Chit Chat and Chai with Arundhati Venkatesh who is the author of Junior Kumbhakarna

1. When did you know that you wanted to write?
I’ve always written – in school, in college, while I worked – and I always dreamt of writing a book, but I realised children’s literature was my calling when I discovered the joy of picture books in London’s public libraries.
Writing has been my way of processing feelings, making sense of the world and coming to terms with life. That’s why I write. It’s what makes me write children’s books too.

2. How do you get your creative ideas?
From life — past and present.

3. Who is your favourite author and why?
Emily Gravett for pushing the envelope with her picture books and for giving us something spectacular every time.

4. Which was your favourite childhood book?
Huckleberry Finn, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Matilda, Rusty, Swami and Friends, To Kill A Mockingbird, William, Asterix … a long list.

5. Tell us something on the Book- Junior Kumbhakarna? Why Kumbhakarna, of all the characters?
I’d see many badly-written, poorly-produced Ganesha books in the children’s section of bookshops, and it really annoyed me. They could be so much better.
I think it’s good if children are curious about the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Maybe they’ll explore other sources later. Most grown-ups (especially those who are vocal about these issues) haven’t read these epics. If they had, we wouldn’t have the problems we do.
Why Kumbhakarna? Flying monkeys, sleeping giants – I love them all. I’ve always been fascinated by the asuras, aren’t the devas boring in contrast? And erm… I take my sleep very seriously!

6. How did you think of mixing mythology in modern day ‘Kukku’s life?
That’s what retellings do — view through a different lens. They wouldn’t work otherwise. It’s because you add some truth of your own that the audience relates to it, and finds your take interesting.

7. What are the difficult characters you have written about?
I don’t think a character, book or work is more difficult than others. The voice is always hard to get right and one labours over every manuscript.

8. How many hours per day do you write?
Varies from one extreme to the other!

9. Is it difficult to write books for children or for the adults and why?
Both are just as challenging. Additionally, with kids, one has an audience that doesn’t care who the author is or what awards the book has won. They just won’t read if you bore them.

10. Did you ever face a writer’s block? How did you overcome it?
I don’t force myself to write. Instead, I go about my life. In time, if I have something to say and a story to tell, the writing will flow.

11. If not a writer then what career would you have pursued?
I did several things before taking up writing as a career — worked for many years in the tech industry, in the social sector and in digital publishing.

12. Which is your next upcoming book?
Wait and see!

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