Recently we reviewed the book by the author Vikas Prakash Joshi, “My Name is Cinnamon“. The book is both a captivating chronicle and an endeavor of remarkable depth and ambition, it provides a richly textured narrative of a boy trying to find his roots and place in the world. On each part of his journey, he encounters new people, new cuisines, and new adventures as he learns a lot about himself and the world around him.
Today, we would like to share what inspired Vikas to write the book and his writing journey.
What inspired you to write ‘My Name Is Cinnamon’?
From my childhood days, I dreamed of writing a book but somehow it never moved forward till 2020 when lost my job during the pandemic. I was inspired to write My Name Is Cinnamon after I read a small newspaper article about a boy in China, later adopted by a family based in the USA, and felt immediately that this was the right topic for me.
It started a train of thought in my mind, and today that one thought is now a book. Ironically, prior to reading the article, I considered around 40 to 50 topics for my book, but none clicked. You know, there are times, when you come across a topic and you immediately feel “This is it!”
Can you tell us about your writing process for this book?
My writing process is that after I have a basic idea in my mind, I start sketching out a kind of outline on paper. Once a basic outline is ready, I then immediately try to write my first draft on paper and pen. I love to use a good quality pen and attractive, premium writing material for my first draft.
The book covers some difficult themes that are rarely explored in children’s and young adult literature. Why did you decide to include these themes in your book?
To be frank, I didn’t consciously decide to include them in the book. But as I wrote it, I realized that these themes were being incorporated into the book without my realizing it. I do not regret it in any way, as we definitely do need to explore difficult concepts in children’s and young adult literature, in India. how to do so in a way that is attractive and engaging, rooted in Indian realities but appealing to an Indian kid or YA, is our main challenge.
Can you talk about the research you did for this book, especially regarding the cuisines and cultures mentioned?
I have traveled to West Bengal several times, and Maharashtra and I live in Maharashtra, so I am familiar with the cultures and cuisines mentioned. Besides, I spoke to a number of people, and read online and offline materials. It’s always fun to read about various cultures, especially in India.
The protagonist, Cinnamon, is on a journey to find his roots and place in the world. Can you relate to his journey in any way?
I certainly can, as we all are on a journey, as you nicely put it, to “to find our roots and place in the world”. I put a lot of myself and my own personality and experiences in the book. Many times, I felt a sense of doubt or uncertainty, and you are not sure of your own identity. Cinnamon too experiences many such moments.
The book features illustrations by Niloufer Wadia. Can you tell us about your collaboration with her and how the illustrations enhance the book?
From the time I wrote my book, there were only a few illustrators and book cover designers I wanted and Niloufer was one among them, top of the list in fact. I had seen her illustrations in many kids’ books and was convinced that she was the one I wanted. It was complex and challenging, to collaborate with an illustrator, as writers think one way, and illustrators think in a totally different way.
But in the end, it was a real learning experience and when countless people appreciate the book cover and inside illustrations, I know I made the right choice. My full and deepest appreciation to Niloufer Wadia; her talent as an illustrator has taken the book to a completely different level.
What message do you hope readers will take away from My Name Is Cinnamon?
I leave that entirely to them. I would not want to impose my preferences on the readers.
How did it feel to win the prestigious “A3 Foundation Literary Award 2022-23” for this book?
It’s an amazing feeling to win 2 awards: “A3 Foundation Literary Award 2022-23 and the Asian Literary Society Award 2023 for Best Debut Fiction for My Name is Cinnamon. I faced innumerable problems and challenges in writing this book and still do, so winning 2 awards is always a wonderful moment. Plus, it provides a sense of reassurance that your writing is on the right track.
Can you share any particular challenges or surprises you encountered while writing ‘My Name Is Cinnamon’?
As such, it was my first book so it has been very challenging from the start to now.
Are you currently working on any other projects? If so, can you give us a sneak peek into what we can expect?
I am working on 2 books: a YA fiction thriller or a murder mystery type of book and a non-fiction book set in World War II India, specifically focusing on the freedom movement. Both are exciting and are sure to appeal to readers.