F-Page – Natasha Sharma




 Natasha Sharma


Facts

Born 26th February, 1977
Place of BirthAmritsar
City of residenceMumbai
Books authored

From the most recent book:

  1. Razia and the Pesky Presents (forthcoming this June)
  2. Squiggle Takes A Walk – all about punctuation
  3. Raja Raja and the Swapped Sacks
  4. Akbar and the Tricky Traitor
  5. Ashoka and the Muddled Messages
  6. Rooster Raga
  7. Anaya’s Thumb
  8. Bonkers
  9. 366 words in Delhi
  10. Kaka and Munni
  11. Icky, Yucky, Mucky!

Bio

Natasha Sharma believes in the power of showers and in walking in circles around a square table, deftly avoiding its edges, to generate ideas and plots.

She delights in writing stories that create little bubbles that fizz up through the tummy and come bursting forth as giggles and snorts.

She has published eleven books for children including Bonkers! which recently won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award 2014 for Asia and Middle East. Her books Akbar and the Tricky Traitor and Icky, Yucky, Mucky were selected to the top 3 books in the RivoKids HT Parent and Kids Choice Award 2014 in their respective age categories. Kaka and Munni is featured in the CBSE recommended reading list.

Her recent books include Squiggle Takes a Walk – all about punctuation and Razia and the Pesky Presents (History Mystery series).


Fantastic Five – Five of my favourite books

Stuck, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, The Way Back Home, The Great Paper Caper…  – Oliver Jeffers

Roald Dahl I love the humour in each of his books. The characters are distinct, brilliantly thought through and stay with you much after you finish the book. I am particularly fond of The Twits, Matilda and the Enormous Crocodile.

Wonder – R. J. Palacio You feel like you are inside the head of each character as you read this. You go through every emotion with them and the perspective of each character is beautifully and evocatively presented. Makes you look at your world a little bit differently.

One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate Again, superb voice – takes you right into the head of the gorilla. Every word has a place in the book and a lot of it made me stop and think. One of my favourite lines from the book: “Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.” It pulls at your heart strings while being funny, gentle and pulsating with a raw energy that runs through the book.

Captain Coconut and the Case of the Missing Bananas – Anushka Ravishankar Anushka Ravishankar is absolutely brilliant in the book with a brand new detective, Captain Coconut. The quirky, madcap story, combined with Tara Books doing a brilliant job in designing the book, is the beginning of a great series.


Face-to-face

Tell us about your earliest attempts at writing. When, where and from whom did you learn the nittygritties of writing?

My earliest memories of pieces I have written are of a poem dedicated to my mother when I was 8 years old and an essay on the topic, ‘My visit to a zoo’, probably when I was in grade 5. I began somewhat along the lines of the majestic lions looking pleadingly at me across the ditch, wishing to be anywhere but at the zoo and it was quite an outpouring of my love for animals and wishing they were not caged for human pleasure in despicable conditions.

I’ve been writing all through life. Once I decided to focus on writing books for children, attending writing workshops over the years including master classes at the Jumpstart conference and a Duckbill writing workshop helped. I’ve also been lucky to work with great editors who’ve helped improve my writing.

Where do the ideas for your books come from?

Ideas come from all around and often the strangest of places! As a writer,

words, images, feelings, phrases, objects… anything can trigger an idea.Tweet

The History Mystery series began with a sock handed as a prop while Squiggle Takes A Walk emerged from my habit of doodling. Stating my inspiration for Icky, Yucky, Mucky is a tricky one!

What does your typical writing day look like?

On most writing days, I settle down to writing by 10am and try and get in a few hours till lunch and I try to go on till around 3:30 when my kids come home. I go back to it on some days, depending on my schedule, later in the evening or at night once the kids are asleep.

With two young kids and our love for travel, my days are always action packed and I try and pull out as much time as I can. Often, I will also work in the evening but on things like event planning, research and blog pieces that can work with distractions around.

What is one habit / trait of yours that makes you effective / productive as an author?

I keep writing! A sort of rhythm and pace has developed over the years, governed by many things. The first half of the year is my most productive in terms of writing. The summer holidays provide a break and recharge. Then it’s back to more writing till autumn and winter is spent more in editing, launches, readings and travel. I like to create something different for my readings around different books and that takes time. I also need to allot time for research, especially for my History Mystery series.

