Mahtab Narsimhan is an award-winning author with numerous critically acclaimed books including The Third Eye, which won the Silver Birch Fiction Award. She is inspired by the desire to make sense of the world through stories and is deeply committed to representing diversity in her books.

Author Q&A with Mahtab Narsimhan

Where do you find the inspiration for your books?
Everywhere I look! In fact, it’s hard not to be inspired by the world and the different people you meet. Keep an open mind and ideas will fly in. I’m often jotting down lists of things I should research which might have the potential to make a book length story. 

What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?
I loved fantasy novels and still do!
A (very) few favourite books are: 
·    The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. 
·    The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
·    The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
·    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
·    The Little Bookroom by Eleonor Farjeon
·    Short Stories by Munshi Premchand 

If I read fiction written by Indian authors, then yes, I did see myself in them. The lure of reading books written by non-Indian authors was huge because they gave me a glimpse into a world I was not familiar with. Having studied in a private school with a British curriculum, Enid Blyton and other English authors were popular in the school library. I loved reading about potted meat, scones, and ginger beer, not having the slightest clue what these foods and drink were. I discovered what they were, much later in life. That did not take away the enjoyment of reading the books. 

Fun Story: We were allowed only three books on our library card. I used to read books so fast that I could get through three books within a couple of days and had to wait an entire weekend to visit the library again. I managed to sneak a second card so I could borrow more books at a time, ensuring that I never ran out of reading material. 

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned when creating your books?
That characters do take on a life of their own and tell you who they are, if you pay attention. I also love how a kernel of a story idea, if nurtured, can grow into a whole novel, a huge world, with multiple characters. 

What is a challenge you have faced as a writer?
The glacial pace at which things move in this industry. These days, due to global warming, even glaciers move faster than it takes an agent or editor to respond to queries. I’m impulsive and impatient and yet I can spend endless hours, days, months perfecting a manuscript, sending it out, waiting for a response, getting rejections, and then going through it all over again for every new manuscript. All I can say is that I love writing and creating. I cannot think of any other job that would bring me as much joy and satisfaction. 

What advice do you have for kids who are interested in writing? 
Read a lot in every genre possible. Write every day if you can. Take writing courses, ask for help to perfect the craft. Enjoy the process to publication and not just the result of having a published book in hand. Writing is basically re-writing. Be patient, and work at making your story the best it can be. Only then will readers connect with and love your characters and the world you have created.