It’s been a long time since I last held an author interview, I think that was probably the beginning of 2018? So basically it’s been too long and now here I am with an interesting interview with one of my favourite YA authors. If you follow me on any social media site you will know that I am an enormous fan of Sandhya Menon and keep yelling at people to go read her books. I’ve especially been fawning over her latest book, There’s Something About Sweetie which I shall forever treasure and hold close to my heart.
So let’s welcome the queen of desi YA books, Sandhya Menon herself!
1) Hi Sandhya! I am a huge fan of your writing process, especially the plotting wall. How long and how many WIPs did it take you to come up with the plotting process you are currently using?
I’m so glad you like my plotting wall! It took me SO MANY years—probably ten years and as many WIPs, if not more—to get to the point where the plotting wall came into existence. It was borne from need—when I was writing just for myself, it didn’t really matter if I spent months in editing. But with project deadlines and contract comes a pressing need to finish projects quickly and neatly.
2) We all know inspiration can strike any time, any where. What is the strangest place where you came up with an idea for one of your novels?
My idea for Of Curses and Kisses came while I was staying at an extended stay hotel with my family (while we were waiting for our house to be built). I sat bolt upright in the middle of the night while everyone was sleeping and tapped away the seed of the idea on my phone and then promptly fell back asleep. I was pleasantly surprised to find the note in the morning!
3) I really love how in all your books the side characters are given their own story to tell. Some books try to do that and accidentally shift the focus to the side characters instead of the main ones. How do you avoid that?
Good question! This has definitely been a case of trial and error for me. Sometimes I do give my side characters a little too much or too little to do, and one of my first readers will point this out (my agent, my editor, etc.). At that point I have to go back and tweak what’s on the page, whether that means adding more or cutting stuff. More recently I’ve begun to make character sheets for all my meatier side characters, which helps a lot with that issue. I know exactly what I want them to do and how I want them to grow in the course of the book before I start, which in turn informs my plotting process, which in turn leads to fewer big revisions.
4) I really admire your writing style and how you always pay great attention to the details. What kind of research do you do for your books, and how long do you typically spend researching before actually writing a book?
Thank you! I love YouTube for research. Seeing people actually driving around a city or doing an activity you want to write about but don’t necessarily want to try yourself (like archery, in one of my upcoming books) can help immensely with getting the flavor of the scene right.
I tend to spend the entire time I’m writing a book doing research—just not during the times that I’m actively drafting. If I don’t know the nitty gritty details of a scene because those require research I haven’t done yet, I’ll just jot a note down and keep moving. Once I’m done with my writing for the day, I’ll go research whatever the note tells me to research! This way, I avoid falling down the research rabbit hole where so many authors (myself included!) get lost.
5) Many people are cautious while writing about their own cultures especially if they have migrated elsewhere. What advice would you give to these own voice writers?
I don’t think people of any culture are a monolith. What it means to be from a culture is as unique and diverse as the people on this earth. So just write your experience, be sure to have other people read it to tell you if you’ve messed up anywhere (we all have those internalized prejudices), and do the best you can do. That’s all any of us can do, ultimately.
6) If you had to sum up your book There’s Something About Sweetie in 3 emojis which ones would they be?
7) Which of the scenes in There’s Something About Sweetie were the hardest for you to write?
The scenes with Sweetie and her mom were super hard to write! I didn’t want to, but I knew I had to in order for the characters to really grow. Similarly, writing that one scene toward the end, during Sweetie’s music performance (if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about) was so hard! I really didn’t want to go there, but I knew it was crucial if I wanted to tell the story in my head.
8) Can you let us in on a section, scene or even a quote that you had to cut out from There’s Something About Sweetie?
I had a little, funny, unfinished scene where Ashish names his red Porsche Nick and then defends that name to Sweetie, but I ended up taking it out in the interest of brevity! 🙂
9) Now let’s play a quick little game! I’m going to give you some situations and you have to choose which character from There’s Something About Sweetie would be the most likely to be in that situation.
- Who would be most likely to say that they loved a dish that someone else made when they hated it and end up acting as if they love it for the rest of their life?
Ha! I could definitely see both Sweetie and Oliver doing this.
- Who would place toothpaste filled Oreos in the fridge to prank someone but forget all about it and accidentally end up eating them?
Definitely Ashish, lol
- Who is most likely to wake everyone up at 4 am and prepare sandwiches for a group trip?
That was so much fun! This was literally a dream come true, to interview Sandhya, I literally didn’t expect her to agree to the interview seeing that she’s so busy with like six books coming up in the next two – three years. Thank you so very much for agreeing to this interview, Sandhya. It means a lot to me 🙂