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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Author Interview : Ajay Chowdhury, author of 'Ayesha and the Firefish'

Ajay Chowdhury

Read up, the Interview with Ajay Chowdhury, author of 'Ayesha and the Firefish'. In this Interview, he describes his journey of writing the book, how he came up with the core idea and developed it, what he thought was different about the book, how the main characters came about, what the most challenging part of the book was and much more, Folks...

How did ‘Ayesha and the Firefish’ begin? Could you describe the journey?

It started around 8 years ago as a bedtime story; I made up for my daughters Layla and Eva, who were 11 and 8, at the time. I would make up a chapter every night and after a week or so I thought ‘Hey this is not bad!’ 

How did you come up with the core idea and develop it? 

My daughters loved the beach and the sea, so when I started making up the story it seemed an ideal location. At first, I had no idea of what the plot was going to be, but as I have daughters I made the protagonist a girl and thought about what characteristics they would find interesting.

I just started putting more and more fantastical creatures, in as well as people, who would have been familiar to my daughters – so their friends, teachers (even their dog Lulu!) all made cameo appearances in the story. 

Once, I started writing it properly I liked the idea of this brave and funny girl travelling over the world and meeting famous people from history and solving a mystery, based on clues, she picked up from them. Then, before I knew it, it became about the future of the planet and rather unexpectedly took off into outer space…

How did the characters, Ayesha, Caro, Xander and Tashi’s come about?

Ayesha was based on my daughter Eva who was around 8, when I started telling her the story and was headstrong and talkative and funny. And of course, any good heroine needs a sidekick; the idea of a sarcastic, surfboarding snail came to me, out of nowhere.

I just fell in love with Caro and really enjoyed writing her. Xander sort of emerged out of necessity, because I realised it was a little unrealistic to have a ten year old gallivanting around the world on her own.

She needed an older person to go with her, so a cousin she squabbled with seemed like a good idea (and it was fun to write the scene where he sees Caro for the first time!).

Tashi was just a fun cameo character based on some happy, moustachioed Tibetans I saw when I visited Dharamshala.

What according to you is different about your book?

I think the main difference is that there are very few children’s adventure books, where the main character is a girl. As the dad of two daughters, I was keen to write a book about a girl, but with an adventure that both boys and girls (and adults I hope) could enjoy.

In almost all the children’s books, I loved reading, from ‘The Famous Five’ to the ‘Just William’ books to ‘Harry Potter’, girls always seemed to have just a supporting role and I wanted to try and change that. I guess the one exception was Philip Pullman’s ‘Lyra and I’ had always loved her as a character.  

How did the story, especially Ayesha's and the snail, Caro’s come about?

I think the characters are very much of today. I wanted the characters and the story to challenge traditional stereotypes and therefore I incorporated the fact Ayesha’s mum has a high-powered job in the city and her dad is a house husband.

Nemo... taken from movies.disney.com
The book is set in the present and Ayesha relates to all the things a girl of her age would relate to, and so Hermione Granger, Finding Nemo and things like that all make an appearance. I would hope that children reading it all over the world today and in the future would be able to relate.

When will your next book be out?

Oh, I have a notebook full of jottings about what Ayesha could do next. I will let you know as soon as I know…

Who was it that told you that you could become the author you are today?

Wow, I think this is the first time anyone has called me an author but I guess I am now! This is my first book and I am really proud of it. No one really told me I could be an author. I loved English in school and have always been a big reader. It just happened!

What was the most challenging part about writing the book?

Oh, definitely the editing. I had the most amazing editors from Puffin books. I wrote the whole thing over a few weeks but the editing took much longer! Nimmy and Purnima from Penguin were very patient with me and kept pushing me to make the book better and better.

Which book are you currently reading?

I’ve just started a book called Dark Matter about a guy who wakes up in an alternate Universe. I love good science fiction and have high hopes for this one. I hope I’m not disappointed.

JK Rowling
Who are your favourite authors and why?

I have a number of authors I love. From Philip Pullman and his 'His Dark Materials' series, which I read and re-read to P G Wodehouse and J K Rowling and Geoff Dyer and my friend, Amit Chaudhuri. Hard to say why really…they all write beautifully, make me laugh and take me to different places…

What else do you do on a daily basis? 

Well, in real life I am a technology entrepreneur and have started and run various technology companies – including Shazam that you might know and use. So, I help create new technologies, travel a lot, spend time with my family… all the usual things. 

Oh, and I’m also preparing a couple of sessions at Bookaroo in Delhi in November, where I will be reading from the book and doing activities with a hundred kids! I can’t wait to meet all those young readers. For information and to book a place visit www.bookaroo.in 

You can Read the Review and Buy the Book, right here.
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