The author, Nomita Khanna has debated on stage to win trophies, conducted summer camps for children, won the NTSE scholarship, splashed oil-paint on canvas, crocheted caps and mittens for toddlers, and written stories for Femina, a leading magazine in India. Several of these won her prizes such as a trip to London, a Mont Blanc pen, a Cartier pen, and so on.
She makes her home in Ludhiana, India with her family, a sizeable collection of books and a growing number of unfinished puzzle boards. She is the author, most recently, of ‘LUCKY COSTASAURUS and the Golden-Winged Vultures’ a book for children who are older than 12. The protagonist in this debut novel is vulnerable, yet mostly resilient unlike her as she is terrified of many things big and small, including but not limited to small talk, public toilets, parking lots, and strangely; barbers.
TBE: Tell us about your book.
Nomita Khanna: It is a saga built around an animal fantasy. There is this juxtaposition of the human world and an animal world that interacts with it, with the protagonist being a dinosaur.
TBE: How did you get the idea of this book?
Nomita Khanna: You see, dinosaurs have been the subjects of many movies, from “King Kong” in 1933 and its remakes, through animations such as “The Land Before Time” series, and on to later special-effects-laden extravaganzas including the “Jurassic Park/World” features. In short, the whole world is fascinated by these gorgeous creatures; most of all children. And so is the child in me!
So, one day 3 years ago, my first thought of the day was, “What better way to divert the attention of children towards books in this day and age of smartphones than using these lovely beasts in a story?”
That was that. I flipped my laptop open and punched the keys relentlessly for the next few years.
TBE: What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
Nomita Khanna: Coming of age is the theme.
The 3 messages weaved into the story are:
A) Your struggles develop your strengths.
B) The wings of transformation are born of patience and struggle.
C) If you want to fly, spread your wings; have faith in them.
TBE: Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Nomita Khanna: Some of the adults are based on real people that I know. A few are from classic fairy-tales; the new generation I felt would love a fresh retelling of fairy-tales. For instance the Giantess Mrs. Blunderbore is from the story, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’
TBE: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Nomita Khanna: Well, once I decided three years ago that I would set my novel for children in Goa, I knew I didn’t have to go on any literary pilgrimages since I have been holidaying in this beach-haven almost every year since childhood. All I needed was: Coffee, and my laptop.
TBE: How did you research on the subject?
Nomita Khanna: Google helped me find out everything I needed to know about the flora and fauna of the places the book’s adventures take the reader to. Also, I spoke to residents of these places to find out what they commonly eat or how they commute etcetera.
For a book to resonate with people, and for Schools and libraries to want to stock it, you really can’t have a book saying “snow-spattered windows” in Goa and “cows on the roads” in New York. Everything has to be fact-driven.
In my novel there is this juxtaposition of the human world and an animal world that interacts with it, along with the protagonist being a dinosaur. Children are really smart; they would have questioned the existence of dinosaurs alongside humans, which historically never happened.
The Jurassic Park was written for adults, and was steeped in a mad scientist who utilized modern technology to bring certain dinosaurs back to life. My book has put them into a day-to-day context alongside humans and other animals that didn’t live in prehistoric times. Therefore, I put all this in a clearer context at the outset by using history and mythology. To handle this tricky part, I had to research long hours before I wrote the first line of Chapter One.
Fantasy books walk a very fine line between fantasy and reality; there must be enough of a basis in reality for the book and its characters to be credible, and the fantastic elements must be carefully orchestrated so as not to overwhelm credibility. Again, research helped me.
TBE: How long did it take you to write this book?
Nomita Khanna: It took me 3 years to write this 300 page book.
TBE: How do you come up with names for your characters?
Nomita Khanna: I wanted the names of the main characters to be easy to remember; that’s why they aren’t a mouthful and are easy to pronounce: Lucky the dinosaur and his human friends, Peter and Eva. Others are for their appeal; for instance Flapdoodle is a bald-headed vulture, Mugfoot and Bootsmella are smelly human-vultures, Phoolvati’s a human cleaning lady, Sardine Snapper’s a fisherwoman, Spellosaurus is a dinosaur enchantress and Trampawlin’s a cat.
