Today I have the opportunity to welcome a wonderful friend and fellow author, Lakshmi Iyer, to the blog! I first met Lakshmi at the Philadelphia Writer’s Workshop in April of 2017. She’s been a confidant for my self-doubt and a cheerleader of my work, and I’m beyond excited to get to cheer her on in return as her book, Why is My Hair Curly?, debuts this week. I couldn’t be more thrilled! Please join me in welcoming Lakshmi to the blog.
LRS: Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here. I can’t wait to learn more about your story.
LI: Good afternoon! I can’t wait to get started.
LRS: What prompted you to write Why is My Hair Curly?
LI: Last May, I woke to a message from an editor from Westland Publisher asking if I was willing to talk with her. I was skeptical, so I did some googling and decided to talk to her. She said she reads my blog occasionally and was curious to know if I was willing to write children’s fiction. I blanked out. I have up until then written largely personal essays. The one fictional work I attempted languished in some hard drive somewhere. I said I could try. After a lot of discussion, I wrote up a proposal for a series. Then we whittled it down to one book. The story took shape as I wrote the proposal.
Until that point, I had not actively considered writing fiction. Now that there was an opportunity to address the most impressionable of ages, I had a choice. I wanted to take on difficult topics. Our changing bodies, sexuality, bigotry etc. The publisher was keen however not to take on heavy subjects. Her mantra was ‘keep it light.’
Adoption is something I think about a lot. I write about our lives. I write about openness. I talk to so many couples hoping to adopt. This publisher is based out of India. Openness is not common. Talking to children about birth history and birth families is not easy when you have very little chance of finding the birth families even if you wanted to keep the adoption open. I grappled with the fact that if I did write it from the point of view of a child, I really would be speaking for an adoptee despite not having the lived experience of being an adoptee.
This was an idea that would not let go. Each morning as I walked or showered or cooked, Avantika haunted my thoughts. I have no idea where that name came from. She just was in my thoughts and wouldn’t let go. It took about two months for me to have an outline that worked. I wrote down the first draft in ten days. The revision happened over the course of the next few months. A year after the publisher reached out to me, the book will be out into the world.
LRS: I love this. A character who won’t let go! So, who is your target audience for the book?
LI: Children between the ages of 8-12. The story is simple, the language simple. The topic is universal.
LRS: What do you love most about your main character?
LI: I love that she thinks a lot. When Avantika wrestles with huge feelings, she writes in her diary. She explores her thoughts to make sense of it. She does not suppress them. She works on them and does not hesitate to go down the hard parts.
LRS: That’s a great message for children. Are any of the characters in the book built on people you know or experiences you’ve had in your own life?
LI: Almost all of them. It comes from being a creative non fiction writer. My life is my muse. Avantika’s preoccupation with books and her need to write was me as a child. Avantika’s mom as she runs around frazzled and rarely smiling is all of my mom friends. Avantika’s dad is a combination of my dad as he was and as I wanted him to be. Saraswathy paati is the wise person I want to be when I grow up
LRS: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
LI: I have an old manuscript that is dear to me. It explores the Indian immigrant experience. It traces two couples as they grapple with infertility, memories of #Metoo and trying to find closure. The entire plot is set in the past which wise literary people tell me won’t work. Someday, I hope to find an agent or a publisher willing to take my raw, honest work and shape it into something that sells. I also have my memoir outlined and partially written. I even have a proposal to go with it. I have been putting off querying and trying to find a home for it. Perhaps, a part of me is hoping the universe will conspire and send a publisher my way. 🙂
LRS: If the awful virus hadn’t waged war on the world, where would you be traveling to promote the launch of your book?
LI: India of course. I would have been in Chennai, Coimbatore (both places featured in the book), Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. In fact, I would have been happy to travel anywhere so long as it was paid for.
LRS: Lastly, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
LI: The ability to forgive myself when I say or do something I know is wrong. I am exceptionally harsh on myself even though it does nothing to prevent me from making the same mistake again.
LRS: Forgiveness is so important. Hugs to you, my friend!
Ready to buy the book for a child you know? (Or for, you know…YOU?) Order your Kindle version here! Paperback coming July 20th. Happy Book Birthday, Lakshmi! What a beautiful gift you’ve given the world!