Sarena Nanua and Sasha Nanua are twin sisters living in Ontario, Canada. Born on Diwali 10 minutes apart from each other, they grew up loving stories about twins and magic, and began writing books together when they were 9 years old.
They are graduates of the English and Professional Writing programs at the University of Toronto. They are also the authors of Sisters of the Snake and the Pendant trilogy.
Q&A with Author: Kevin Sands
- Where do you find the inspiration for your books?
We find inspiration all around us! Usually, we’re inspired by books we’re reading or TV shows we’re watching, and sometimes we get that “lightbulb” moment without intentionally seeking out inspiration. For example, when we were younger we loved to watch Mary-Kate and Ashley movies; those fun twin adventures definitely planted the seed for us to write our own sister switch in Sisters of the Snake!
What were your favourite books when you were a kid? As a young reader, did you see yourself in the books you read?
We loved reading books like The Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, Percy Jackson, and everything in between. Unfortunately, we never quite saw characters who looked like us in the books we read; if they were featured, they were usually side characters. The first time we ever read an Indian-coded protagonist was in The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. We were nineteen years old at the time. We’re so grateful that there are many more books being published by Indian authors in all sorts of genres!
What’s the most surprising thing you have learned when creating your books?
As we’ve grown as writers and written more and more novels, we’ve found that we’re open to writing many more genres than we’d originally anticipated! We started out mainly writing fantasy novels. Over the past few years, we’ve opened our minds to historical fiction, mysteries, and even writing in different categories like middle grade and adult. We find that writing for different ages helps us unlock our creativity and exercise our writing muscles even more.
What is a challenge you have faced as a writer?
One of the biggest challenges we faced while writing Sisters of the Snake and Daughters of the Dawn was paring down the narrative and streamlining our work. (In other words, we tend to be over-writers!). Something we’ve learned over the past few years is that sometimes a simpler plot or narrative works better than a complex one. It can be difficult for us to process because we love twists, turns, and cliffhangers! We’ve learned to pull back where possible and let the story and characters shine for themselves.
What advice do you have for kids who are interested in writing?
Sarena’s advice: We recommend that you read as much as possible. Reading helps you begin to understand how to structure a story. Look at how your favourite authors write—what about their books excites you? When you’ve begun to understand what the key elements of a story are, you can apply them to your own work.
Sasha’s advice: The idea of writing a whole book can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be scary! Just try writing the whole thing, because once you’re done, you can always go back and fix it. The revision process is a big and important part of being a writer. You can share your work with close friends or family to start getting feedback, too!
How do you write your books as a team? How does that work?
We have been writing books together since we were nine years old. We think our love of reading naturally spawned into a love of writing, and because we’re twins, we have a lot of similar likes and dislikes, and thoughts and ideas. However, when we write, we will usually plan out the whole book in advance (or at least a few chapters) and divide the work evenly. For example, in Sisters of the Snake and Daughters of the Dawn, the main two perspectives are Ria and Rani. Depending on the draft, one of us would be more focused on Ria’s storyline and the other Rani’s storyline, and then we would switch for the next draft so we were always on top of each other’s work. We tend to use Google Docs so we can work on a draft simultaneously.
We also love to come up with ideas and keep them in journals, but sometimes we won’t tell each other those ideas for months and months. Then, when we come together to nail down our next project, we find that we were both already on the same page with our ideas—or that we can combine our book concepts to make something new and exciting! For example, Sarena loves historical books, and Sasha loves mysteries/thrillers, so our latest project is a historical novel with fun mystery and puzzle elements. We can’t wait to share it with the world!