TBE: During your journey from the idea of this book to the publication, what was the most difficult thing you faced? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Nomita Khanna: Nothing really. It’s only after I published it that I found the marketing part challenging. Being a self-published author is tough. I have to do my own step-by-step marketing.
Sometimes, I find it challenging to get to the point in fewer words. Also, there have been days when I just sat there; my fingers hovering above the keys without actually hitting them. Those are the days when I drank gallons of coffee and gazed at seemingly nothing. Those are the days I knew I would probably growl at whosoever crossed paths with me and therefore locked myself up, pretending to work.
TBE: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Nomita Khanna: I have yet to find that out as this fantasy fiction book for children (12+) is my debut novel.
TBE: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
Nomita Khanna: In that context, I’ll quote Napoleon Bonaparte:
“Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can fly.”
TBE: If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Nomita Khanna: I would be with Lucky, the dinosaur and would love to fly along with him on one of his adventures.
TBE: According to you what is the most challenging thing for budding writer?
Nomita Khanna: I would say second guessing oneself and thinking their idea isn’t good enough. I would suggest they spread their wings, and have faith in them. By the way, this is one of the messages weaved into my novel.
But of course, mostly it is humility and the will to learn that pays you well in the long run.
TBE: What marketing strategies do you find most helpful? Any resources you would recommend to other authors or aspiring authors?
Nomita Khanna: I think there are 3 helpful strategies:
A) Social Media
B) Social Media
C) Social Media
TBE: When did you decide you would write?
Nomita Khanna: In School, I wrote mystery stories for the School magazine every year starting from the 8th grade. From then onwards I often wrote in preparation for a debate or a speech. In grade 10, I won the Lal Chand Kheti trophy for writing witty arguments and then winning a debate on a National level.
One day while browsing through Femina, a contest for a mystery story caught my eye. I sent in my entry and my story titled “Till Death Do Us Apart” won the contest and got published on May 1, 2001 in the magazine. After that I entered several contests going on to win them too. A short list:
“An Unwanted Man” was published on March 1, 2002 in Femina.
“Dear Son” was published on June 6, 2002 in Femina.
“Divine Intervention” was published on July 15, 2003 in Femina.
“Animal Spirits” was published in 2003 in Femina. It won me a Cartier pen.
TBE: How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?
Nomita Khanna: Actually, I didn’t. I just dived headlong into the next step: Marketing.
TBE: Growing up, who were your favourite children’s book authors?
Nomita Khanna: Enid Blyton
TBE: Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?
Nomita Khanna: Agatha Christie
TBE: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Nomita Khanna: When I am not writing, I am probably playing the keyboard, watching back-to-back episodes of Grace & Frankie on Netflix, or plotting and planning a tough treasure hunt for little ones.
TBE: What does your family think of your writing?
Nomita Khanna: My family has been supportive of me and my project since I announced that I was going to write a book: my husband Gagan, and my lovely children. Gagan had been saying to me, “Use your magic pen and write a book; the world is waiting for it.” Megha, my daughter bought the first copy from Amazon; the kindle edition and was all high praise. Aakriti, my other daughter would say, “Write faster Mumma, we are waiting to be famous by featuring it on our blog.” My precious Avyaan would say, “Badi Mumma, please tell me what Peter did next as he very well knows that this character is based on him.
Advika, my treasured manchurian would say, ‘Badi Mumma, I beg of you, can you read me 1 more chapter? And can you make Eva’s hair longer.” She knows it only too well too that Eva’s the drama queen that she is. I appreciate every interaction, review and encouraging word from my family.
TBE: A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, and they are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?
Nomita Khanna: It’s true in my case. I’m terrified of small talk and often feel like a square peg in a round hole at social gatherings.
TBE: Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
Nomita Khanna: There’s been no set schedule but generally I do itch to write whenever I can.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Nomita Khanna: Yes, a short novella; a psychological thriller.
Buy Now: LUCKY COSTASAURUS and the Golden-Winged Vultures
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