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When you have a chequered career spanning banking, accounts, and shipping and logistics, would you think of writing for children? Yes, if you are Nalini Sorensen, the amazing author of the recent books The Star That Saved The Day and Dada's Uselss Present. Harshikaa Udasi misses a coffee date with the writer but catches up over an email interiew with the Australia-based Nalini.
Congratulations on The Star That Saved the Day, Nalini! So who's the horoscope follower at home?
This made me laugh. Would you believe me if I said no one really is? I of course read my horoscope daily in high school and college, as most teenaged girls did at my time, but it somehow faded. Lack of time? The wrong astrologer? Who knows?
But I do want to be like Mom now, and buy the newspaper today and read what’s in store for me!
What inspired that plot?
You aren’t going to believe it … It was a Facebook post by the editor of a newspaper in Bombay, about how readers are hooked onto their horoscopes. His post generated a whole string of replies, which were hilarious, and that somehow stayed with me. I couldn’t seem to get it out of my head, no matter how hard I tried. It led to the creation of Mom, paranoid with her daily horoscope. (As a side note, Facebook isn’t always a waste of time. Ha!)
You love to write in rhyme. We've read you even speak in rhyme at times. So we really hoped to see some of it in The Star That Saved The Day’!
I’m still extremely passionate about rhyme! It’s my first love. When I’d first started writing, an American author, John Coy, was invited to the school my children attended in Bombay. I was unpublished at that time, and the school librarian arranged for me to give him some of my stories and poems, and for him to give me some feedback. I will never forget John’s words. He’d said that rhyme provides scaffolding within which a story is told, and could sometimes be restricting.
Breaking free from writing in rhyme, has been liberating. Also, writing an early chapter book (this one is my first) has been extremely exciting. I think I had lots of self-doubt about my ability to write an early chapter book before this one.
Can I make it up to you by sneaking in some rhyme, if I do get the opportunity to have another early chapter book published?
Your earlier books Number March and Alphabet Dress-up are in the non-fiction space. How different was writing fiction?
It is extremely different. For Number March especially, the research was tremendous. Number March comes across as a simple book, but it’s actually a very intelligent, thought provoking book. For Alphabet Dress-up it was looking up jobs and professions in every letter of the alphabet and making sure it was balanced, but also fun.
The Star That Saved the Day too, had research, but to a lesser degree. I pulled up old horoscopes, and tried to use the complicated language that most astrologers use in horoscopes. I wondered as I did this, if they spoke that like too?
After that though, I just had fun with it, and let the characters speak to me.
One of the things that has struck readers is how relatable your characters and situations are. How did you achieve that?
I’m a mom of two boys aged eleven and nine years. Need I say more? My in-house Yohan and Yash give me enough to work with, both in real life and for stories. Yes, there really is more than enough to go around in both spaces.
What's brewing now?
I’m very excited! The future looks bright. I’m just back in Melbourne, but I was in Bombay (it will always be Bombay to me) in December to celebrate Christmas at home, with my family. AND as if that weren’t enough, my newest picture book Dada’s Useless Present, published by Karadi Tales, was launched on December 17th. It was the icing on my already yummy 2016 cake.
There are definitely two more picture books with Karadi Tales in the pipeline for 2017/2018, and I’m working with a few other publishers on other stories too. So, lots to look forward to.
What's Dada's Useless Present all about? It was great to see your father launching the book in Mumbai!
‘Dada’s Useless Present’ is a true-ish story that is very close to my heart. It’s about a little girl, Panu, whose Papa buys her Dada a walking stick for his 82nd birthday. Dada of course hates it, and calls it “useless”. But as the story progresses, Dada realises that it’s not so very useless after all.
Having my dad turn the pages for me as I read the story during the launch in Bombay is something that I will NEVER forget. My dad is 84 years old, and my well-intentioned brother really did buy my dad a walking stick two years ago, when my mum mentioned that my dad was shaky on his feet. See what I mean by true-ish?
How's life as an author living in Australia while writing children's books for India?
A little surreal, if I’m being honest. In some ways, it’s the best of both worlds. In others, it makes me miss Bombay so much more! A huge chunk of my heart is, and always will remain in Bombay.
Are you planning anything locally as well?
Actually, I haven’t tried to get published here in Australia. I think everything I have written so far has a strong Indian edge to it, and I can see it fitting in so well in the children space back home. I think if I were to write something that fits in with Aussie culture, I would definitely try. But you do need to live in a country for a while before that culture becomes second nature to you; so that the voice sounds authentic.
Have you always been in the space of writing? If not, how did you venture here?
I wish I could say yes! Plenty of wrong turns, actually. I was in banking and back office accounting, then worked for a shipping and logistics multinational for many years, and then got down to my passion. I think it was Steve Jobs who said, ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.’ That’s true here too. If I hadn’t had the back office job, I wouldn’t have had the shipping and logistics one. If I hadn’t had the shipping and logistics job, I wouldn’t have met my husband. And if I hadn’t met my husband, no in-house Yohan and Yash and no ‘The Star That Saved the Day’, for instance.
What I will say though is, I was always the huge reader. I have always fallen asleep at night reading. And when I was in school, I used to spend the summer holidays from April to June, helping the librarian in my school catalogue and repair books. The payment for my services was that I could borrow and read as many books as I liked.
See? In hindsight, the dots always connect.
Copyright: Book Trotters Club