Nandini Nayar is the author of Don’t Tell Your Mother, a YA novel that terrifies you with its strange and ancient evil that its protagonist, a 13-year-old Ritu, awakens out of the ruins of her staid Gulmohur Avenue. Nandini has written several books for children previously, and we asked her what is it about childhood that makes it such an inspiration for fantasy writers:
Do you write everyday? Where and when do you write?
Yes, I do write every single day, except over the weekends. I write through the day, starting early. By 9 I am usually at work, either planning a new story or, if I am in the middle of one, typing away. The planning involves detailed notes, questions to myself, and random thoughts which I scribble in my notebook as and when they come to me. I take frequent breaks, but if the story is going well, I write for as long as I can. Picture book stories are always on paper, and I like to use a pencil. Multiple drafts later, I type these up.
Do you listen to music while you write? What’s on your playlist at the moment?
The music is pretty much in the background. I listen to Hindi songs on the internet and most of the time I am not even aware which songs are playing. But occasionally I take a break to listen to songs of my choice. These change periodically, so really, there isn’t a playlist!
What is your go-to site for distracting yourself? Or do you refuse to browse the net while writing?
Oh, the net is the greatest distraction to anyone working on a computer connected to the internet. I am secretly relieved when the internet connection snaps since this means I can work without allowing myself to get distracted. When I take a break from writing, it is to read reviews and articles but the greatest distraction is reading recipes.
Don’t Tell Your Mother is about a child discovering monsters are real. Who’s your favourite fictional monster?
There is a general perception that monsters are from an alien world and that is why strangers are the most likely monsters for most people. But for me, when the familiar turns strange, that is when monsters are born. Parents and grandparents turning into monsters is the scariest scenario for me and so, the father in The Shining is the worst kind of monster for me.
A lot of the book is about going back to childhood — and this remains a favourite plot device of several writers. Why is childhood such a favourite place for fantasy writers to visit for inspiration?
Childhood is a time when we see and feel things in stark details. Children classify people as very good or completely rotten. As we grow older, these perceptions change, and we allow ourselves to be fooled into trusting people and believing in their lies. Also, the root of most grown-up pains lie in the shadow of childhood. Any writer who wishes to explore these fears and uncertainties cannot avoid that beautiful and terrible time in our life called childhood.