What is the one thing that you recommend every aspiring author should do?

Read lots of children’s books by the best in the industry.

Notice things like character, voice, hooks, page turns in picture booksTweet

and all the nuances that make them memorable.

Attend a few writing workshops, if you have access. They give you important insights and direction.

Most importantly, keep writing.

Tell us something about yourself that very few people know?

Keys, my phone and papers I file carefully, all have it out for me. They keep disappearing and I am left overturning the house.

I love baking, dogs, photography, good design, the smell of rain on dry ground, being out in nature, chocolate, churan and mutton biryani, in no particular order.

I like to stay calm though I am very often worried and fretting about something. It’s a terrible habit and one that I hope to break someday.

I’m sort of like a duck, calm above the surface and wildly paddling under water. Quack!Tweet

Does technology (the Internet, software tools) help you in your writing process? If yes, can you tell us about them?

They don’t help me to write. I think you’ll write if you want to and can’t live without writing, irrespective of software or technology.

However, the internet does help in researching random bits of information at a moment’s notice like: are plums native to India? There are also very old texts that are available in ebook form online making them easily accessible and that proves to be a good resource while writing the History Mystery series.

Having said that, I’ve been using a software called Scrivener. I like it because it helps organise all bits of research, character sketches and notes in one place. It’s also easy to move sections of the manuscript around and keep old edits. I don’t think I use even half the features it provides but it has made life a bit more organised!

Is there any other way in which technology can help you in your work as writer?

I write on my laptop and that’s fairly habit forming! Technology has a big role in allowing authors to reach a wider audience through social media, blogs and online review sites. Ebooks are a fast growing area and ecommerce sites expand reach dramatically. I’d say that technology is very helpful for the before and after.

For the actual writing bit, you’ve to arm yourself with an idea, persistence and the joy of seeing your thoughts on paper.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others? (include websites, blogs or Twitter profiles, etc).

Hard to pinpoint. I greatly admire the work of authors I’d named earlier and there are many more whose work is inspiring.

Can you tell about what you are currently writing and other works in the pipeline?

Books that are under production and scheduled for release this year include:

Razia and the Pesky Presents (the fourth History Mystery)

Princess Easy Pleasy (A picture book with Karadi Tales)

What Should I Wear? (A picture book with Pratham books, releasing at the World Book Fair in Delhi)

Delivering a Vampire (Working title, being published by Young Zubaan)

 What I’m working on:

I’m currently threshing out an idea for the next adventure with Squiggle.

I’ve begun work on a new chapter book that is in a very early stage.

And I have to begin researching my next History Mystery.

As a child, did you enjoy your history classes? Did you ever imagine that history could be made so interesting as in your books for the “History-Mystery” series?

I detested history as a child! I’ve since realised my error for I now love history. Delighted to read your comment on the History Mystery series! They are fictional mysteries but for the age group, the facts woven into the story, differentiated for them in the last chapter, would, I hope make it a fun area to approach.

To write a fictional story based on history, what kind of research does it take? How easy or difficult was it?

It takes a lot of research since I have to sift through a lot of information to dig out facts that are fun, unexpected and can lend themselves to my story. In the Ashoka book, the key investigators who are his personal guards are called the Tremendous Ten. The characters are fictional but developed from a point in the Arthashastra: Mauryan kings are advised to have ten bodyguards surrounding them when out in public. The guards were often women from a trusted tribe.

Do you tell knock-knock jokes in real life?

Of course! My children are 10 and 8 years. Knock-knock jokes can often be a whole dinner table conversation!


Find me at

Website: http://www.NatashaSharma.in

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NatashaSharmaWrites

Twitter: @WritesNatasha

LinkedIn: Natasha Sharma

Pinterest: NatashaSharma

Instagram: WritesNatasha

Offline: On my writing desk and often hopping around, telling stories to a group of children, who are book fiends.

You can also find me this Saturday, Feb 14, 2015, at Kitab Khana bookstore in Mumbai at 5pm for a hysterically historical session!

I’ll be getting my head stuck in a palanquin as I read/enact from the fourth History Mystery – Razia and the Pesky Presents. It’s also a chance for kids in Mumbai to get their hands on an early limited edition release since the book reaches other stores in June.


PlusMinus’n’More: Thank you Natasha, for being our guest on F-pages and sharing with us your experiences as a writer.


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