Manuscript help, book reviews and author interviews
Himanjali Sankar’s book ‘Talking Of Muskaan’ has generated a lot of interest – as a LGBT novel for young adults; it is of course much more than that. Himanjali has two other published works – ‘The Magical Adventures of Skinny Scribbles’ and ‘Missing: A Magnificent Superdog’.
tgbc: How do you feel about your book being pegged as a LGBT novel for young adults?
Himanjali: Any label that suggests an agenda makes me a little uncomfortable because in my head fiction is all about language and storytelling and nothing else. But apart from that, I think it’s important to do this because it is a theme largely absent from Indian children’s and YA writing and if we intend to bring this topic out of the closet it needs to be highlighted and discussed more openly than it is currently.
tgbc: Why do you think children need to read about different sexual orientations?
Himanjali: It is about learning to respect an orientation that is different from the social norm – in this case it is sexual, I also touch upon class differences in the book. I think it’s important to introduce differences to children so that they don’t grown up to be insufferable, insensitive, uni-dimensional adults!
tgbc: I read somewhere that you thought class issues are tougher to deal with. Can you expand upon that?
Himanjali: In India our class complexes are so deeply ingrained that we tend to form automated opinions and attitudes in spite of ourselves which is something we consciously need to check. As a common example, when we misplace anything at home, be it a watch or money, we immediately suspect the domestic helpers. I am not exempting myself from this sort of psychotic behaviour. So I had to keep this in mind while writing and resist a process of unconscious stereotyping while writing about Subhojoy who comes from an economically underprivileged background.
tgbc: Who are your book mentors?
Himanjali: I have to admit that I don’t read too much YA beyond the obvious like Suzanne Collins, John Green and a couple of others. My book mentors would be Margaret Atwood, Vikram Seth and Angela Carter.
tgbc: Name one celebrity you want as your book fan!
Himanjali: Emma Watson!
tgbc: Your regular working/writing day?
Himanjali: I have a full time job as an editor with Bloomsbury India so writing is what I cram into the in-between times – at night, on weekends, between driving my kids to parties and taking the dog for a walk.
tgbc: A quote you swear by
Himanjali: I love quotes that display mental and linguistic agility but it is tough to single out a single favourite. Short pithy lines are for grabbing attention not for elaborating one’s life’s beliefs and philosophies.
tgbc: Your comfort food?
Himanjali: Chips and chocolates. I know that’s horrid but true.
tgbc: What next?
Himanjali: Many more books I hope. But no concrete plans at this point.
tgbc: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Himanjali: I wouldn’t be able to write about cruelty against animals or babies.