outline and the spine of the story. Then came the crucial part of developing each scene and character to appeal to the target audience - after all, there is a great difference between conjuring a story for your child at bed-time and writing a story that could be read and enjoyed by children all over the world. 

In 'The Moon Wants to be Spotless White', there are three main characters – the Moon, Mitu and Dhobi kaka. I found it immensely enjoyable to personify the Moon and add little nuances to his character that children could find amusing. I particularly enjoyed writing the part where he is folded and waiting in Dhobi kaka’s jhola – all eager to spring out and get a good scrub. 
 
Similarly, I have tried to work out every little detail about the other two characters, be it Dhobi kaka’s looks and background or the nuances of Mitu’s dreamy character. I was also very clear at the outset that I wanted to set the story in a village or small town. I guess it has to do with my own fascination with the flavor of life in small towns – the landscape as well as the community where everyone knows everyone else and even small incidences are blown out of proportion, sometimes to comic effect.


How has been the response to your book? Are you satisfied with it? 

 
The response to the book has been very encouraging. Complete strangers have picked up the book and have sent me mails saying how much they loved it. That is the wonder that the internet is! 
 
What caught me by surprise was that adults too enjoyed the book as much as their kids did. They have also loved the beautiful sync between the story and illustrations. So yes, I’m quite satisfied. It is altogether another matter of course, that this being my debut book, I still have to learn the ropes of promoting the book better to ensure a wider reach. 
 
 
Are there any sections that you'd want to change in 'The Moon Wants to be Spotless White'? Why? 
 
While life is all hunky dory when you write just for yourself – like I do with my poetry - one has to keep an open mind and accept criticism when you write to be read by others. The answer to whether I want to change any portion of the book would be both Yes and No. 
 
Yes, because when a reader points out a problem area, it would be too pompous on my part to ignore it. I place a great deal of value on constructive criticism. No, because this was the story I set out to tell and changing it would mean not staying true to the seed idea. It is a double-edged sword and a tough call to take at the moment. But there’s one thing I know for certain - I’ll incorporate all the feedback I have received from this book into my upcoming one and ensure that I’ll be in less of a dilemma the next time over. 
 
 
What ambition do you nurture in terms of writing books for children? 

 
Quite frankly, I did not set out to be a children’s author. It just so happened that my first published work is a book for children. I have been writing poetry ever since I remember and somewhere along the way, I also branched into writing short stories. I have a good collection of poems that I hope to compile into a book of verse some day. 
 
That said, my interactions with children who have read ‘The Moon wants to be Spotless White’ have given me the urge to write more for them. My own children have also been a great source of inspiration – whenever I spin a new tale for them, they ask me in all innocence if I’d be getting that story published too. I wish it were as simple as that! 
 
But yes, I guess I can safely say that I will not stop writing for children. In fact, I already have another book in the pipeline for 5-8 year olds and the first drafts for a couple of short stories for tweens. I wouldn’t call it an ambition; just plain old love. I find children to be non-judgmental and writing for them is very gratifying. 
 
 
How do you find the kidlit scene in India as compared to its foreign counterpart? Which all changes would you want to see in this sphere? 
 
Growing up, there really was no kidlit scene in India. Or rather, the kidlit market was all about imported titles. However, now, publishing houses are waking up to the vastly untapped readership for books by Indian authors and the result is a slew of children’s books written in English as well as various Indian languages that bring in a veritable mix of stories, allowing children to explore our country and its diverse cultures. But a lot remains to be done. 
 
Even today, when I walk into a Crosswords store, I can see a pile of foreign titles on highlighted display stands, whereas books by Indian authors – even Ruskin Bond for that matter, are relegated to the quieter racks at the rear. This rather saddens me. While I’m not averse to foreign titles, I feel that there is a need to promote vernacular stories that afford children a context that they can immediately relate to. I would also like to see a more proactive role of publishers and bookstores in promoting Indian kidlit because just publishing a good book is not enough– the book ultimately has to have visibility and reach the hands of as many readers as possible to make it a meaningful venture for all involved. 
 
