An Interview with Nadishka Aloysius

 

Author Bio

Nadishka Aloysius a teacher, author, actor and working mom from Sri Lanka (that is the little pearl shaped island off the southern coast of India).

She has been an avid reader from when she was very young. She tried her hand at creative writing in her teens but then took a long break. She resumed after having two boys of her own with endless questions, active imagination and insatiable curiosity.

  A teacher of speech, drama and communication, with qualifications from Trinity College London (FTCL) and University of West London (FLCM).

Nadishka Aloysius also holds an MA in Linguistics from the University of Kelaniya.

She also works with  children and  writes stories in English for kids. All of her books are set in Sri Lanka, but generic enough that they can be enjoyed by anyone. 

As a reader her tastes are quite eclectic. She will shy away from romance novels and ‘chick-lit’ though. She has a large collection of crime fiction (mostly Agatha Christie), Fantasy (Tolkien is a favourite), classics, children’s literature (from Paddington to the original Pooh Bear to Harry Potter), autobiographies, biographies and other non-fiction. 

               -Twenty Questions-

                      With Nadishka Aloysius

1. Where or how did you come up with the idea for this book and series?

The series is called Mystery Book Club. Book number 1 is PETSCAPADE. I received ‘nudges’ to my psyche from a couple of places actually. The first incident was that a friend of mine invited me to join a book club. Now, although I have been an avid reader since childhood I’ve never joined a group to discuss a book. And I thought how nice that would have been had I had the chance when I was growing up. The second incident was that my kids and I rescued an injured kitten. It had been run over by a car in the car park of our apartment building and needed to have her leg amputated. My kids (I have two boys aged 3 and 7) were really keen that we save the kitten. We were unable to keep her but we did find her a new home. So a club and a cat – that’s where I started this series.

2. When you sit down to write do you have an idea where you are going or does it just happen as you’re sitting there? Or is it actually the Characters writing the story?

Well, both really. When I get an idea I sit down and write a plot outline and think about climaxes and twists etc. I hammer out who the main characters are going to be. And I try to figure out early on what obstacles I want to throw in the protagonist’s path. But sometimes the characters do take over as I write. For example, in my book Ronan’s Dinosaur the character of the Tryx the Archeopteryx just jumped on to the page! I could even hear how she would talk (it was a southern American drawl. Kind of Dixie Chick) and I could see how she would move and that part of the story just wrote itself

3. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

In the Mystery Book Club series I’ve written only one book so far. The second is a plot outline in my notebook. It was my first mystery and I loved the idea of red-herrings and clues. You know, giving just enough information to the reader but also misleading them. That was fun.

4. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Well, like I said earlier there was the cat rescue which was very real. I am not a cat person. So I had to read up a bit about keeping cats as housepets. The cultural setting is also quite real and based on characters we commonly see in Colombo. But the thing is, Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, and the incidents are quite generic really and anyone anywhere in the world can relate to issues like prejudice.
In my fantasy short story for YA readers Raavana’s Daughter I had to use my imagination extensively for obvious reasons – the main characters are an Ape and a Mermaid! But there is a little seduction too and (blush) I’ve never tried that so… yeah… lot of imagination used!

5. What is your favorite quote from a book of fiction?

Wow that’s tough. I have so many favourite books… I think one of the many from either Lord of the Rings / Hobbit or Harry Potter I think

6. On that vein who would be your favorite Author? What writers influenced you?

My favourite authors are JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling. Their writing styles are obviously different but the world they create is so convincing it just drags you in.

7 Do you have a favorite fictional character?

Hmm… I like the female antagonists I think. I am an actor too and that is one fun role I would love to play on stage!

8. What five words describe you?

organised, serious, passionate, impulsive, academic

9. What if any project are you working on now?(go ahead promote away!)

There are two projects I am working on.
I am focusing on expanding my Mystery Book Club series. I have a plot outline for book 2. And a title – POISON PEN. I also have the notes (actually I think it will be spray painted on walls) I need to revisit the characters and see how their lives can grow and expand in the next installment. I just need to sit down and start writing! But I’ve kept that on hold since I have to first get people to buy book 1 which was published as an ebook only in July. I am trying to run a few giveaways etc and I am promoting on my FB page
The second project is getting the illustrations done for the paperback version of Raavana’s Daughter. I have teamed up with a fantastic young artist who works with ink and his fantasy drawings are meant to be the focus of the story. Also I need to sell more copies of that one to convince a publisher to take it on…

10. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

That I don’t delve deeper into the story. I have had people tell me that they wanted to know more about a particular incident, but I’d moved on in the tale. So now I need to re-read and make sure there are enough details.

