Friday, September 4, 2015

In the Spotlight: Annie Besant

How did The Dragon's Toothache come about? 
I have always wanted to meet a dragon! So I had a few story lines in which I met a dragon and we became book-reading buddies / worst enemies fighting over who gets to read Tinkle first / best friends who think nothing of scratching each other's backs. Well, I finally met my dragon in the form of the worst toothache ever one day. To make myself feel better, I wrote this story of a dragon with a toothache, who needs help—bad! 

Tell us a little about your first book with Karadi—Whimsy
It came to me while I was trying to brush my cat’s teeth with one hand and drink pudding out of a cup with the other! Ha ha ha . . . how I wish I had been really doing that! But that’s how much fun I had writing Whimsy. There was something very endearing and non-conforming about the story when I thought of it. Here are these two crazy creatures, completely mismatched and yet they have this great love story.
At its core, Whimsy was meant to show the quirkiness of Ms Fox and Ms Whimsy. In a way, it reflects our own quirkiness too . . . the odd traits and characteristics that are unique to each person. At my storytelling sessions, children have responded very positively to this book and they say the sweetest of things—one boy told me he wanted to have a large handkerchief like Mr Prat. Moreover, parents have reached out to me to let me know that their kids read and re-read the book multiple times.
Interestingly, this book has been misread. I’ve had people tell me it’s anti-feminist—they are uncomfortable with the fact that Ms Fox seeks marriage. I’ve even had the odd comment that it’s racist! Whimsy was meant to be neither. Ms Fox knows what she wants and is active in her pursuit of Mr Prat. I don’t think marriage precludes feminism or that feminism precludes marriage. The book was simply meant to be whimsical. 

Take us through your mind's maze. When does an idea generally occur to you? At work? In bed? Or while daydreaming? What do you do when that happens? 
Ideas have always made themselves comfortable in my mind regardless of what I have thought about them. Hmph! They waltz in as and when they wish . . . they are no sticklers for schedule, I tell you. However, the wonderful host that I am, I plonk myself next to them on the couch and nibble a marie biscuit or two as they unburden themselves to me. I take quick notes, of course . . . most often on any available scrap of paper . . . even toilet tissue will do. I chew on them a bit (the notes, not the toilet paper) and if it's something I can't use right away, I file them away for later.  

What is your favourite sound from The Dragon's Toothache
The sound of the dragon snoring! Phzzz . . . Graaa . . . who would have thought a dragon would snore like that! 

It is important for children to read—read a lot. Your thoughts?  
Why is it important for children to eat? Why is it important for children to play? It’s important because there is no growth without it. Reading challenges children to look beyond who they are, to look beyond what they know. And reading is a relationship that will survive anything.   
I think kids read a lot more when there was no one to tell them why they had to read and what they had to read. I remember growing up reading everything I could find with no one to monitor my reading habit . . . and maybe that’s why I stuck with it longer. 

What would you do if you bump into a dragon? 
Hope to God that it doesn't have a toothache!