Author Chat with Supriya Kelkar (American as Paneer Pie)!
Today we're excited to chat with Supriya Kelkar author of
American as Paneer Pie.
Read on for more about Supriya and her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Supriya Kelkar!
Born and raised in the Midwest, SUPRIYA KELKAR learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. She is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. Supriya’s books include Ahimsa, The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, and American as Paneer Pie, among others. Visit her online at supriyakelkar.com.
Meet American as Paneer Pie!
An Indian-American girl who struggles to navigate her two very different lives: the one at home, where she can be herself, and the one at school, where she is teased for her culture. When a racist incident rocks her small town, she must decide to continue to remain silent or find her voice.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I wrote the first draft of this book in 2017 at a time when it felt like hate was being emboldened and encouraged. I started to think back on my childhood experience as one of the few Indian Americans in a small town in Michigan that didn't value diversity. And I began to worry that my own young children would experience the same things I did even though decades had passed since I was their age, and that's when I got the idea for AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I really love all the characters in the book but the one I identify the most with is the main character, Lekha. So much of her story, from struggling to come to terms with her hyphenated identity to the missteps she takes on the journey to find her voice come from my story. I hope all readers can see parts of themselves in her too.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel came first but within a day of getting the idea, the title came to me too when I was thinking about the conversation between Lekha and her dad that inspired the title. I had originally shortened the dialogue to just "Paneer Pie" for the title but my wonderful agent, Kathleen Rushall, suggested we use the whole phrase from Lekha's dad's dialogue as the title, and that's how the book became "American as Paneer Pie."
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
The scene where Lekha finally finds her voice and reads her op-ed at the town hall is the one I'm most proud of. Although some of the story is based on my experiences, I didn't find my voice until college so I'm always proud when i get to that moment in the book when Lekha has found her voice. I also like that the scene is realistic in the way people react to her words when she is done.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
The most important thing I've learned is to not be attached to your words. It can sometimes be hard for writers to understand there is always room for improvement. I think once a writer is able to acknowledge their draft isn't perfect, it makes cutting and letting go easy, and for me, revising always leads to a better draft.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The cover is so gorgeous and memorable, it is hard to pick what I like the most. But if I had to choose I'd say the hopeful expression on Lekha's face. My brilliant editor, Jennifer Ung, and I had discussed early on how it was our wish that this book would be a beacon of hope for those who need it and I think the cover really sums that up perfectly.
YABC: What’s on your TBR pile?
I have so many books on my TBR pile right now! At the top of the pile right now are THE AMELIA SIX by Kristin L. Gray, CITY SPIES by James Ponti, A WISH IN THE DARK by Christina Soontornvat, and STAMPED: RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
I recently read the picture book HONEYBEE: THE BUSY LIFE OF APIS MELLIFERA by Candace Fleming. It is such a beautiful book that makes readers connect and empathize with a little honeybee and all the work the bee does. I was moved to tears by it.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
Up next are two middle grade novels and a picture book. In fall, my historical middle grade novel, STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME (Tu Books) comes out. It's an answer to books like The Secret Garden and will hopefully make readers question who is being centered and who is being left out. In 2021 my picture book, BINDU'S BINDIS (Sterling), comes out. It's about a girl and her grandmother and their love for wearing matching bindis. And after that is THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster), about a Bollywood-loving girl who isn't good at expressing herself and showing her emotions. When her parents announce they're separating, she is forced to show her emotions in the most obvious way possible, thanks to a magical condition that makes her express herself through Bollywood song and dance numbers. I'm really excited for all of these books.
YABC: Is there anything that you would like to add?
Whale, American as Paneer Pie, is full of puns around an aquatic theme. I hope readers are finspired to make some puns of their own after reading it.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
It was hard narrating the scene where Lekha betrays her friend Avantika in an effort to fit in with a new group of friends. I felt for Lekha and understood why she was doing what she was doing. It was something I had done often as a child too to try to fit in. But it also was tough to see her make such a colossal misstep.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
Because this story was so much of my lived experience, I didn't have trouble with any of the characters per se. But I did work extra hard to make sure they were all nuanced and that we understood everyone's motivations and fears and goals. Lekha's mom's arc was particularly satisfying because of her setbacks and growth.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
I really enjoy discovering my story while drafting. But there is something so satisfying about the revision process. I love being forced to go over a story's weak points until I can find a solution and make it better. It's like solving a riddle or finishing a puzzle and I always feel accomplished when it is done.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
My superpower used to be the ability to function on very little sleep. With young kids at home, my work day used to start at 10 p.m. But that started to take its toll on my health so now I try to work faster and squeeze in shorter writing periods in the daytime spread over fewer days.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Right now, with Detroit hit so badly by covid-19, I'd love to bring some attention to the charities helping out there. The Detroit Free Press has a great list of organizations that can use our help: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/03/17/ways-aid-during-coronavirus-outbreak-michigan-covid-19/5067713002/
American as Paneer Pie
By: Supriya Kelkar
Release Date: June 9th, 2020