Another question that one needs to look into is how much is the penetration of kidlit in small-town and rural India today? I would love to see more and more foreign as well as Indian titles in English being translated into regional languages and being made available in every small town in our country. 


In which way and in what sense would you want to make a difference in the children's literature? 
 
That’s a googly, really! I don’t know if the stories I write will make a difference in children’s literature – and I’m quite sure no author sets out to write a book with the purpose of changing the literary landscape. What I really aspire is to write stories that nobody has heard of before, write stories that will elicit a chuckle from a child or bring a smile to his/her face. 
 
 
How has been the journey of being an authoress so far? What is the biggest joy of being one? 
 

I have enjoyed the entire process that saw me grow from being someone who wrote solely for self-consumption to being a widely read author. What started with a whole load of anticipation has culminated into a feeling of exuberance and contentment. Also, the appreciation that has come my way has encouraged me to take more risks with my writing. 
 
The biggest joy of being a writer, of course, is being able to communicate with readers from across the world through the medium of stories. After all, stories are the simplest way to get your message across to another person, aren’t they? Another plus is that I get to do what I love to do most, i.e. writing, minus the guilt trips. 
 
 
What is your dream story? Do you have any in the pipeline? 

 
I guess my dream story is yet to be dreamt! But really, I have not given this a thought. I am a very impulsive writer. Be it my poems or stories, I do not decide that I have to write about such and such a topic and go about it in a disciplined fashion. I am a keen observer of things, events and people around me and as I said before, I run around looking for pen and paper whenever an idea strikes me. These days, the Evernote app on my phone comes in handy. 
 
I do have another book in the pipeline. This one 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. I hope readers will receive it with as much enthusiasm and love as they have given my debut book – The Moon wants to be Spotless White. 
 
 
Which kind of books do you enjoy reading yourself? Who are your favourite authors? 
 
I hope you don’t regret asking me this question, ‘coz it has given me a license to rattle off big names. 
 
While I read almost every kind of book, both fiction and non-fiction, I enjoy reading the classics the most. During my school and college days, I’ve also enjoyed courtroom dramas and crime thrillers to a point of saturation – today, I’d rather see an investigative serial on TV rather than read a book about it. One genre that I don’t find myself drawn to is that of Romance. It’s not that I don’t like romance per say. I’d rather enjoy it as subtle part of a bigger picture than romance taking over every page of a book and choking me with all the mush! 
 
My favourite author has constantly changed to keep up with my growing years. However, during and after graduation, I came across and read a slew of authors – many of whom have made a deep impact in my world-view as well as belief systems. Bertrand Russell, Kafka, Hemmingway, Joseph Conrad, Joyce, Herman Hesse, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Irving Stone, Nobokov, Graham Greene, Orhan Pamuk . . . I can’t even begin to list them here! 
 
It is indeed a task to choose one favourite, but given my love for the classics, I’ll pick Fyodor Dostoevsky. I have loved all of his work without exception – I even like the way he tackles romance. Amongst Indian authors, I love the short stories by Kushwant Singh and Ismat Chughtai as well as Ruskin Bond’s books for both children and adults. Finally, Walt Whitman wins hands-down amongst poets, with Ogden Nash coming a close second. 
 
 
Any tips that you'd want to pass on to the new authors? 

 
I guess I am too new an entrant in this space to be advising others, but yes there are a few things that I’ve picked up along the way, which I’d like to share.  
1. Don’t get entangled in the web of everyday routine and push your literary pursuits to another day – if you love writing, just find the time to write by hook or crook. 
2. Don’t write to get published, write because you love to do so – the publishing aspect will surely follow. 
3. Keep honing your skills as a writer – never make the mistake of thinking you know it all 


 
Interview by Arti for her blog Metroreader
 

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. 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 for young readers, 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 enough, 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 :)
  
 
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.


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