VANISHED – Interview and Giveaway!

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: )

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.

To learn more about Sheela Chari, go to her website: . And don’t forget to visit Keerthana’s page on the site where she wrote something about art.

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.

Jennifer Duddy Gill
  1. Sounds like a neat book . . . I’m always looking for books that give my students a glimpse of another country or culture.

  2. Thanks for helping us learn more about the publishing process, Keerthana! You have a beautiful smile, and I’m sure it will inspire your mom to write that book about you soon (not to put the pressure on, Sheela…)!

  3. That sounds like a facinating book–I’ll add it to my list!

  4. What a lovely interview! It’s fascinating to get Keerthana’s perspective. And I can’t wait to read this book!

  5. Oh, I hope we win this one even more than I normally hope! Sounds so unique and interesting – I love fresh ideas!

  6. I remember when this book was just an idea! (I think i even saw some of the first chapters.) This is super exciting! Congrats, Sheela. I am betting that this book will do well; it sounds like the sort of book booksellers love. 😉

  7. That was such a nice interview, very well thought out answers, I am truly impressed! We are waiting to get our hands on Vanished this summer, Sheela. Good luck with your story writing, Keerthana!

  8. Keerthana, I know it can be hard on the kids during deadlines. My family also knows about fast food and “flipped” households. It’s lovely to see how you’ve been such a loving support to your mom!

    Can’t wait to read her wonderful book.

  9. Keerthana is so cute! It’s great to get her perspective as someone directly impacted by the writing and publishing process. I’m really excited to check out Vanished!

  10. What an adorable interview!!! Loved it 🙂

  11. This sounds like such a fantastic book. I love that such smart books are being written for the middle grade audience instead of being tamed down thinking that kids this age aren’t interested in using their brain and being taken on an adventure rather than just reading about the same age old topics. While there is something to be said for those as well in their timeless quality, nothing beats a great, unique story that lets you travel to new places and open the doors of your mind. Can’t wait to get this one for my almost ten year old, who is a voracious reader. This is completely up her alley, especially since she is an aspiring musician as well. That will definitely draw her into the main character. Sounds great!!

  12. What a sweet interview! Love hearing Keerthana’s thoughts! Can’t wait to read Vanished. 🙂

  13. That was so sweet. Wonderful to hear Keerthana’s perspective! I look forward to reading Vanished!

  14. Sounds like a great book! I’d love to be part of the drawing for an ARC. And I think Sheela was very brave to let you interview her daughter — who let details slip like “we had fast food for dinner” when mom was busy!! (Made me laugh! I’m not sure I’d be willing to let my kids talk about what I’m like when I’m knee deep in a writing project!)

  15. Vanished sounds an interesting book. I’m always on the lookout for new authors to introduce to my students. I can think of a few girls in particular (of Indian descent) who seldom “see themselves” represented on the pages of the books they read that will probably love this book. I’m looking forward to reading it, and hope to see more novels from Sheela Chari in the future!