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An engaged older sister. A disinterested dad. Precious little cash in the wedding fund. And Hurricane Irene’s headed to Westbury, Massachusetts, where the wedding’s supposed to happen. Then there’s handsome, charming and strangely secretive Vir making matters more difficult. He’s got a hold on Mini’s heart. What’s a seventeen-year-old to do?
Just a little longer, readers. Scholastic Nova’s snazzy new offering Red Turban White Horse is coming to a bookstore near you. In the meantime, here’s an interview with Nandini Bajpai, author of this glittering must-read.
- Red Turban White Horse is your first novel. What inspired you to write it? How much of the story is based on real-life events?
We had a wedding in the family the weekend of Hurricane Irene. It was weird. I mean, what are the odds of a hurricane tracking through Boston—hurricanes rarely make it this far north—on the exact day of a wedding? With some quick thinking and lots of help from family and friends the wedding did happen. It wasn’t at all like it was supposed to be, but it was happy and fun (if a little soggy!).
Sadly, in the months leading up to the wedding we lost two dear friends to cancer—something that affected me deeply. All of these things were fresh in my mind when I started writing RTWH and influenced the story. I think many writers take events from their lives and change things around and say—what if? And once you have a character in your head the story becomes their story. So the main characters and their story is complete fiction even though I did draw inspiration from real life events.
- The novel’s plot is very engaging. Did you work it all out beforehand or did the story unravel as you wrote?
I had a nebulous idea of where things were going, but I don’t outline before starting to write. About halfway through a draft I stop, take stock, and chart a course to the end. Then tighten up whatever doesn’t work in revision. Not a perfect process but it works for me. And I’m glad you think the plot’s engaging!
- Tell us a little about your writing process. How long did it take you to finish RTWH?
I started writing the story in Nov 2011 for National Novel Writing Month. It was acquired in April 2012 even though it was unfinished. Then I had a serious deadline, and I had to finish up the manuscript by August 15th 2012. So it took ten months to get it done, and a few more months for revisions.
- What is your favourite literary format?
The novel, since that’s what I write. I do like poetry too, and hope to try a verse novel someday.
- Would you categorize RTWH as chick lit? If so, do you plan to continue writing in this genre?
RTWH is a contemporary young adult novel. Chick lit is usually about professional women in their twenties, right? So I don’t think this qualifies. Although this has the crossover appeal that might make it interesting to readers of that genre too—I think!
I like writing for this age-group. They’re on the threshold between childhood and adulthood and are just finding out who they are, what they want, and where they’re going. So many great books were written about the young adult experience long before there was an actual genre called YA. I will definitely continue to write YA in the future.
- Are there other books besides RTWH in the pipeline?
STARCURSED, my next novel, will be out with Red Turtle/Rupa later this year. It is a YA historical set in 12th century India about Leela, a girl born under an evil star, who, ironically, is also the daughter of the leading astronomer of that age—Bhasker II of Ujjain. It’s an epic love story, sort of like Romeo and Juliet but in India!
- Name some of your favourite books/authors of all time. Do you have any writing gurus?
Too many to name!! If I HAVE to name a few it would be Vikram Seth, Jane Austen, Ursula K. Le Guin, PG Wodehouse, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Salman Rushdie, KM Munshi, JK Rowling, and many more. And my sister Anuja, of course!
Writing gurus: My English teacher in class IV or V who told me I could write. I also took some classes with the wonderful Uma Krishnaswami when I was just starting to write seriously.
- What advice do you have for aspiring writers?