I'm incredibly pleased to present my first ever author interview, with the wonderful Savita Kalhan, author of one of my favourite books of last year The Long Weekend. Many thanks to Savita for taking part.
SK: Hello, thank you for inviting me here!
1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?
SK: I see lots of hands with their heads buried within the covers of my book! I didn’t mean that to sound corny – or macabre! What I love is that such a diverse group of people have enjoyed my book. I’ve had emails from kids, teens and adults, parents and a few grandparents who have all read and loved The Long Weekend.
2. What book would you recommend to people who enjoyed The Long Weekend while they're eagerly waiting for your next novel?
SK: One book that has really stood out for me is I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti. It’s just been released as a YA title, and I would really recommend it. I’ve just read Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick and loved it, so I’ve bought White Crow to read next. I also really enjoyed Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman is also on my bedside table, waiting to be read. I enjoy Anne Cassidy – she has a new book coming out soon, which I’m eagerly awaiting. Cat Clarke’s Entangled has just arrived...
3. What books inspired you when you were a teenager?
SK: When I was a teenager I read avidly – everything I could lay my hands on, which was basically the entire contents of Wycombe Library! I wasn’t selective. I read the whole Crime section, but I also read all the fantasy epics, contemporary novels, and world classics. Coming from a very traditional Indian background turned me into a complete a book junkie – it was one of the few activities that was actively encouraged! Lord of the Rings was a big favourite, but I also loved the Classics – Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Maupassant, Zola, Flaubert...
4. I know you've got a really active web presence with a great website and frequent Twitter updates - how important do you think it is in this day and age for YA authors to communicate with their fans over the internet?
SK: I hadn’t realised until last year how important it is! The best advice someone gave me was to have a good website and maintain a presence on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I’ve followed it and it’s been brilliant! It’s a great way to keep in touch with your readers. As a writer you must remember that if you don’t let people know about your book, then no one will hear of it!
5. What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
SK: To read as much as they can – novels, but also about the publishing industry and how it works. To talk to other published authors because their advice is invaluable. To find a good agent who will fight your corner. To have their work critiqued by people who are able to be perfectly honest about their work. I could go on for hours, but the final thing I would add here is - never stop writing.
6. I recommended The Long Weekend on The Bookbag partly because of the importance of the message about 'stranger danger', and also suggested parents/guardians should read it - while it's a compelling thriller in its own right, do you feel the book has a role to play in getting children and adults discussing the topic?
SK: Oh yes, definitely. Kids are aware of stranger-danger, but often they don’t fully understand what it might mean. The Long Weekend is written with a style and pace that reaches even the reluctant reader; it’s absorbing and engrossing, and I think its impact in imparting a message to teens is far greater than a school talk on stranger-danger. Parents who have read the book have immediately wanted their kids to read it. It may raise awkward questions, but I feel they are questions that should be addressed and discussed.
7. What do you enjoy most about writing? What would you rather not do at all?
SK: I love writing! I love being inside someone else’s head, speaking with their voice, following them wherever the story takes them. I don’t mind going back through a story and rewriting scenes if it’s needed. The part I really dislike is the copy-editing and proof-reading because it forces you to look at words rather than read the story. It’s boring, but entirely necessary. My problem is that I find I get caught up in reading the book and end up missing typos!
8. Do you listen to music when you're writing? If so, what was your
soundtrack when writing The Long Weekend?
SK: I tend not to really listen to music when I’m writing – I find the story is making enough noise in my head! With The Long Weekend the jingle-jangle of keys was something I heard too much of! I sometimes put Classic FM on in the background because it’s not too intrusive.
9. What are you reading now?
SK: At the moment I’m reading Siobhan Dowd’s Solace of the Road. I’m way behind and I’m trying to catch up, but the piles of to-be-read-books just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger... And as I try not to read YA when I’m writing, I’m frequently falling behind. I need a good long holiday with a large suitcase of books and no excess baggage charges!
10. What's next for Savita Kalhan?
Hopefully, fingers crossed, there will be another book or two. I’ve just finished writing a great thriller about a boy who wakes up in hospital with no recollection of how he got there, or who he is!. So watch this space...
I can't wait! Many thanks once again, Savita, for taking the time to do such a fantastic interview.