Some time ago, I read Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran’s book Mayil Will Not Be Quiet and loved it. As soon as I had finished reading the book, I started wondering about the way the book would have been conceived of and written. I wanted to know the story behind Mayil and, curious, wrote to the authors. Very graciously, they accepted my request for an interview on my blog!!
Excerpts from our e-mails:
How did you come up with the idea of writing Mayil Will Not Be Quiet? What was your inspiration behind the idea?
Both of us are interested in gender issues as well as children’s literature. When we were in college, we realized that looking at gender as a construct had to do with unlearning the ways in which we had been taught to think and behave all our lives. We wondered if our lives would have been different if we had known all this while growing up. Most of the material on the subject is theoretical and, therefore, not accessible to children, so we thought it’d be a good idea to write a children’s book on it. Mayil started off as a beginner’s text on gender, a kind of resource book that was intended for classroom use. However, it eventually became a diary. This genre gave us the opportunity to add more dimensions to her character and make her more knowable to the readers. The shift from a third person narrative (as it was in the resource book format) to the first person narrative (as it is now in the diary) is what has allowed for the intimacy between readers and Mayil.
How did you come up with the unique and lovely name of Mayil for the protagonist?
Well, the protagonist sounded like a Mayil!! 😀
Is the character of Mayil based on anyone you know in real life?
We actually got to know Mayil as we wrote different entries together. We would sometimes discuss how Mayil would react in a certain situation or not. We were inspired by our childhood, different interactions, and situations that happened to us as children, but Mayil is very much her own person. She has strong opinions, likes and dislikes, peeves, fears and all kinds of questions.
Are any of the instances mentioned in the book autobiographical, as in they have happened to you in your childhood?
Yes, there are a few! Sowmya’s mum would actually give her a rupee if she could keep quiet for ten minutes, for instance! Many of the school-based incidents are from real life too.
How did you decide on the title of the book? Any special significance behind it?
Mayil is spirited, even precocious at times. In her diary, she says, “…I’m going to write about everything I think of, and nobody is going to ask me to be quiet.“And so, there it is – the title – Mayil Will Not Be Quiet.
How did you (both the authors) collaborate to work on the book?
We really didn’t think much about collaborating on this when we were actually doing it. It’s only now when people wonder about how we managed to do it that we become conscious about the fact. We discussed what themes we would address in the book initially (when it was a resource book) – like gender and language, gender and work, gender and representation, etc. Then, one person would start writing a chapter and send it to the other whenever she got stuck or felt the other person completing it would make it more interesting. The entire book was done this way. If one of us felt that a certain line or incident was not working, we would discuss it and resolve the issue. Since we had a structure in place, writing the 2nd draft- the diary-was not too difficult.
What other books have you (both the authors) written in the past?
Young Adult: Mayil Will Not Be Quiet
Picture Books: Jalebi Curls (2008, story), 9 to 1(2009, story and pictures), The Musical Donkey(2010, story), The Sky Monkey’s Beard(2011, story and pictures), Click!(2011, text), Where’sthe Sun? (2012, story)
Young Adult: Mayil Will Not Be Quiet
Anthology: Water Stories From Around the World
Is there going to be a sequel to Mayil Will Not Be Quiet? When is it coming out?
Yes, it is slated for 2013.
What are the other books you (both the authors) working on in the moment?
Sowmya is currently working on an adventure series for Karadi tales. Niveditha will be illustrating her second picture book for Tulika later this year, and she is very excited about it.
What are you (both the authors) doing when you are not writing books?
Niveditha, apart from writing, loves reading, listening to music and photography. Sowmya loves blogging, and is currently balancing between being a work-from-home plus stay-at-home mum, and managing content for a soon-to-be-launched website for children’s books.
What if Mayil Will Not Be Quiet were to be made into a movie?
If it were to be made into a Tamil movie, we hope it can have an embarrassingly fun rap song. 🙂
Did you start with a clear picture of how the book should be and then develop on it, or did the book take on a flow of its own once you started writing?
It really did take on a flow of its own once it took on the diary form. (It was Tulika’s Publishing Editor, Radhika Menon, whose idea the diary form was.) Also, the book’s editor, Deeya Nayar, gave us gentle hints and suggestions, which were quite encouraging.
How similar is Mayil to you in real life?
While we have tried to address a host of issues through her voice, we were conscious that Mayil have a character of her own. There is a bit of us in her, though, especially in her usage of language; it does go back to middle school, for both of us.
Have you been avid journal-writers in real life too, like Mayil, in childhood?
Both of us did keep diaries, but neither of us were dedicated diary writers like Mayil.
Eagerly waiting now for Mayil‘s sequel to come out!!