We had a chance to strike a conversation with the author of The Sunlight Plane, Damini Kane. Below is the excerpt from the interview –
- Can you tell us about your book? What is it all about?
My book, The Sunlight Plane, is a friendship story between two young boys who try to navigate the dangerous world of bullying and child abuse in a wealthy urban neighborhood.
- What motivated you to write this book?
I’m not sure if there was one definitive thing that made me want to write it, except that the story existed in my head, and insisted on being told.
- How did you come up with the idea of giving your book this title? Is there any particular story behind it?
The title, The Sunlight Plane, is inspired by a BBC article I read once, about a real plane that was solar-powered, called Solar Impulse II, that was attempting to circumnavigate the earth. The image really struck me, and it later turned inspired the title and turned into a motif in the book.
- Can you tell us about the characters in the book? Are they influenced by people in real life?
Tharush, the main character, is a young but precocious boy who prefers the company of his own imagination. He is shy, but tries to hide it, and can come off as a little aloof.
Aakash is a child from a broken home, a victim of abuse, but an empathetic kid with an imagination to match Tharush’s. He loves music more than anything else in the world.
- What’s the best response you’ve had from a reader who’s read your book?
I’m humbled by the response I’ve had from readers, but my favorites have been those that suggest that my reader has found a home in my story.
I believe storytelling is all about creating empathy, that its power is in how it forges relationships between the one who writes and the one who reads, between readers and the characters, between characters and the writer, and between these people and the world.
Readers have told me the story has made them laugh and cry and made them feel emotions they don’t often feel…and that, to me, is the deepest and most personal honor.
I appreciate every single person who has taken the time out of their day to read my story. It’s as though I’ve offered a piece of my soul to them, and they have so kindly accepted.
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- What do you think of today’s Indian writing?
I’ve been seeing such a plurality of voices on bookshelves these days. It’s so heartening, so very important. Every time I go to a bookstore, I am so happy that the Indian Writing section always seems to grow bigger. I think Indian writing today is growing ever more diverse and more exploratory, and we should all be excited to see where it goes.
- What are your interests apart from writing?
I play the violin! (Or I’m learning to, anyway…) I’ve also been teaching myself sketching and watercolour painting, though I’m not good at any of it yet. (I will be one day, hopefully.)
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- What are your main research areas as a writer? How did you research about The Sunlight Plane?
History. More and more of late, my writing has been going towards fantasy fiction, and my interest in history really helps in world-building and adding realistic details to things.
(Ironically, I think fantasy is one genre where realistic detail is absolutely vital for the story to make any sense.) I especially love medieval Indian history, and lately, I’ve been reading about ancient trading routes. It simply takes my breath away, how the world used to function without our modern tools and sensibilities. Sometimes I wish I owned a telescope that could look into the past so I could see it with my own eyes.
- Do you have a routine when you write?
I try to write every day after work, even if it’s just 500 poorly chosen words before bed. You can always edit bad writing but you can’t edit a blank page, after all. I also give myself a lot of time to brainstorm my ideas—while commuting, over coffee, in the shower, any time that I have to myself is often spent actively thinking of my stories. It makes a huge difference to my productivity as a writer.
- Can you describe what that writing process is like for you?
It’s like bathing my dog.
I know what needs to be done. It’s all in my head. Spray him with water, lather, wash it off. Easy in theory. Writing’s the same. I sit at my computer. I have the idea in my head. I’m thinking of the first sentence. I’m reminding myself of the atmosphere I want to create on the page. It’s all there in my mind.
But much like bathing a dog, things can go wildly off course very quickly. Maybe your dog sees a cat he wants to run at, maybe you hit a dead-end in your plot.
Maybe the dog decides to roll around in the mud as soon as you wash him clean. Maybe you realize that your scene is logically flawed, or there’s a pacing issue that you’ll have to fix by rewriting the last 10 pages. It’s frustrating, it’s a lot of fun, and in the end, you always feel like you’ve accomplished something.
It’s also routine. I have to bathe my dog. I have to write. I brainstorm the idea. I sit and try to write it down. It is simply the most basic of things, but every story, like every dog bath-time, is an adventure.
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- Who are your favorite authors and books?
I’m currently obsessed with Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, which, as books go, is an accomplishment. I also love everything that V.E Schwab writes, she’s a writer-role model to me. (I practically inhaled her Shades of Magic trilogy in about 48 hours.)
- What are your favorite pass time activities and hobbies.
Binge-watching tv shows is a great way to pass the time and lose sleep, but I also enjoy vanity projects like trying different makeup looks and hairdos. I also love sitting in coffee shops and people-watching.
- What advice would you give our readers – aspiring writers who want to pursue their careers in writing?
Here’s some advice that I wished I’d received when I was younger:
Not every story you write is going to be good, but it will still be good practice.
Read widely. There is no shortcut to this. If you want to write, you have to read. That is how writers study. Doctors go to medical school, writers read.
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Be critical of the stories you come across, whether it’s books, or movies, or TV. Ask yourself why those writers took the decisions they took. Why did they kill that character? How did they develop that plot twist? What purpose does that tiny detail serve in the story? Question everything, that’s how you’ll learn.
Believe in yourself.
- What are you currently writing? Can you please share few details?
I’m trying to plot a fantasy series that will span different timelines, generations, and geographies. Predictably, it’s proving to be quite a challenge, but I’m enjoying the process.
- For those interested in exploring the variousbooks you have written, where should they start?
I’ve only written one book so far, The Sunlight Plane. You can find it on Amazon and at Crosswords Bookstores across the country. If you’d like to follow my creative projects, I post about them quite actively on my Instagram (@daminikane) and my Twitter (@Damini_Kane).
- Who are some of your favourite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Markus Zusak, for his incredible way of creating atmosphere and building characters. Donna Tartt, who I think is the best descriptive writer alive. (Her book, The Goldfinch, is something I recommend to absolutely everyone).
Jacqueline Wilson, a children’s writer who wrote Best Friends, the first book I’d ever had the pleasure of reading. (If I am a writer today, I owe it all to Wilson, without whom I never would have discovered a love for words.)
- What do you think is most useful in learning to write? What is least useful or most destructive?
I believe it was Neil Gaiman who said (I’m paraphrasing) that writers ought to have a lot of confidence because it protects them from feeling too disheartened at rejection. I agree wholeheartedly. Writing can be devastating at times, and a healthy dose of self-confidence can really be an asset. So naturally, I believe excessive self-doubt can be deadly to anyone in the creative field.
It’s healthy to question the quality of your work because that encourages improvement. But there’s really no point in hating what you create because it ruins the beauty in the act of creation itself.
There’s nothing more rewarding than completing a story you’ve been working hard on. Edit it, fix its flaws, sure, but don’t hate it. And don’t hate yourself. Not only does it make the whole experience of writing less enjoyable, but it actively discourages your own creativity. Creativity, after all, is a tree that blooms with love.
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