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Little Willow

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Interview: Varsha Bajaj

If you liked the film What a Girl Wants, you should check out Varsha Bajaj's brand-new novel Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood. When 13-year-old Abby, raised by her single mother, learns that her father is a famous Bollywood actor, she travels across the world to meet him.

I got to know author Varsha Bajaj while working on her official website. Now this interview can let you all get to know her a little better!

You grew up in India, then moved to America when you were a graduate student. Had you ever visited America before?

I had not visited America before except through books and movies! American Universities were and still are highly respected in India.

What inspired the move?

I wanted to study abroad, see the world. I wanted more from life. I had been to England a few years before I came here and America felt like the next logical move.

Do you enjoy traveling?

I love traveling but I also love coming back home. In fact there is nothing like traveling to make you appreciate home.

Have any of your kids been bitten by the traveling bug?

We have traveled as a family since the kids were young and so yes, both kids want to travel. My son talks of doing a semester at sea, and my daughter talks of studying abroad too.

In your novel, Abby is very close to her mother and maternal grandparents. Were you close to your parents and grandparents when you were growing up? Which adult was your biggest confidant?

I was close to my parents and grandparents. My paternal grandparents lived with us when I was growing up. My grandfather first introduced me to Western literature. He would read Jane Austen aloud. I would say that my aunt was my biggest confidant. She seemed more accessible somehow.

What traits do you and Abby have in common?

Abby is optimistic and spunky. She absorbs new situations with enthusiasm. I like to think I do the same.

What would you like booksellers, teachers, and librarians to know about your book?

My book is heartfelt and addresses issues such as cultural identity and disparities in society without being preachy. I try to never forget what kind of book I would have liked to pick up when I was tween.

You've taught creative writing and spoken at schools. What do you enjoy most about working with young readers and writers?

They have such energy and joy. Sometimes as an adult you lose that magical optimism. Being around young people is a great way to stay young at heart.

What's the biggest challenge you face when writing a picture book?

I love picture books. The biggest challenge is to not overwrite, to leave room for the illustrator. It is not easy to make an emotional connection with your very young reader and the adult reading aloud with few words at your disposal.

How do you find your collaborators, your illustrators?

Once a manuscript is sold, the acquiring editor pairs you with an illustrator. The editor usually asks for your approval. I have been lucky that every time I have been blown away by the illustrator.

What's next for you? What other cool projects do you have on your plate?

I am working on my next middle grade novel. It’s too early to talk about the details. I also have a picture book manuscript that is out on submission. I have my fingers crossed. It’s exciting!

Good luck! What are your top ten favorite books?

Oh my! There are so many books and so little time. Don’t you agree? But some of my favorites are:

Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck
The Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon
Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
You Read to me, I'll Read to You by Mary Ann Hoberman

I really could go on and on. I am a book addict and I don’t want to recover!

To learn more about Varsha Bajaj and her books, please visit

Tags: books, interviews

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