Karadi interviews Devika Rangachari, the author of A Hundred Cartloads. Devika Rangachari has won 19 national awards in children's writing competitions. Her book, Growing Up was on the Honour List of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) in 2002. Devika helps to run the Children’s Book Forum at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, and conducts creative writing workshops for children. She has also done her doctorate in Indian history and is currently engaged in post-doctoral research.
Karadi: What made you take up children's writing? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a children's writer?
Devika: I was a voracious reader all through my childhood and adolescence (and even now!) and so, writing was a natural career choice for me. The advantages of being a children’s writer, as far as I’m concerned, is that you get to communicate your stories and, through them, your feelings, emotions and experiences to an extremely vibrant, intelligent and discerning audience. There aren’t any real disadvantages unless you consider the financial angle in that children’s writers are not always millionaires like J.K. Rowling!
Karadi: Do you have to like children to be a good children’s author?
Devika: A children’s writer need not necessarily like children but must have empathy and understanding towards them and their lives/ circumstances. She cannot write at them but for them and the difference comes about only by putting oneself in their shoes and looking at life through their eyes. I, for instance, have a very vivid memory of my schooldays, and my likes and dislikes at that stage and so, I write for and enjoy interacting with my target audience (largely 10-12 year-olds) because I empathise with and relate to them and their problems.
Karadi: What do you like to read? What are your favourite children’s books? Who are your favourite authors?
Devika: I like reading fiction of all kinds, particularly historical fiction. I don’t like reading science fiction or ghost stories—the former because I was always hopeless at science and the latter because I have an overactive imagination and don’t want to get scared out of my wits by the stories I read. My favourite children’s books were (and are!) those written by Enid Blyton and Elinor M. Brent-Dyer—basically anything to do with school and the realities of growing up. I also loved books by Jean Plaidy (historical fiction), Georgette Heyer (Regency romances) and Mary Stewart (romance/ adventure) in my later years in school.
Karadi: Do you follow a writing routine? How do you go about writing a story?
Devika: I don’t really have a fixed writing routine but work on my stories as and when ideas strike me. If I’m writing a historical story, I read through all the facts and then work on a basic framework in my mind before actually getting down to write. If it’s a realistic story, I think back to when I was in school at the particular age I’m talking about and let my memories guide me towards writing the story. I am also a historian (I am currently doing my post-doctoral research in history) and ideas for stories regularly strike me while I am looking through details of the past.
Karadi: What are you currently working on?
Devika:I am working on two books at the moment—one is a collection of love stories from history and legends, and the other is a work of historical fiction on a Kashmiri queen. Both are for the 12-14 age group.