Roopa Pai needs no introduction as she is a well known name in Indian kidlit world. She first impressed me with her wonderful imagination in Sister, Sister (Eureka series, by Pratham) books (reviewed here) and then with the Taranauts books.
You mentioned in one of your previous interviews that you wanted to be a writer from a very young age, how has been this journey so far?
Yes, I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I know it isn’t common for kids to know what they want to be so clearly, but I knew writing would be one of the things I would definitely be doing later in life, from the time I was eight or ten.
However, I did not major in English Literature as would have been expected for someone with such clarity. I actually have an engineering degree. But the moment I got my degree, I was fortunate enough to land my dream job – a sub editor with Target, the legendary children’s magazine. And after that, there was no looking back. And it’s been a fabulous journey.
I have taken breaks from writing, though – gone away and done other things for a bit and enjoyed them immensely too, but every time I come back and start writing again, it’s so satisfying, so fulfilling, that I wonder why I ever went away.
What inspires/excites you? Any role models? Which books fascinate you the most?
Well-told stories inspire me. And I think I have always been more inspired by the stories than by the authors or by the style of writing. I guess I have my non-literature background to thank for that – maybe if I had formally studied literature, I would appreciate the craft of writing more, and would (over)analyse authors’ writing styles, and the story would become (in a sense) incidental to the analysis. As it stands now, it is engaging stories – any genre, any style – that make me think and feel things that are my best inspirations.
Books that are sensitively written fascinate me. Also books that are intelligent. If they can be both together, those are the best kinds of books for me. The genre does not really matter – but my personal favourites are (1) crime fiction (especially ones where the detectives are fallible, human, and have the souls of poets beneath the hard-baked exterior (male) or feisty, bullheaded, tough-talking, and total softies on the inside (female) and (2) children’s and young adult fiction (here sensitivity would score over intelligence). In short, books that stay with me long after I’ve read them, and whose mere mention has the power to reawaken all the warm feelings I felt when I first read them, would figure on my all-time favourites.
Do you think there are enough publishers of children’s books in Indian market or should we have more to bring more variety and healthy competition?
The Indian children’s publishing market is booming right now, and the next couple of years should see a flood of new writing for children coming out. There are seriously fun times ahead for both children and writers of children’s books – get set for the ride!
Read the entire interview to find out about Roopa’s views on good story plots, writing children’s books, writing her new Taranauts series, teaching history and more.