11. What has been the best compliment?

That my stories are accessible by both adults and children. That they are written in such a way that makes an impression

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

Yes. Toran and the Alphabet Fairy is a story I wrote while teaching my elder son to read. He was 4 at the time and I used his name for the main character. It is not an alphabet book in the traditional way. It has a plot and storyline. An adult has to read it to the kids. There are 28 chapters since it is a short chapter per letter. Somehow, only those whom I have personally convinced to try it have bought the ebook. But the thing is, once they try it they say it was fantastic!
The paperback version I was trying to get published at home has stickers too for kids to paste as they go – but no publisher wanted to take it on…

13. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Not everyone leaves a review. Those from outside of Sri Lanka who have left a comment are pleasantly surprised at our culture and values. For example, there was one review of PETSCAPADE that commented on the fact that the kids in the story don’t spend time taking selfies and that was a nice change! Another review of RONAN’S DINOSAUR liked the fact that the story is set outside of the US where most things seem to otherwise take place!

14. What do you think makes a good story?

A good story is something that opens new horizons. It has to stay with you for a couple of days after you put it down. For me, it must also have some humour to keep it going.

15. I think I know your answer but , what’s more important to you Characters or plot?

Both!

16. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I bought a Kindle device recently so that I can do what I love 24/7 which is read! As a busy working mother who spends a lot of time running around, I love to read whenever possible. So it is not an unusual sight seeing me with the device in hand while queuing at the supermarket!

17. How about a snippet from your book that will hook a prospective reader and make them want to read

your book.

This is Chapter 6 from PETSCAPADE

petscapade by Nadishka AloysiusOn Monday, Ronali joined Cara after school. They gobbled a hasty lunch and visited Sanu next door. Ronali was impressed by the decorative wrought-iron gate and modern split-level house. It had a very high ceiling which made the interior spacious and airy. There was a stark whiteness about it that was both beautiful and a little forbidding at the same time.

Sanu was well-prepared to make the posters. She and her mother had bought the necessary craft material the previous evening. The girls spread out the things in the living room, so that they could chat to the others as they worked.

          Daya, the live-in maid was young and chatty. She was very interested in what they were doing, and offered to help with the project, so they interviewed her first. They had printed out photographs and contact information, which they had to paste on to large boards. While they worked, Daya went on and on about what a beautiful cat Precious was.

          “Was she any trouble? I mean, some cats tear curtains and climb all over, don’t they?” asked Cara.

          “Oh, of course not!” said Daya, “our cat was very well-behaved. Quite the young lady, really.”

          “So, Daya, we heard that the cat went missing after lunch,” commented Ronali.

          “Yes, [1]Baba, I gave her her lunch at about noon as always and then went about my work. Cats are so much more independent than dogs, you know. I could just leave her with a toy. She waits until Sanu Baba comes home from school.”

          “You must have had to clean her after she finished eating,” Sanu jumped in.

          “Hmph! Baba, you love that cat, but you don’t clean it! All that hair – cat’s are clean animals but with hair like that, it’s a full-time job looking after it! However daintily she picks at her food, it gets everywhere! It took me almost an hour to wash and shampoo and dry and comb her like you have taught me. I don’t know why you couldn’t have got one that had less hair!” Sensing that the girls were genuinely interested in the day’s events, she continued, “Yes, I cleaned her. Then I went out to water the plants.”

          “Er… could you have, maybe, left the door open so that she wandered out?” asked Cara.

          “Definitely not!”  exclaimed the maid, as she stood up. “I don’t know why I’m standing here chatting to you, when I have so much to do!” She bustled off quickly.

          “That sounded as if she DID leave the door open, and doesn’t want to admit it,” commented Ronali.

          “That’s what my mother said,” said Sanu. “That’s why Daya was crying on Friday.”

          Cara took out a notebook and quickly jotted down what they had learned. “Shall we try and talk to the cook next?” she suggested when she was done.

          “It’s 3 o’clock. Rani will be leaving soon,” said Sanu, checking her watch.

          “I know!” said Ronali, “Let’s do something outside, so that we can catch her as she’s leaving!”

          So the three girls took the posters they had drawn out into the garden and laid them on the grass to dry. Then they just pottered around, keeping an eye out for the cook.

          Rani was large, and very dark. She rolled along, rather than walked. As she sailed out from the back entrance and steered towards the gate, the girls pretended to be checking out a bush of small white flowers.

          “Ah! Rani!” said Sanu, as she approached. “What flower is this? My friend here thinks it’s a kind of temple flower.”

          “Temple flower!” snorted Rani. “It’s jasmine! Young girls these days don’t know anything!”

