Seven-year-old V Arun has to cope with big changes in life when his single mother has to take him on court-appointed dates to his father, a stranger who now wants him to call him ‘Pops’. Balaji Venkataramanan, author of Pops, published by Duckbill, and Flat-track Bullies which was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award, talks about why children’s books can be read by adults too.
How did the story come to you?
One day I was watching a video online and it was a courtroom scene. I have also known someone go through the separation trauma and that is where the idea came from. I wanted to write from the child’s point of view. What he or she goes through, when the parents part. However, it’s all fiction.
If you had to describe the book in brief, what would it be?
It is and it is not a children’s book. The protagonist happens to be a seven-year-old. The story is about how his perception of his estranged father changes over the course of the story. That I assume is pretty adult stuff.
The book addresses modern families and Arun seems well-adjusted, happy with his mom and the presence of a new partner in her life. Any takeaways for kids?
Nope, the story came to me that way and I let it be like that. I don’t write moral science stories. If someone still wants takeaways, well the magic tricks and the joy of reading are the takeaways for the kids from the book.
The book also addresses animosity between separated parents that can trickle down to the kids, as seen in the family court. Would this be difficult for kids to understand?
Kids are smart. Actually, smarter than adults. They understand the story and that it is just a slice from the life of Arun, between one moral science period to the next. The change in perception that is happening in him is the story. Many adults don’t get it. They turn judgmental taking sides and assume the story would end a particular way. When it doesn’t end the way they had expected they get disappointed. A few have asked if there a sequel and that the story seems to have ended abruptly. Well, well…
The illustrations, like squiggles, are placed at the end of the page. Tell us about that.
The cover has been designed by Ayushi and I really like it. The illustrations were the publisher’s idea and have come out great. Thanks to Twiggy!
How is it being a children’s author in India? Any particular challenges that you face?
It feels great. I just consider myself a writer. The only thing is that the protagonists in both my books happen to be kids. As for challenges, books for kids are not necessarily creations of some juvenile mind; they can be read by adults as well.
Writers today are also forced to market their books…any messages for parents, booksellers?
Well, dear parents, if you want your kid to make money by writing, advice them to turn book reviewers rather than authors. I tell you, being a reviewer is more lucrative than being an author. Two books a month and you have a set income. Booksellers, you want to stock something that sells – what if I write some Mills and Boon for kids? Would that work?