Apeksha Rao is a born and bred Mumbaikar and comes from a family of doctors. A homeopath with a theatre background, her case takings have made her a keen observer of human nature and helps her craft strong and relatable characters. Apeksha has been writing since she was seven. A full-time writer now, Apeksha is a die-hard foodie who’s still trying to find the best vada-pav in Bengaluru, the city she moved to after winding up her practice in Mumbai. She has written numerous short stories on her blog while her prequel novel Itsy Bitsy Spyder has been the talk of the town.
In a conversation with Saurabh Tankha, Apeksha who is a polyglot (she was fluent in six languages by the age of five) talks about penning the country’s first young adult spy fiction, how different is writing a novel than blogging, revival of lending libraries and book clubs, her life and more…
When did you decide to pen Along Came A Spyder?
I used to write short stories about a group of teen spies, and while those stories were more about the missions than the spies, I could see the character of Samira Joshi slowly taking shape. When she started pushing her way into all the short stories, I realised that this bossy little miss deserves her own story. That’s how Along Came A Spyder was born. It took me two years to write the book.
At 17, Samira Joshi has only one dream in life. She wants to be a spy. And why not? Spying runs in the Joshi genes. Her great-grandmother was famous for sticking her nose in everyone’s business. Her grandmother had a flourishing side-business of tracking down errant husbands and missing servants. Her parents are elite intelligence agents for RAW…
How different is writing a novel from blogs?
It’s very different. The word count of most of my blog posts is around one thousand words. Along Came A Spyder was around 63,000 words. To begin a story and develop it into something that long, takes a lot of effort.
You are a homeopath, have a theatre background, have learnt to play sitar, written stories since you were seven, are a blogger and a mother to twins. Which of these roles do you love playing the most and why?
I’ve actually enjoyed doing all of it, because each of those roles taught me something important. But being a mother is the best part of it. It is immensely frustrating, scary and so much fun.
What points did you keep in mind to ensure the book fell in the Young Adult genre?
I had to get the Young Adult voice right, which means that I had to get the teen lingo right, as well as how a teen would react to any
particular situation. That was the most important part. Once I got that right, everything else fell into place. It also helped that my own voice is still that of a teenager. I hope never to grow up.
Who has been the most inspirational person in your life and why?
I’ve been inspired by a lot of people, from my family, to friends to teachers. Every person we meet is on a special journey, and how they go through their journey can teach us a lot, if we care to learn.
What does it take to be good storyteller?
You need to be good at observing people, without judging them based on your prejudices. Only then will your characters be real. And you need to be fearless, willing to give voice to things that people might prefer to sweep under the carpet.
Do you feel the books today have become so expensive that they have gone out of reach of the common man and has resulted in the reading habit going down to some extent?
Not at all. In fact, people are reviving lending libraries and book clubs. Also, e-books are cheaper than paperbacks, so people are finding newer ways to read. Non-readers are participating in reading challenges that expose them to a wide variety of genres in the hope of finding something to suit their palate.
Any author who inspired you to write?
I’m a voracious reader, reading almost a book a day. So, I can’t pinpoint any one author. Books that you enjoy give you something to aspire to, while books that you don’t like teach you how not to write.
What is that one thing which is the most important part of a book?
The narrative! That is what grips the reader first and if the narrative is strong enough, it will hold the reader long enough for the plot to unfold. Even if the plot is wonderful, you run the risk of losing the reader if it isn’t accompanied by a good narrative.
The word “creative” to you is…
Expression and innovation.
Fiction or non-fiction.
Favourite childhood book.
Anything written by Enid Blyton.
Favourite childhood author.
Favourite book now.
I’m currently rhapsodising about The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell.
Favourite author now.
My current favourite is Lisa Jewell. But it changes every time I discover a wonderful new author.
You are, at present, reading
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith.