One of our own contributing members of the Mixed-Up Files, Sheela Chari, will be making her author debut on August 9, 2011.
VANISHED (Disney, Hyperion Books)
Missing. Found. And gone again. Eleven-year-old Neela dreams of being a famous musician, performing for admiring crowds on her traditional Indian stringed instrument. Her particular instrument was a gift from her grandmother — intricately carved with a mysterious-looking dragon.
When this special family heirloom vanishes from a local church, strange clues surface: a teakettle ornamented with a familiar pointy-faced dragon, a threatening note, a connection to a famous dead musician, and even a legendary curse. The clues point all the way to India, where it turns out that Neela’s instrument has a long history of vanishing and reappearing. Even if Neela does track it down, will she be able to stop it from disappearing again?
Sheela Chari’s debut novel is a finely tuned story of coincidence and fate, trust and deceit, music and mystery.
Through the wonderful world of blogging, Sheela Chari and I have known each other for about, oh, five years. I remember that when her book was on submission she worked on other writing projects, plus, she held an internship at a publishing house, and she had her second baby. Then one day on her blog she “spilled the beans” about her book sale. Her post was so subtle and humble that many of her readers missed the announcement. That was more than 2 years ago. Here’s the link to her post.
A lot has changed in Sheela’s family life as well as her writing career since I first met her. I’ve often wondered what it’s like for a family when a parent becomes a published author and rather than asking Sheela about it, I decided to ask her daughter. Keerthana is seven years old and has a baby sister who is two-and-a-half years old. Our interview was done mostly by way of video — I emailed her questions and she answered them for me in front of a camera. It was really fun for me to hear her voice and her laugh, plus she’s got a wonderful toothless smile.
Hi Keerthana! I happen to know that your mother plays the violin and VANISHED is about a musician. I get the impression music is an important part of your family life.
Yes. I love to play the piano and the violin. The violin is my favorite because I’ve been learning it longer than piano. I love playing instruments. I love music.
In VANISHED, the main character, Neela, was based on your real-life cousin named Neela who really does play the veena. How did you feel about your mother writing a book about your cousin?
I felt happy. It’s a nice family, character kind of book. I kind of wish she’d written about me but I’m still really glad she wrote about Neela because she wrote a wonderful novel. My name, Keerthana, is a type of song that you learn on the veena. My name is mentioned about four times in the epilogue at the end of the book. That’s how my mom fit me in – Neela plays it on her veena. I think my mom will write a book about me someday.
Are you a writer too? Does your mom help you?
Right now in school we’re writing our own fairy tales and folk tales. I’m also writing my own novel on the computer. My mom helps sometimes. I need help with the way the page is laid out. I want to do it all by myself because otherwise it’s not really my book. Maybe she can help edit the spelling and punctuation.
From your experience you probably know a lot about how a book gets published. Can you explain it to us?
First, you get your contract – your agent and editor take care of it. The contract tells you for sure that the book is going to get published and it gives the amount of money you need. Mom had, like, five deadlines with her editor and she was very busy during this time. (Keerthana laughs) I was stuck with my little sister and mom was working on the computer. She got pretty stressed out, she almost started screaming. It took her about ten months.
What were your favorite parts about the process?
I especially loved Jon Klassen’s drawings. They were really cool. We also got an unbound galley while we were on vacation in the summer of 2010. It was awesome! I read the prologue and first chapter and it was really good. A few months later, we got the ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) and I loved reading the whole book together with my mom. I actually loved everything. I can’t say that there was a favorite part of the process. (To see more of Jon Klassen’s amazing artwork, like the wyvern shown here, go to: http://www.burstofbeaden.com/ )
What was your least favorite part of the process?
The deadlines. They took away all the time and we had fast food for dinner.
I can imagine! Mostly it sounds like you’ve enjoyed being a part of your mother’s book publication journey, but has anything been difficult over the past year since your mom has been working so hard on her writing?
No. Maybe if I was younger. She was suddenly not spending as much time with us and the household kind of flipped a little. I used to be able to sit with her at night, we’d talk and she’d read to me. But then, now, she’s working in the night and she has other stuff to do too. But since I’m older, almost eight, it didn’t feel like such a big deal. It’s a happy household and I feel really happy. I’m really glad that VANISHED is coming out.
I’m glad too! Keerthana, thank you so much for answering all of my questions. I’ve enjoyed “meeting” you and I have a feeling that someday I’ll be interviewing your mom with questions about what it’s like to have a daughter who’s a famous author and illustrator.
If you’d like to win an ARC of VANISHED, just leave a post in the comment section and on Tuesday, January 25, I will draw names and announce the winner.
Jennifer Duddy Gill has the privilege of working with truly amazing kids in an elementary school in Denver. She also writes humorous middle-grade novels and is represented by Wendy Schmalz.