Vikas Prakash Joshi is a writer by nature and nurture and not by compulsion, ambition, or conscious choice. His writing career started at the early age of eleven and since then, he has won numerous awards and achieved notable distinctions. He has written for leading Indian publications like The Caravan, Hindustan Times, The Wire, The Hindu, DNA, Sakal Times. His essays, articles, and short stories have been translated and published in twenty-nine languages, both Indian and foreign, and in twenty-two countries.
TBE: What inspired you to write My Name Is Cinnamon?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: From my childhood days, it was and is my dream to write my first book. So I never needed to look for inspiration per se. I tried many times to write it but it always ended up in failure. But one day I read an article about an adopted boy in China, and I decided to write a book about it, adapting it to the Indian Context.
TBE: The title of your book, “My Name is Cinnamon,” is unique and memorable. How did you come up with it, and what significance does it hold for the story and the characters?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: Cinnamon is a word I couldn’t pronounce properly as a kid. So I said it as Cimmanum, Cimmanon, Cinnamom, etc. When I wrote my book, the main character’s nickname is Cinnamon. So it definitely has a significance. Plus, one of the boy’s parents—and mine—favorite flavour’s is Cinnamon.
TBE: The book explores some difficult themes that are rarely explored in children’s and young adult literature. Can you discuss why you chose to include these themes and how you approached writing about them?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: I chose to include it as fiction, YA or kid’s fiction in particular, is one of the best ways to express difficult themes. We cannot run away from it; difficulties and difficult situations keep happening. Plus, we need to approach these topics sensitively and with compassion.
TBE: Your book features an adoptive child in search of his roots. What kind of research did you do to ensure that you accurately portrayed the experience of adopted children?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: I spoke to many adopted children in India and adoptive parents and did extensive interviews. I read a number of books about adopted kids and adoption in India, both non-fiction and fiction. I watched movies about adoption and went through copious online literature on adoption. Besides this, I interviewed people who work in adoption agencies to know about their experiences.
TBE: My Name Is Cinnamon has been praised for its immersive plot and fully realized environments and characters. Can you discuss your writing process and how you developed such a richly textured narrative?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: I would put down the first draft by hand in my notebook. After it, I then leave it by the side for some days. After some days, I return to my draft and rewrite it. It is like a meat curry; it improves as it simmers. As you rewrite and rewrite, the story takes shape and suddenly you can feel the gems in the book bubbling up. It’s a tedious process but unavoidable. It takes 2-3 or more even drafts to create a readable version.
TBE: How did you feel when you received endorsements from such notable figures as Dr. Shashi Tharoor and Jug Suraiya? How do you think their endorsements will impact your book’s success?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: I am deeply honoured to have such endorsements. I am always grateful for it. After all, these are writers who I grew up reading and idolising. Endorsements from eminent personalities creates curiosity and interest in the book, but in the end, readers decide whether they want the book or not.
TBE: Can you speak to the role of humour in your book, and how it helps balance the more serious themes?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: Humour is like spice, it is a must in every meal or ‘book’ if you will. When you write it, you subtly weave it in so that it adds and not subtracts from your book’s main concepts and themes.
TBE: What message do you hope young readers will take away from My Name Is Cinnamon?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: I do not want to prescribe anything. I leave it to the readers to interpret what they want.
TBE: What are your future writing plans? Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
Vikas Prakash Joshi: I am working on 2 books: a YA fiction book and a non-fiction book set in World War II India. Both are exciting.