An interview with Supriya Kelkar, debut author of AHIMSA

As Ahmisa opens, it’s 1942 and Ghandi has asked families to give one member to the Indian freedom movement. In the case of Anjali, it’s her mother who steps up. As Anjali’s life changes, she’s forced to confront a new reality brought on my her mother’s commitment to the cause. I love stories where a girl is pushed out of her comfort zone and becomes a better, stronger version of herself. Anjali’s path is thrilling to follow and especially timely in today’s world. This title is a valuable addition to any home, school or public library. (And the cover is so gorgeous!)

And now, the author answers our questions…

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I grew up surrounded by books thanks in part to a book-of-the-month club membership my aunt and uncle had given me for years. I also grew up watching lots of Hindi movies, and my father had written a couple Hindi movies as well. The combination of the exposure to books and Bollywood made me want to become a storyteller.

AHIMSA was inspired by the life of your great-grandmother. In the research phase, did you learn things about her that you didn’t know before?

I did! I actually didn’t know much about her at all except that she was a freedom fighter, had been imprisoned, and became a congresswoman after independence. It wasn’t until I read her biography, written by my great-grandfather, that I learned the details of her work. One thing that was really fascinating to me was after she was arrested for leading a protest, the government sent word to her husband that if she would just apologize, they would let her go. But she refused because she knew what she was doing was right and so she remained in jail until a pact Gandhi had made with the viceroy of India freed political prisoners who were not violent.

Even though AHIMSA takes place in 1942, the issues of social justice in the book feel incredibly timely. Did you have the current climate in mind as you wrote?

I actually wrote the first draft of the book back in 2003. It wasn’t until I was working on the edits in 2016 that it dawned on me how timely the novel was.

How did you settle on a middle grade novel as the best way to tell this story? Was it your first choice?

It took a few stages to get there. I first tried to write Ahimsa as a screenplay about my great-grandmother. I don’t think I even managed to write a word of it. I just couldn’t figure it out. I then decided to write it as a fictional script, and thought rather than the protagonist being the freedom fighter, it might be more interesting to see the story through the eyes of the daughter of a freedom fighter. When I got stuck on that script, I decided to give novel-writing a try and thus the first draft of the book was born.

Who are your favorite authors?

Growing up I was a huge Ann M. Martin fan. I also really loved re-reading books by James Stevenson, Nancy Carlson and Holly Keller.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Besides hanging out with my family and friends, I’d have to say binge watching TV shows. I just love immersing myself in a new world this way.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a few pictures books and middle grade novels.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

I have lots of information about the book at my website www.supriyakelkar.com and they can e-mail me at supriyakelkarbooks@gmail.com