Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Conversation with Nandini Bajpai

Congratulations on the publication of your historical romance, STARCURSED. I saw your inspiration for this book on your blog and was blown away by how little detail there was about Leelavati. But you ran with the idea … did her character come fully formed to you?

Thank you, Vijaya! Yes, Leela was one of those rare characters that showed up fully formed and started sharing her story. There were many things I struggled with while writing the story but I never lost a sense of who she was. Maybe because I had the idea for the story and had thought about it for quite some time before I started writing it.
I loved how the plot seemed to come organically from the characters. You surprised me many times with the twists and turns in this book, yet everything that happened seemed inevitable. How did you accomplish this? Did you ever make false turns and write yourself into a corner? Did you outline the plot first or just let the characters dictate the story?
I didn’t start outlining until about mid-way into the story, and it did change a little bit in revision. I tried hard to listen to the characters and make sure that the decisions they made felt true to them. Some of them had worldviews very different to mine and I wanted their actions to be authentic for them and not impose authorial choices on people from a different time and place.
I think this is one of the best historical romances out there for teens. Did you know from the beginning the outcome you would have and worked towards it, or did you wrestle with it?
I wrestled with it! I wanted so much for the legend to have a different outcome than what I had heard, but I did not want to impose a deus ex machina that felt alien to the story. I hope the ending works and is both satisfying and believable. 
It is nail-bitingly brilliant! The swayamvara was fantastic!!! My dear readers, go ahead and click on the link ... Aren't you excited to read this book even more now?

Nandini, I loved how well you described everything. The debate was exciting and I wondered whether you had to brush up on any math for this or if you pulled all this out of a hat?
I was a math major in my freshman year of college, but I had to do my research to make sure that the debate reflected the knowledge of the time. It was pretty interesting, actually!
I was also curious whether you ever had a chance to see a water clock in a museum? My readers, I hope your curiosity is whetted even more.
Thanks! I did not see a water clock in person but I saw videos of it during my research.
Many of my readers are writer-mamas like you. Can you share a little bit about how you juggle writing and family life, travelling and book promotion?
It isn’t easy, is it? But it is very helpful to have a supportive writing community. I have been very lucky in my writing friends both online and in my local SCBWI community. When facing rejection, revisions, reviews, and work-life balance issues they’ve always had my back. It also helps to have a supportive family. My husband, kids, parents, siblings, and in-laws have all been great! I try to make a little time for writing and writing related tasks if not every day then at least every week. I was able to bring my kids along for my India book tour last year and it was wonderful to be able to share that experience with them.
You are one lucky lady for having such a supportive family. Reading the acknowledgements made me smile. You and your sisters are just like Indian Little Women. What it was like to share pages with your sisters? Was it hard being separated by time and space?
It’s pretty hard to be so far away from my sisters, but I’m thankful for modern technology that lets us stay in touch in spite of it. It’s great to be able to share pages with them. My sister Padmini is a great taskmaster and insisted on seeing pages every weekend when I was writing Starcursed. If I didn’t have her nagging me I’m not sure I would have finished this ms! My sister Anuja is a bestselling author and was a great sounding board for plot and big picture issues. She also gave me great advice on who to sub to in India. And my sister Rohini is the biggest cheerleader for us and has breathed confidence into me when I did not believe in myself. They are amazing!      
Of course, I have to ask. Do you believe in fate, the stars, horoscopes? Did your parents have a star chart prepared? I know even today many people have birth charts drawn up and they are consulted for important events, particularly marriage.
Not at all. Yes, my parents did have a star chart prepared when I was little, but they pretty much forgot about it. I found it interesting to look at and decipher as a child, in a museum artifact kind of way. Many people do still believe in and plan life events based on star charts and horoscopes even today.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all my questions. What are you working on now?
I have a middle grade novel, Rishi and the Karmic Cat, out soon. I’m expecting revisions for it soon. I’m also working on a YA fantasy about a warrior girl set in an India inspired world. Really excited about that one!
I think congratulations are again in order!!!
Thanks so much for having me here and for reading and reviewing the book, Vijaya!!!
The pleasure is all mine, Nandini. I hope this gem of a book will find it's way into many hands.


Leandra Wallace said...

Husband choosing, debates, water clocks- it all sounds super intriguing! It was a nice conversation, ladies. =)

Vijaya said...

Thanks Leandra.