Monday, June 8, 2020

Supriya Kelkar Author Interview


Photo Content from Supriya Kelkar

Supriya Kelkar grew up in the Midwest, where she learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Winner of the New Visions Award for her middle grade novel AHIMSA, (Tu Books, 2017), Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films, including Lage Raho Munnabhai and Eklavya: The Royal Guard, India’s entry into the 2007 Academy Awards. She was an associate producer on the Hollywood feature, Broken Horses. Supriya’s books include AHIMSA, THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH (Sterling, 2019), AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2020) STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME (Tu Books, 2020), BINDU’S BINDIS (Sterling, 2021), and THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster, 2021). Supriya is represented by Kathleen Rushall at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Kim Yau at Paradigm for film/TV rights.
        
  


Why is storytelling so important for all of us? 
When I was growing up, I never saw myself in an American book, TV show, movie, or even an advertisement. Because of that, I almost never wrote stories with Indian-American characters. Storytelling is an important reminder that your story is important, and to make sure you tell it.

Tell us your latest news. 
I will hopefully be able to share some good news in a few months but right now I’m keeping busy on the edit for my 2021 release, THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster), which is about a Bollywood-loving girl who isn’t good with showing her emotions. After her parents announce their separation, she is forced to show them in the most obvious way possible, thanks to a magical condition that forces her to express herself through Bollywood song-and-dance numbers. I’m also building my illustrator portfolio and that’s been fun!

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? 
I grew up on Hindi movies and they have definitely influenced my writing. I worked as a Bollywood screenwriter for over a decade too and learned a lot about the importance of heart, joy, and entertainment to a story from that.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. 
I love getting to connect with readers through school visits and virtual visits. I love hearing about what they enjoyed in my books and seeing them come up with creative answers to writing and storytelling workshops. 

What is your happiest childhood memory? 
The day I got my dog, Cookie, was one of the happiest memories from my childhood. She was the sweetest, most caring dog, and I miss her all the time. She even has a cameo in AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE!

What was the greatest thing you learned at school? 
I loved the educational side of school and socializing with my friends but school was also a place where I was racially bullied and othered for several years. I guess one of the biggest lessons I learned through that experience was perseverance. I think the lessons of my experiences in a town that didn’t value diversity helped shape me writing and helped me find my voice in college.

In your new book; AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

What part of Lekha did you enjoy writing the most?
I enjoyed writing the cringe-worthy puns that Lekha likes to make to annoy her friend, Noah. A lot of what Lekha goes through comes from my childhood experiences. It was sometimes tough to dig deep and pull out those buried memories of othering and racism but in the end I enjoyed writing those parts too. It was really cathartic.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
I would love to introduce Lekha to Sonali, the main character from my 2021 release, THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD. Lekha and Sonali’s lives are pretty different, even though both their stories are contemporary. Lekha is not a very confident dancer but she does love her Hindi music so I think she would enjoy Sonali’s Bollywood dancing. Both girls have their own struggles with expressing themselves and finding their voice so I think they could have helped each other with their journeys.

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know? 
I know that the fear or aversion of clusters of holes or circles or irregular shapes is called Trypophobia.

What did you do for your last birthday? 
It was pretty low-key. I went out to eat with friends and my family in Ann Arbor and visited a bookstore. I’m pretty sure there were a lot of fries throughout the day too.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid? 
I was a kid during the 80s and 90s and I think I would probably stick with those decades. I enjoyed having a pretty digital-free early childhood that let me rely on my imagination for entertainment and then suddenly having the internet in middle school and high school and finding new ways to communicate with friends on there.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep? 
I usually worry about everything I need to finish on an edit or on a draft, worry about things I need to get done for my house or my kids, worry about something I said decades earlier in middle school or college that no one else probably even remembers that I wish I could have said differently…in short, I worry before I fall asleep! It’s probably why it takes me a very long time to fall asleep.

What is the craziest thing you have ever done? 
I’m really not proud about it now, but in 5th grade my best friend moved to another town and one of the Detroit Pistons players had moved in across from her new home. This was shortly after the Bad Boys era of the Detroit Pistons, when everyone in Michigan loved their basketball team. It was so thrilling that a Pistons player lived near her, when I went to visit her, we snuck around his backyard and tried to see him until the sprinklers started and we had to run. My friend, who was much more courageous than me, eventually rang the doorbell. The person who answered was very kind and told us the player wasn’t home and to come back later.

What event in your life would make a good movie? 
I think my experiences as, I believe, the first Indian-American screenwriter to work for a major production house in India would have made a good movie. I was suddenly dining with stars whose movie posters had adorned my walls throughout my childhood and writing movies for them. And there was always something exciting happening in Bollywood.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your young readers. What would it be? 
I would tell them that it took me a while to find my voice and that’s okay. Sometimes we think there is only one way to stand up for ourselves or speak out against hate. But there are other ways to do it. Some people dance to express themselves. Some people write essays or poetry. Some people make art. Once you find your method for expressing yourself, it can be a very empowering thing.

TEN REASONS TO READ AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE

  • 1. Because you otter sea all the aquatic themed puns Lekha makes in the book
  • 2. Because it’s a timely book that takes place in an election year
  • 3. Because it is one of the few, if not the only middle grade novel in America to feature a Marathi-American family
  • 4. For the drool-worthy descriptions of Indian food
  • 5. Because it’s full of humor, heart, and hope
  • 6. To read about just some of the many Hindu festivals and holidays that Lekha’s family celebrates over the course of a few months.
  • 7. To be inspired to stand up against hate
  • 8. To find out what paneer pie is
  • 9. For the Hinglish (Hindi-English) food jokes
  • 10. To read the recipe included in the book so you can make your own paneer pie
WRITING BEHIND THE SCENES
My writing process comes from what I learned as a film major in screenwriting classes in college. I spend several days or weeks just thinking about my story. I then start writing character journals, which are like diary entries for all the big characters in my story. It helps me find their voice, their fears, and their goals. And it helps me figure out their character arcs. From there, I use the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet to write down the important story beats. From there I work on an outline of each chapter. And then I finally sit down to write the first of many drafts of the actual novel.


An Indian American girl navigates prejudice in her small town and learns the power of her own voice in this brilliant gem of a middle grade novel full of humor and heart, perfect for fans of Front Desk and Amina’s Voice.

As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.

When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.

To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.

When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.

You can purchase American as Paneer Pie at the following Retailers:
        

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SUPRIYA KELKAR for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar.
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4 comments:

  1. "What is your happiest childhood memory?" Adopting kittens!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Spending summers at my grandparents farm! Thank you for sharing this book! My daughter would love it!

    ReplyDelete