Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Supriya Kelkar, the author of
AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE
As the only Indian American kid in her small town, Lekha Divekar feels like she has two versions of herself: Home Lekha, who loves watching Bollywood movies and eating Indian food, and School Lekha, who pins her hair over her bindi birthmark and avoids confrontation at all costs, especially when someone teases her for being Indian.
When a girl Lekha’s age moves in across the street, Lekha is excited to hear that her name is Avantika and she’s Desi, too! Finally, there will be someone else around who gets it. But as soon as Avantika speaks, Lekha realizes she has an accent. She’s new to this country, and not at all like Lekha.
To Lekha’s surprise, Avantika does not feel the same way as Lekha about having two separate lives or about the bullying at school. Avantika doesn’t take the bullying quietly. And she proudly displays her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.
When a racist incident rocks Lekha’s community, Lekha realizes she must make a choice: continue to remain silent or find her voice before it’s too late.
Let’s talk to this fantastic author about her incredible book!
This is Supriya. Everyone say, “Hi, Supriya!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Supriya! Tell us about yourself!
Thank you for having me! I’m a screenwriter and author of middle grade books and picture books including AHIMSA, THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH, AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE, and THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD.
Where did the idea for AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE come from?
The idea came from my childhood, growing up in a small town in Michigan that didn’t value diversity.
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE?
- Just how many purposely bad puns Lekha could make
- What a release writing can be
- The perfect recipe for paneer pie
Love a good terrible pun!
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
Ooh this is a great question. Maybe to Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney’s LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST picture books to tell Lekha’s story in rhyme (and also to see how adorable an illustrated piece of paneer pie can be).
AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE is your second novel after AHIMSA and you’ve got more on the way. What’s your process for figuring out the voice of your main character with each new novel?
My process comes from what I learned in the screenwriting classes I took in college. I write character journals for all the big characters, not just the main character, which are like diary entries. I get to know their fears, dreams, and their voice through that exercise.
That’s a great idea! Such a great way to dive into your characters thoughts.
What is your favourite thing (or things if you can’t pick just one) about writing middle grade?
I just love what a huge time of change it can be for middle grade characters and how much story you can get out of that. And of course, it’s always a blast connecting to MG readers on school visits to see what they enjoy about these books as well.
Any hints about your next book project?
STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME is historical, middle grade that challenges who is being centered in books considered classics from the period of European colonization.
That sounds amazing! Can’t wait!
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
I think being published was the most surprising part, ha! I had written the first draft of AHIMSA in 2003 and it published in 2017. I have hundreds of rejection letters over the years for so many projects and there were several times when I felt like giving up so getting the call that Ahimsa won the New Visions Award and would be published was a huge, unexpected surprise.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished the PB bio ONA JUDGE OUTWITS THE WASHINGTONS: AN ENSLAVED WOMAN FIGHTS by Gwendolyn Hooks and Simone Agoussoye and am about to start CHIRP by Kate Messner
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Don’t be attached to your words! This makes revising so much easier and I’ve always seen my books improve with every revision I’ve done.
100% yes! So true!
Thanks very much for chatting with us, Supriya!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE!
It hits shelves on June 9th!
Add AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE on Goodreads!
Click here to win a copy of AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE!
Contest closes Friday, May 29th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!