          Plastering a smile to her face, Cara said, “We were thinking of checking out places to put up our posters. Can we walk with you as you go to the bus stop?”

          Rani shrugged and opened the gate.

          It was more a slow meander, rather than a walk. Burdened with two large bags, Rani moved at snail’s pace. As they walked, Sanu asked her what there was for dinner, and made small conversation. She kept glancing at the other two hoping they would jump in and ask their ‘interview’ questions.

          Finally, Ronali said, “You must be having less work now that the cat is not there to look after.”

          Rani gave her a look and said, “It was not my job to care for that cat – I barely saw it! I cooked whatever Madam asked me to, that’s it. Of course, that cat had a very good life. It didn’t need to wander into my kitchen mewing for food!”

          “So, were you in the house when the cat went missing?”

          “I always leave at this time. Otherwise I can’t catch the bus back. When I left on Friday everything was normal. I didn’t even hear about the whole thing until I came to work this morning.”

          “What do you think may have happened to it?”

          Rani just shrugged, and kept moving.

          “Did you like the cat?” Cara asked.

          The cook stopped and turned on them. “It is not my job to like or dislike anything. I keep my head down and do my work. It would be nice if the others in the house pulled their own weight, without chatting on the phone, or flirting with the driver next door all the time. The cat probably got out while Daya was batting her eyelashes at someone by the gate!” and with that she plonked her bags down at the bus halt. She sat down on the bench and said, rather pointedly, “If you girls have finished questioning me, I’d like to rest now before I have to fight my way into the next bus.”

 


[1] Literally ‘Baby’ this is used by maids to refer to the children they care for

18. What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves

for writers?

19. How did you get into writing? Is this what you always wanted to do?

I dabbled with creative writing when I was a kid. I’m also a teacher of Drama and English Language. I guess it was a thought at the back of my mind for a long time. Once I started reading to my own kids and laughing over their antics I was inspired to actually put things down on paper.

20. Any last thoughts for our readers?

Please check out writers from new places. I know not every book is a good one. But give those of us who live outside the US and UK a chance and you may be surprised!

                 Books by Nadishka Aloysius

TORAN AND THE ALPHABET FAIRY

Toean and the alphabet fairy by Nadishka AloysiusWhile teaching my son the alphabet, I was inspired to write a story cum activity book. Keeping my own child in mind I included all his favourite activities – a fun story about the friendship between a boy and a fairy, nursery rhymes and stickers (over 100 of those!). I have used the book as both a parent and teacher, and that unusual combination works surprisingly well to engage and educate. (www.facebook.com/alphabetfairy

EYESHA AND THE GREAT ELEPHANT GATHERING

What started out as a favour for a friend editing a coffee table book about elephants at the Minneriya National Park blossomed into this tale of adventure focusing on a curious baby elephant. This little book is my contribution towards educating our children about the natural world around them. The spectacular photographs bring the story to life and the elephants into your home. 

RONAN’S DINOSAUR

Inspired by my own childhood and experiences as a parent, this is about an excessively timid young boy Ronan's Dinosuar by Nadishka Aloysiuswho finds courage through his friendship with a dinosaur. My elder son is very much into dinosaurs and the spark that ignited the flame was the question, “Were there any dinosaurs in Sri Lanka?” Suitable for readers age 7+, one reviewer said, “It is funny, clever and fast-paced.” I do admit it will also strike a chord with parents who have to make difficult choices, as in the case of my characters, who have to decide whether to ignore their son’s weird behaviour or consult a psychologist about the problem.

PETSCAPADE

I am not a cat person. But my sons and I rescued a kitten who had been run over by a vehicle and their love and enthusiasm prompted me to write this next one. 

This is my first attempt at a series. Inspired by the Enid Blyton children’s mystery stories, this book is about a group of friends who come together to help their neighbours by solving a crime. It is meant for children 10+ and also deals with social issues and prejudices that are common in Colombo today. 

RAAVANA’S DAUGHTER

Raavana's Daughter by Nadishka AloysiusThis is my first proper fantasy story. It is quite short (not epic fantasy although the style of writing is for more mature readers) and meant for a Young Adult audience. It is based on the Ramakien which is the Thai version of the Hindu myth we are all familiar with. Did you know that Raavana had a daughter? Do you know the role she played in the famous tale? 

Since the publication of Ronan’s Dinosaur in paperback (available in Sri Lanka only) I have started taking on speaking engagements, workshops and performance reading. SO far I have teamed up with a leading clothing store in Colombo and the British Council and I hope this will continue into the future. 

My FB page https://www.facebook.com/NadishkaAloysiusBooks/  has updates on all book related news. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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