Here’s unveiling the sweet, stupendous superhero aka illustrator-writer Ashok Rajagopalan who is ready with the three-quel of our favourite gentle elephant Gajapati Kulapati! He lets Harshikaa Udasi into his world of wise grandmothers and complaining neighbours, revealing his ability to create amazing books through his experiences! Are you set to welcome a season of loud noises, laughs and love?

We are waiting eagerly for your third in the Gajapati Kulapati series. Please tell us more about how it happened, why it took you a while to create it and what we can look forward to in the book?

Gajapati Kulapati 3 took me quite a while, didn't it? I blame it on a mild attack of atelophobia - fear of not meeting expectations. The first book I wrote with confidence and speed, because it wasn't meant to be published. It was intended for story-telling sessions. After Gajapati Kulapati was published as a book, about a decade later, and became a hit, Tulika asked me to do another one. I didn't want it to be a sequel that only hardcore fans would tolerate. I wanted it to be as good as the first one, if possible. It took me two years to get a good plot, and a week to write the final story, Gajapati Kulapati Kalabalooosh!

The pressure on the third one, or three-quel, as Tulika calls it, was greater. Many factors to consider, now that the two books have created a pattern, and readers expect certain elements in a Gajapati Kulapati story. Should we have the wise grandmother solve problems all the time? Inadvertently or not, should Gajapati Kulapati hurt the villagers again? What factors may be variables, and what should be constant? Loud noises and slapstick humour are constants, for instance.

I finally wrote Gajapati Kulapati Gurrburrrrooom! working under my own conditions of satisfaction.

You can look forward to loud noises, laughs and manifestations of love that our gentle elephant shares with the good villagers, in this story, too.

From engineering and marketing to writing and illustrating - how did you find your calling?

As a child, I was almost always found with books - reading, writing or drawing. One half of me fantasized about being a writer or artist one day, but the other, and more practical half, made me take up engineering. My first job involved marketing Intel development systems, and my second, selling metallurgical products. My third was at a place called Password Process, one of the first computer graphics outfits in India. Though I was placed in marketing, first, I managed to join their art department and learnt to use the tools of a professional artist - both manual and software tools. This was in 1988, you know, a decade before artists moved over completely to software. I was lucky!

There, apart from pure design, I drew cartoons for posters, in-house magazines, and ads.

I resigned my job and became a freelance illustrator in 1989. Gajapati Kulapati was the first book I wrote, though not my first published book. That was Witchsnare, a gamebook published by Penguin India.

Is it fair to ask what part of creating children's books do you enjoy more - writing or illustrating?

It's fair to ask, but difficult to answer! And 'enjoy' is a funny word. If a good movie or a novel moves you to tears, would you say you 'enjoyed' the experience? Writing is more challenging while drawing is easier for me. I enjoy both processes, equally, I think.

If you are doing both, as in the Gajapati Kulapati series, how do you go about it. Would you have the picture first or the text playing out in your head?

I have a movie running in my head first, a movie that has to be translated to text and pictures. Then I write the story down and send it to the editors at Tulika. After they do their magic, it comes back to me for pictures. Then I'm pure illustrator: I draw pictures for it, just as I would illustrate another writer's story.

What should a children's book offer its readers - fun, moral values, a platform to create/develop it further or more? What is it that you intend to do when an idea takes root?

I am that popular uncle who brings candy to kids, and watches cartoons with them, quite content to leave health, education and moral values to their parents. I understand children need to read books that will make them better humans, but my mandate is to make them laugh!

But you can't escape morals. The Gajapati stories have subtle morals, mostly about loving, giving and sharing.

Who/what is your muse? Does it differ from book to book?

Like kids have imaginary friends, I have imaginary readers. Making a child smile, or better, laugh out loud, is a heartwarming achievement for me. I imagine telling these kids my story, and hear their laughs. Recently, videos and pictures of children enjoying Gajapati Kulapati stories, that people have posted online or mailed me, have been a great source of inspiration. Making children laugh makes everything worthwhile, doesn't it?

Are there any illustrators/writers you look to for inspiration?

Aren't we lucky? There are hundreds of illustrators to inspire us! These days I am inspired by them all! Even young illustrators, especially young illustrators, can inspire me and teach me new tricks!

There's one writer I absolutely worship: P.G. Wodehouse. From up there, he not only inspires me, but trains me. Every book of his is a textbook on writing, I feel.

We would also love to know what you do when you are not illustrating or writing? What are After Hours like, for you?

There are no after hours.  When I am not drawing or writing, I read books, surf the net, watch movies, reality shows or sitcoms, play video games or scrabble, solve crosswords, talk to people, go for walks, listen to music, do domestic chores ... I do what regular people do, but all these activities directly help me write or draw better. I am being educated all the time! I can't play a video game without learning something from the graphics, or watch a movie without taking mental notes. I go for a walk, and study the fractal patterns in the trees or wonder if I can get that shade of sky with 40% Cyan and 10% Magenta. A neighbour complains of her mother-in-law who gives up the television remote only to try out a new recipe which she forces guests and family members to eat, and instead of feeling bad for her, I get an idea for a story. There's no help for me! I must learn to let go!

And finally, please introduce us to Kenny Wordsmith :)

These days, Kenny Wordsmith doesn't do much. You can read his past stuff by googling him, though. Many years ago, I thought I needed a pen name to blog. I arrived at Kenny by doing a word square:






And ‘Wordsmith’ because I wanted to be a wordsmith. There are many in the worldwide web who know me only as Kenny Wordsmith!

tips for writers and illustrators of children's books

Copyright: Book Trotters Club

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