Title: Growing Pains
Author: Kanika G
Blurb: Thirteen-year-old Tara, is in a new school in a new town, and she is feeling very sick. It turns out that she needs an emergency appendectomy. This is a story about her anxiety before the surgery, the hurdles she faces during recovery, and amusing visits from quirky friends and well-wishers.
At the same time, Tara finds herself attracted to a boy from her class. It’s the first time she has ever had a crush. Plagued by confusing emotions and hormones, Tara tries to figure out this new, befuddling and complicated world.
Review: The author’s style and well-etched characters make it an engrossing and unputdownable book. Even the minor characters are well-rounded. I especially liked the characterization of Mrs. Ghoshal. Kaika has also subtly touched upon social issues like infanticide. She not only informs the young readers about the issue but also urges them to respect people and treat them equally.
Though the target audience is the young adults, I enjoyed the book and finished it in one sitting. Like the protagonist, every 3-4 years I had to deal with a new school which came with a new set of predicaments each time (due to my father’s transfer). And just like Tara and Rashi, I and my sis share an unbreakable bond. I also enjoyed the dynamics of the parents and daughters relationship which was, again, quite relatable. Overall a fun book that teens can enjoy and relate with.
I had the opportunity to interview the author of ‘Growing Pains’, Kanika Gee. Here is the shotgun interview-
Q. Every author has a unique journey. Tell us about your journey as an author?
A. I always wanted to be a writer. But somehow I lacked the confidence to write for a public audience. So I stuck to telling embellished tales about everyday occurrences to family and friends.
When my older daughter turned two, I tried introducing her to story books. But her attention span was still only suitable for short picture books with few words. While I encouraged her to continue reading picture books, I wondered how I could open the door to stories for her in a fun way.
I noticed she would always run off to play with our cat while I tried reading stories to her. So I thought a story about our cat may interest her. That’s how I ended up writing The Poor Bedraggled Kitten. It was such a huge hit with her, I decided to write more.
She loved helping me in the kitchen, so I wrote Tania Makes Pancakes and again it was a big success. She begged me to read these stories to her over and over again. She strongly identified with the protagonist, Tania and urged me to write more. After I had written about four Tania stories, I realized I could not stop. My daughter’s enthusiasm gave me the confidence to publish them. The ideas too just kept coming from my own and my daughter’s childhood experiences.
As I became more confident, I started writing Tania stories about childhood experiences I wished I had and Tania took on a life of her own. Today there are over 30 Tania stories with probably more to come.
But Tania was just the beginning of my writing journey. It was the springboard from where I launched into blogging about parenting and feminist issues, writing short stories for kids and adults and eventually publishing a novella and who knows what’s to come in the future. I still like telling embellished tales about everyday occurrences, but now I do it for a much larger audience.
Q. You have published several children’s book, and then you write a book for young adults. What was the inspiration to write this book?
A. I love to learn new things, ponder on my experiences and introspect on my actions and relationships. These musings are the chief sources of inspiration for my articles as well as my stories.
When I was a kid, used to be terrified of injections and scream the place down for a simple vaccination. But, for some reason, fathomable only to my teenage mind, at some point, I suddenly decided that pain was transient and could be endured with grit. A month or so after I adopted this philosophy, I was suddenly told I needed an emergency appendectomy. So, I faced it stoically much to the surprise of everyone who knew me well.
There were some rare complications in the surgery. I had to stay in the hospital for a week, where I had some interesting experiences and colorful visitors. Once I had fully recovered, I realized it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. I decided, that someday I would have to write a book about it.
So after gaining sufficient experience from writing blog posts and short stories, when I was ready to write a novella, I knew it had to be based on my appendicitis experience. The setting, the facts, and details of the appendicitis operation are drawn from my memories, but the characters and story are almost entirely fictional. A few minor characters are inspired by the colorful people who visited me at the hospital.
