Payal is an old friend, and I took this photo some years ago on a picnic. This interview is published in KitaabLet’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
This is a deceptively difficult question. I’ve thought about it for days, wondering how to answer it without sounding hackneyed. (And does the fact that I don’t have a deep, clever answer mean I have no good reason to be writing?!) The main reason is I write, I suppose, is because I like it. There are the beginnings of all these stories inside my head and the only to find out what happens next is to write them down and see where they go. This process of a story unfolding and then coming together is very exciting. It’s almost as much fun as reading a book.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I have a few works in progress at the moment. One of them is a fantasy novel I’ve been stuck on for more than half a decade. Some people say I should abandon it, but I feel it has a life still. Another falls somewhere between a school story and mystery story, and also between MG and YA. The third is a standalone YA fantasy where we find out that a deja vu is actually a time jump (!); and the fourth is a secret!
Describe your writing aesthetic.
I like to keep it simple. The best writing advice I got was from a journalism teacher who told us that the kind of writing we should be aiming for was “Famous Five” (of Enid Blyton fame). At that time I thought that was ridiculous — why should you write like you’re writing for ten-year-olds? Only later I realized the wisdom behind that thought. That rather than showing off how many big words you know, write so that even a child could understand it. And it is harder than it looks, even when you *are* writing for children.
Who are your favorite authors?
Jonathan Stroud, Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, Astrid Lindgren (for Pippi Longstocking), Ian Rankin… for now. They keep changing depending on what I’m reading or have recently read.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
My last novel, Slightly Burnt. Not just because I was writing about sexuality for a teenage audience, but also because it was the first time I was moving out of my comfort zone: fantasy. In fantasy, since you have the luxury of world-building, the realities of what you’re setting your story in are manipulatable. But in this book, for the first time, I was dealing with, for want of a better word, “real” reality.
What’s your idea of bliss?
Anything that involves cool weather, chocolate, books, games and a computer with an internet connection — preferably altogether.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
Wow. I’d fill my e-reader with as many books I could cram into it! It would have to be a mix — of crime/mystery, fantasy, YA and MG, and anything that catches the eye — so that I have options.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
There was a time when I’d have said my laptop without hesitation, but that’s no longer the case because of the wonderful technology called cloud back-up.
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
Bill Watterson, a cartoonist’s advice.
Payal Dhar writes fiction for children and young adults, and has several books under her belt. For almost two decades, Payal has been an academic copy-editor and a freelance writer on technology, games, sport, books, writing and travel. She has been published in a variety of print and online publications, and also done live online coverage of cricket and football. Payal has written six young adult novels and co-edited a unique Indo-Australian collaborative anthology of feminist speculative fiction for young adults. Payal was on the jury of the 2014 Crossword Award for Children’s Writing. Her interests include reading, writing, gaming, web development, tinkering with her gadgets, photography and crochet. She lives in Delhi, but often mysteriously pops up in Bangalore.
Payal Dhar’s website | http://writeside.net/