|Born||4th March 1986|
|City of residence||Pune|
|Bio||Sowmya Rajendran was born in Chennai. Though a Malayalee, she identifies herself more with the city she grew up in. She did her schooling in PSBB KKN. She holds a BA in English from Stella Maris College, Chennai, and an MA in Gender Studies (not General Studies) from the University of Sussex, UK.|
Fantastic Five – Five of my favourite books
The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger I spent the longest time pretending to be Holden Caulfield when I was going through my rebellious I-hate-the-world phase.
Swami and Friends – RK Narayan I don’t know if I should even explain why this book is lovable. It’s funny, it’s insightful, it’s honest. It talks about people I see, places I’ve been to.
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry This book makes me cry every time I read it. There’s so much hopelessness in it and yet, you can’t put it down or give up because of the misery. It’s too human for you to turn it down.
A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf This book changed my life. I know it’s a white middle-class feminist and blah blah but it really made me understand so much about my own life and choices.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen There’s so much humour, so much lovely language in this book that I just adore it. Of course, it helps that Darcy is so hot.
Tell us about your earliest attempts at writing. When, where and from whom did you learn the nittygritties of writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. My school had an annual school magazine which would carry an article from each section. My greatest ambition every year was to be published in that magazine. I was always a voracious reader and I guess that’s how I became a writer.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
From everyday life. From people around me. There’s enough drama happening in real life for one to be inspired always.
What does your typical writing day look like?
I write when my daughter is away at school (9 to 12) and when she naps (2 to 4).
What is one habit / trait of yours that makes you effective / productive as an author?
I can be very determined when I want to be. And when I’m inspired by an idea or if I really want to write something, I’ll write no matter what the obstacle.
What is the one thing that you recommend every aspiring author should do?
Read a lot and write a lot if you want to get better.
Tell us something about yourself that very few people know?
I cannot write with pen and paper.
Does technology (the Internet, software tools) help you in your writing process? If yes, can you tell us about them?
All the time. I can only ‘write’ on a laptop. I read a lot of things on the Internet. If I have a sudden doubt about a word or its usage, I look it up online. I’d be lost without my laptop.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I read all kinds of things right from feminist philosophy to articles on T. Rajendhar’s latest antics. They all help me in different ways.
Can you tell about what you are currently writing and other works in the pipeline?
- Being Boys (Anthology, Tulika books, 2014)
- Feminist fairy-tales (Working YA title, Tulika books, 2014)
- Big Hero Size Zero: Gender Talk (Nonfiction, Tulika books, 2014)
- The Rulebreakers’s Club (YA Novel series, Karadi Tales, 2014) Three more in the series are to be launched.
- Mouse in the House (Picture book, Pratham Books, 2014)
- The Lesson (Literary fiction, adults, HarperCollins India, 2015)
- Ashwathy and the Boot of God (10+, Penguin Books India, 2015)
- An adaption for children of Sanjeev Sanyal’s Land of the Seven Rivers. The adaption is called The Incredible History of India’s Geography (nonfiction, probably 12 plus, Penguin Books India)
You write blog-posts, mostly centered on gender issues; you also write books for children. Some of those who have read your posts as well as your books for children feel that you are better at writing for adults – what do you think about this perception? Actually why haven’t you written books for adults?
My new book for adults with HarperCollins India will be out in March 2015. My books for children are popular among children, educators, and adults – I take that as sufficient validation for my writing. I don’t see myself as a children’s writer or an adults’ writer. I write what I want and what appeals to me. Sometimes, it’s for children, sometimes, it’s for adults. It’s one thing to write blog posts and quite another to publish books.
You are a celebrity blogger, you’ve published several books for children and you are also a gender activist. What do you primarily see yourself as?
I don’t blog any more at my old url because I just got bored of people expecting me to write the way I used to in college. As if my life hadn’t changed at all. It also stopped being an anonymous place, so I had to become a lot more careful about what I said. I’m not much of a gender activist really. I see myself as a writer.
I also enjoy making people laugh and getting my word across. A lot of the times, my writing has to do with gender, thanks to my education, my social circle and just simply the fact that as a woman, I’m aware of how things change when you look at them through the lens of gender.
You have used Krishna (normally a boy’s name) and Thamarai (normally a girl’s name) for a girl and boy respectively. Is this intentional? What is the message that you’re trying to convey?
Krishna is also Draupadi’s name. Though it is spelt with another ‘a’ in The Mahabharatha. And no, Krishna in Mayil has nothing to do with Draupadi. Just saying that it’s not a boy’s name always. Thamarai’s full name is Thamarai Kannan which is not such an unheard of male name in Tamil Nadu. In fact, Niveditha had a classmate called Thamarai Kannan in school! I’m surprised you haven’t asked me why Mayil is a girl because a peacock is male. Anyway, none of this was intentional. We picked names that we liked, names that we thought would stick with the audience, names that provided a cultural context to the readers.