Interview by Piranha T. and Super Kitty
Veera Hiranandani is the author of several award-winning books for children and young adults. The Night Diary, her most recent novel, follows the story of twelve-year-old Nisha, forced to leave her home after the 1947 partition between India and Pakistan, and won the Newbery Honor. We loved this book for its unique style and strong characters. We were thrilled to interview her for this month’s feature!
RapunzelReads: The Night Diary has such a vivid, detailed setting—what's it like to bring a historical place to life?
Veera Hiranandani: Thank you! It was sort of a collage of things--research, conversations, feedback, reading, and of course, my own imagination. One thing I've always been able to do is imagine deeply. Sometimes my imagination feels more real than real life! I was always called a "daydreamer" growing up. I only need a few ingredients to send me on my way. So for The Night Diary, I came up with a main character, did my research for the setting and had a general idea of the journey she would
Author photo credit: David Beinstein
RR: Do you have any tips for an aspiring writer?
VH: You can always revise! Let yourself free on the page! That's how you get to the truth of the story you want to tell.
RR: What inspired you to write The Night Diary in entries written as letters to Nisha's mother, and what was it like to tell a story in that type of format?
VH: I knew Nisha was shy and I thought it would be interesting to see her ask all the questions and express herself in the pages of her diary in a way she wouldn't feel comfortable doing out loud. It was a difficult format to work with at times, but it helped me make more specific choices as a writer which was a good thing.
RR: In your Author's Note, you talk about how your father's experiences inspired The Night Diary. What's it been like to teach so many readers about a piece of history that isn't often taught to children in the US?
VH: It's been very gratifying and rewarding. That was a big reason why I wrote The Night Diary. I had grown up in the US always knowing about the Partition and knowing that my father and his family had to leave their home and travel over the border into the new India. I was always curious to learn more about what it was like and why it happened. I was surprised, however, to realize that no one around me knew about this history. It wasn't taught in school or spoken about. So I wanted to make sure to preserve and share what I knew about this history before those who can tell us these stories aren't here anymore to share them.