Did Abby come to you as a character with a story to tell, or was the setting of India the inspiration for this book?
Liv Tyler (actress) shared in an interview that she didn’t know Steven Tyler was her father till she was 10. It set me thinking of what ifs. Given my immigrant background my brain storming took me global!
What if a girl found out that her father was from a different culture? What if he was a celebrity in another country? And Abby was born from the what ifs. I had been dared by my kids to write a happy book about India, and I decided to rise to the challenge.
I know you grew up in India. Does Abby's father live in the area where you lived?
Abby’s father lives on a street that overlooks the ocean in the suburbs of Mumbai. I lived about 8 miles from that neighborhood. A few Bollywood types were also my neighbors. One of Bollywood’s superstars lived in a similar location in the 60s and 70s and I still remember crowds thronged outside his house. Abby’s father’s house draws similar crowds in the book.
The book features some well-known sites in India, which is nice because your readers who've never been there will get to experience those places much like a tourist in India seeing them for the first time. What is your favorite site featured in the book?
The idea of taking the reader to Mumbai was exciting and daunting. Mumbai is a unique city with huge disparities between the rich and the poor. I love the Taj Mahal hotel, it’s architecture and its location across from the Gateway of India in South Mumbai. It also has some great restaurants and food. Being a foodie, I had to take Abby for a meal to the Taj. I also love the scene where Abby takes a rickshaw ride.
(Me, too! I love the scene where Abby takes the rickshaw ride.)
You grew up in India and now live in Houston. Abby lives in Houston and travels to India. Did you call upon your feelings of seeing America for the first time and learning to navigate a foreign country as you wrote this young girl seeing and experiencing India for the first time?
I remember the feeling of constantly learning and taking in new experiences when I first came to America as a student in 1986. It is both exhausting and exhilarating. Abby feels that blend of excitement and exhaustion.
My family hosted International students when I was a teenager, so I was witness to the reactions of teens raised in the West to India. My own teenagers, who have been born and raised in America have reactions that shaped some of Abby’s.
I found Abby to be such a realistic character with all the expected fears and worries of someone her age, facing her decisions, yet also a very brave girl. Everyday bravery usually does not involve a bow and arrow. In what ways do you hope kids will be brave?
Abby is so brave. She takes on a new country, culture, family and father on her own. I love that Abby is spunky and so open to newness. She is like a sponge that soaks it in without judgment.
I hope all kids get the opportunity to bravely travel and meet people from different walks of life and expand their world. It takes courage to fully engage in our global society but if we do, the rewards are tremendous.
And I always have to ask (because I'm always in the mood for dessert): What's your favorite dessert?
You can’t make me pick one! I love dessert too. I love all food. Favorite dessert would have to be a rich moist bread pudding with a delicious chocolate sauce. Chocolate cake with ganache frosting or a molten center would be a very close second.
Now I am hungry!
So are we, Varsha! We're hungry to get our own copies of this book.