How would you describe someone who loves her samsosas as much as she loves her fitness regime? Someone who can wow you with her poems and with her cobrapose alike? A writer, an illustrator and a quiet sort of a livewire (meet her to know how!), Lavanya Karthik is at Book Trotters Club ! One of her youngest fans, seven-year-old Krishang Udasi interviews her about his favourite Ninja Nani series! And other books. But mainly the Nani with the chops.
(PS: Keep your screens at a distance. I warn you there are flying kicks strewn all over this interview.)
It's been a great year with not just the Ninja Nani books but also winning Duckbill's Children First contest, getting shortlisted for The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award for Best Picture Book for Children (The Lion’s Feast), and getting books such as A Book is a Bee (Tulika) and Too Big Too Small (Pratham) published. How does it feel?
Terrific! Fantabulous! Awesome! Fantaweserrific! Awesabulific! Terrifantawes.... err, I think you get the picture. If I could backflip and somersault and cartwheel I would. Since I cannot, I will do the next best thing, which is a poor imitation of the Cobra Superstrike pose, while wearing pink polka dotted pants and no furry bunny slippers.
Ninja Nani has managed to buwahaha her way through stereotypes around aged people. How did you think of creating the character?
I started off wanting to create a very unconventional hero who accidentally acquires superpowers. And I wanted to write a book that would make me laugh so hard, I'd choke over my samosas. One thing led to another, many samosas were eaten (strictly for research, ok!) and voila! Ninja Nani backflipped into my head!
So, did the TV really give Ninja Nani her powers?
I could tell you, but then I would have to use the Ninja Mindblur on you.....buwuhahahahah!
Do you watch any TV show like Ninja Dragon Morimori?
No, but I've seen the movie 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' about a bajillion times. Does that count?
I have my favourite, but which among the two Ninja Nanis is your favourite?
I know I should say, "I love both my babies equally!" But the truth is, as a writer, my favourite book happens to be the one I am writing at that point. Be it a picture book, a poem or a novel, I find myself totally involved with its characters, its plots, its dialog/ meter all the while I am working on it. Luckily, the advantage of having book children is that one can totally abandon the older ones and focus all one's attention on the new baby.
I recently read The Lion's Feast. I would like to know who inspired you to become a writer and illustrator?
I am inspired by pretty much every book I've loved and every work of art I've seen! The list of writers and illustrators I admire is endless, so I'm going to give you the short version which is..
Your illustrations almost appear alive. Have you trained somewhere?
Thank you. No, I never formally trained in art. But I do try to draw everyday, even if it's just on a foggy bathroom mirror.
What other books can we look forward to from you? Are you writing something for young adults as well?
There are a bunch of books in the works - some picture books, including 'Neel on Wheels', which won the Children First contest mentioned earlier in this interview. There is the next Ninja Nani adventure as well as another middle grade series I have been working on. I also have short stories in a few anthologies from various publishers. No YA fiction as yet, but I hope to write some soon as that is the genre I enjoy reading the most.
The last question has to be about Ninja Nani since you have a third one on the way. In one of the two books, Ninja Nani says she saved people from a burning building. Is that what your new book is about?
No, no burning buildings in Nani 3. But there is a lot of madness and screaming and sandwich eating going on in one particular building. Also an alleged haunting, some napping, some err, blarping and some ankle biting. And, as this is a Ninja Nani book, there will be plenty of cartwheeling, backflipping, 'HIYAAAA!'-ing and teeth throwing. Will that do?
Catch some of Lavanya Karthik’s books released last year:
As writer and illustrator:
Ninja Nani 1 and 2
Too big! Too small!
Who am I? (tactile book)
Cat! Come back! (tactile book)
A Walk with Thambi
A book is a bee
Fly, little fish!
The Delhi Detective's Handbook
How do aeroplanes fly?
Gul in space
(Copyright: Book Trotters Club)