Of Cabbages and Kings: October 28, 2013

This feels a bit like an errant teenager slinking into the house in the middle of the night without any explanation for all those hours where she was officially missing in action. Except that I haven’t been a teenager for a few years now and it was actually months (8 of them to be exact), and not hours, that remain unaccounted for.

I could come up with an excellent excuse for my blog’s non-functional status since March and how and why I couldn’t find a single minute to post an update. But I happen to be sneak-writing this blog post during my lunch hour (and my excuse is really not that interesting) so I’m just going to pretend I was away on a mysterious mission.

I have lots of shiny links (and scheduled posts too – gasp!) to make up for my disappearing act. I’m also full of promises and good intentions to be a reliably regular blogger for the foreseeable future.

Click for larger image.

This list of reasons for admission into an insane asylum that comes straight from the late 1800s makes me wonder if it’s acceptable to call in to work insane and spend the day ODing on books and Supernatural.

One of my favourite Internet columns has a new edition and this one is called Texts from Edgar Allen Poe. (Be sure to check out the other Text From posts. Deliciously hilarious!)

All the book dedications mentioned in this list are pretty awesome.

These bookshelves made from unusual items makes me wonder whether it’s possible to build one made entirely of bubblewrap.

This essay on why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming by Neil Gaiman makes me even more ashamed to admit I’ve not read any of his books yet. Soon to be remedied.

I wish Mumbai had a bookstore that oozed as much quirky personality as this one in Perth does. More signage from the store here.

And finally (as well as appropriately), some last words from the horse’s (as much as a famous author can be equine) mouth.

Of cabbages and kings: November 12, 2012

Don’t get me wrong, I loved spending the entire week drowning myself in the online bookworm world. But  my very large to-be-read pile has been giving me the old puppy-dog eyes and trying to send me on a guilt trip for ignoring all those books. Well, it worked! So while I go and try to considerably reduce the size of that pile (or, you know, massively increase it by going on a crazy book buying spree), you enjoy these links.

I love The Wizard of Oz and this is a hilariously accurate way to describe its plot.

If I would have ever hung out with The Beatles, I’d have spent the entire time laughing and/or mooning over their cute British accents. Those accents make it slightly difficult to understand this A Midsummer Night’s Dream skit they were in; but listen carefully and you won’t be disappointed!

I’m going to sit and fantasise about which children’s book-inspired tattoo I’m going to get (because the pain associated with getting an actual tattoo absolutely terrifies me).

How would you like to go book shopping with someone who is allegedly the best-read man in America? I’d settle for the best-read man in Mumbai. Or my building. Someone just needs to take me book shopping already!

Are you on Team Re-Read or Team Only New Books For Me? (Egad! Twilight, of all things, has started a trend of dividing the entire world into teams). For the record: I’ve always been a re-reader; my loved-to-tatters Enid Blyton books will attest to that.

I’ve only heard good things about Maurice Sendak’s books but I’ve never gotten a chance to read any of them myself. After reading this brilliant interview, I realise that I must remedy this instantly.

A delightful article about a group of Sherlock Holmes fans from all over the world who congregate in  a Swiss town to reenact the detective’s standoff with Moriarty. There really needs to be a Harry Potter version of this.

And for the final link of the evening (or 3.12 am), very important people answer very important questions asked by very curious children. (Spoiler alert: they do a very good job)

Author Interview: Mainak Dhar

This interview first appeared in Sunday Mid Day dated 4 November, 2012

Author of Zombiestan (read my review here) Mainak Dhar isn’t done unleashing zombies into Indian bookstores just yet; his Alice in Deadland trilogy will make an appearance early next year.  I spoke with him about his ostensibly favourite monsters and writing for children. Excerpts from the interview:

What inspired you to write a book about zombies?

I have always enjoyed post-apocalyptic fiction, because it really forces us to confront what things would be like if all the usual rules and norms that make for ‘civilized’ society disappear. If there’s anything history teaches us it is that our civilized veneer is at best a thin layer, which often enough is peeled back to reveal the savagery and cruelty we’re capable of. For a writer, that makes for rich territory, to showcase both the cruelty we’re capable of, and yet paint a picture of how even in such desperate conditions, we can discover hope. Zombies for me were a way of bringing that message to life and I try and treat zombies a bit differently than just mindless brain eating monsters, almost a metaphor for the evil we ourselves are capable of unleashing.

You can hardly expect a zombie novel to be devoid of gore. Was there anything you left out of the final copy because it was too gruesome for young adults?

Of course, while writing for younger readers, you do need to exercise some common sense and caution and not get too explicit – so you need the action without the gore, the romance without the explicit sex. But that’s not much of a challenge for me. In general, I believe in leaving things a bit to the imagination – sometimes, you can evoke stronger reactions and connections by letting the reader imagine what comes next instead of laying it all out in its gory details.

You’ve brought zombies to young Indian readers, which in itself is pretty unusual. Can you tell us a few of your favourite Indian books that deal with unconventional themes or plots?

One of my personal favourite novels by an Indian author is The Great Indian Novel that wonderfully weaves the Mahabharata with contemporary characters and events. Other books that are on my bookshelf next to my bed even today are The Inscrutable Americans and English, August. As a writer, I like putting unlikely protagonists into situations where they must discover themselves and what they are truly capable of, and both these books are great examples.

What’s your favourite part about writing for children?

It comes from the memory of how important books were in shaping me as a person. My love of writing was stoked by reading The Lord of the Rings as an eleven year old, and the dream of creating equally fantastic worlds and characters was born, one I carry in my head to this day, and try and live up to with every book I write. I’m certainly no Tolkien, but what motivates me about writing for younger readers is the knowledge that through my words and my ideas, I can aspire to evoke a similar love of reading and writing among them.

What advice would you give budding children’s authors?

The same advice I’d give any aspiring writer- read a lot, keep your mind open and fresh to new ideas and then sit yourself down and write! Don’t believe all the bullshit you hear about Writer’s Block – if you ever want to be a novelist, you need above all the discipline, and indeed the sheer bull-headedness to stick in there, and keep at it. Specifically for someone trying to write for younger readers – as the saying goes, walk a mile in their shoes. Understand what makes them tick, understand what’s on their mind, understand how they relate to things around them.

Any zombie survival tactics should someone get caught in an apocalypse of their own?

First, get lots of canned food and bottled water (hunger and thirst will kill you even if the zombies don’t). Second, find others to build up numbers since you won’t survive too long on your own. Finally, get a copy of Zombiestan – it should tell you all you need to know!