Q. Tell me about the character you love the most.
A. I liked writing the character of Mrs. Ghoshal the most because she was the one who ran away from me and took on a life of her own. I had developed her as the caricature she is depicted as, in the first chapter of the book, nasty, mean and villainous. I had created her as a one-dimensional character, a prop for laughs and bring to out Rashi’s feisty nature. I did not even expect her to show up later in the story.
But she did, and demanded to be fleshed out, and heard. She appealed to my sense of fairness to tell her side of the story. She begged me not to make her a stereotype and finally, I had to listen.
Q. How do you think meeting her would be like?
A. I think I would have to apologize to her for treating her unfairly in my mind. I did it through Tara in the book, but I’d do it myself if I ever met her in person.
Q. Which genre do you enjoy reading/writing the most?
A. That would have to be children’s and young adult literature, with sci-fi and fantasy
running a close second.
Q. Do you hide secrets in your books that only a few people will find out?
A. Interesting idea. I haven’t done it consciously, but people who know me well will know which characters in my stories were inspired by real people I know. Perhaps something to consider in future …
Q. What are your favorite childhood books?
A. The Five-Find-Outers by Enid Blyton. I loved the series and re-read it during my pregnancy. I loved how they worked together to solve mysteries and trouble Goon.
Q. What are you working on? What’s the next big idea?
A. I am working on a sequel to Growing Pains where I explore Rashi’s teenage experiences and write a story from her perspective. But it’s too early to tell if it will work out. Someone suggested I write a prequel delving deeper into the life of Mama
and her teenage shenanigans with hot-wiring cars and picking locks. That may be something to look in to as well.
For the moment, I am enjoying working on the Nina and Nana cartoons with Lavanya, because it combines my love for learning new things, being creative and funny all in one loaded cartoon and it’s something so different from the stuff I have worked on before. Lavanya and I may write a quirky trivia book where we put together the best Nina and Nana accompanied by witty, informative articles.
Lavanya and I are also working on a dystopian sci-fi fantasy novel, but it’s in the really early stages, so not sure when we’ll have that ready.
Q. What are some ways to promote your work?
A. Now that’s the holy grail, isn’t it? Who knew that writing would be the easy part? Alas, I wish I knew the answer to that question. I am trying facebook ads, but they don’t work too well. I need to make the paperback available on Amazon and in bookstores. Having it available for purchase on my website does not give it enough visibility. My next step is to contact local distributors and see if I can get it into local stores.
One source of loyal readers has come from a site called Free Kids Books. Although I don’t make any money from books I post here, some of my books have been downloaded over thirty thousand times at this site and the adorable honest feedback from young readers is very satisfying.
Q. I know that you enjoy sci-fi. So I have to ask this question. If you could time-travel, where and when would you travel? And why?
A. To the Indus valley civilization, because that chapter in my history textbook always fascinated me, because it was one of the few chapters that weren’t about wars or glory or riches or villainy or poverty or injustice. It was about well-organized towns and efficiency and beauty in everyday lives. Their beautifully planned towns, adorable children’s toys and seemingly orderly, peaceful bountiful lives all happened over 4000 years ago. I’d just like to go see what it was really like.
Q. How will you convince teens to pick your book? Do you think this is a book that parents and teens can enjoy together?
A. I hope teens will find it a light-hearted, fun, sweet read dealing with situations and relationships they can strongly identify with, like puberty, exams, friends, teachers, parents, illness and a first crush. I delved deep into my own teenage memories and feelings to write the book.
I also hope it will encourage teens to be more open with their parents. Teenage years are confusing and emotional, but they can be made easier by communicating well with parents, yet somehow, those are the times communication between children and their parents deteriorate. Both parties need to make a conscious effort to keep the channels of communication open and well-oiled to make the best of these confusing years.
So I hope that parents of teens too read the book and talk about it with their kids. I hope discussing their perspectives on the story and characters will help parents and teens understand each other better and forge a closer bond.