The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Savita Kalhan

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The Interview: Bookbag talks to Savita Kalhan

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Summary: Savita Kalhan's The Long Weekend is an incredibly tense thriller with a really important message about 'stranger danger'. We leapt at the opportunity to interview her.
Date: 12 January 2011
Interviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James

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Savita Kalhan's The Long Weekend is an incredibly tense thriller with a really important message about 'stranger danger'. We leapt at the opportunity to interview her.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?

Savita Kalhan: I see lots of hands with their heads buried within the covers of my book! I didn't mean that to sound corny – or macabre! What I love is that such a diverse group of people have enjoyed my book. I've had emails from kids, teens and adults, parents and a few grandparents who have all read and loved The Long Weekend.

  • BB: Which book would you recommend to people who enjoyed The Long Weekend while they're eagerly waiting for your next novel?

SK: One book that has really stood out for me is I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti. It's just been released as a YA title, and I would really recommend it. I've just read Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick and loved it, so I've bought White Crow to read next. I also really enjoyed Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman is also on my bedside table, waiting to be read. I enjoy Anne Cassidy – she has a new book coming out soon, which I'm eagerly awaiting. Cat Clarke's Entangled has just arrived...

  • BB: That sounds an awful lot like our tottering book pile! Which books inspired you when you were a teenager?

SK: When I was a teenager, I read avidly – everything I could lay my hands on, which was basically the entire contents of Wycombe Library! I wasn't selective. I read the whole crime section, but I also read all the fantasy epics, contemporary novels, and world classics. Coming from a very traditional Indian background turned me into a complete a book junkie – it was one of the few activities that was actively encouraged! Lord of the Rings was a big favourite, but I also loved the classics – Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Maupassant, Zola, Flaubert...

  • BB: I know you've got a really active web presence with a great website and frequent Twitter updates - how important do you think it is in this day and age for YA authors to communicate with their fans over the internet?

SK: I hadn't realised until last year how important it is! The best advice someone gave me was to have a good website and maintain a presence on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I've followed it and it's been brilliant! It's a great way to keep in touch with your readers. As a writer you must remember that if you don't let people know about your book, then no one will hear of it!

  • BB: What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

SK: To read as much as they can – novels, but also about the publishing industry and how it works. To talk to other published authors because their advice is invaluable. To find a good agent who will fight your corner. To have their work critiqued by people who are able to be perfectly honest about their work. I could go on for hours, but the final thing I would add here is never stop writing.

  • BB: I recommended The Long Weekend on The Bookbag partly because of the importance of the message about 'stranger danger', and also suggested parents/guardians should read it - while it's a compelling thriller in its own right, do you feel the book has a role to play in getting children and adults discussing the topic?

SK: Oh yes, definitely. Kids are aware of stranger danger, but often they don't fully understand what it might mean. The Long Weekend is written with a style and pace that reaches even the reluctant reader; it's absorbing and engrossing, and I think its impact in imparting a message to teens is far greater than a school talk on stranger danger. Parents who have read the book have immediately wanted their kids to read it. It may raise awkward questions, but I feel they are questions that should be addressed and discussed.

  • BB: What do you enjoy most about writing? What would you rather not do at all?

SK: I love writing! I love being inside someone else's head, speaking with their voice, following them wherever the story takes them. I don't mind going back through a story and rewriting scenes if it's needed. The part I really dislike is the copy-editing and proof-reading because it forces you to look at words rather than read the story. It's boring, but entirely necessary. My problem is that I find I get caught up in reading the book and end up missing typos!

  • BB: Do you listen to music when you're writing? If so, what was your soundtrack when writing The Long Weekend?

SK: I tend not to really listen to music when I'm writing – I find the story is making enough noise in my head! With The Long Weekend, the jingle-jangle of keys was something I heard too much of! I sometimes put Classic FM on in the background because it's not too intrusive.

  • BB: What are you reading now?

SK: At the moment I'm reading Siobhan Dowd's Solace of the Road. I'm way behind and I'm trying to catch up, but the piles of to-be-read-books just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger... And as I try not to read YA when I'm writing, I'm frequently falling behind. I need a good long holiday with a large suitcase of books and no excess baggage charges!

  • BB: Don't we all! What's next for Savita Kalhan?

SK: Hopefully, fingers crossed, there will be another book or two. I've just finished writing a great thriller about a boy who wakes up in hospital with no recollection of how he got there, or who he is! So watch this space...

  • BB: Ooh, we can't wait! Good luck with the new book. Thanks a lot for the interview, Savita!

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