Friday, June 4, 2010

Interview With Elizabeth Varadan

Today’s guest is Elizabeth Varadan, author of ‘The Fourth Wish’.

Q. Tell us a little about your juvenile fantasy novel The Fourth Wish.

A. The Fourth Wish takes place in Sacramento, where I live. Sacramento usually shows up in historical fiction for children, due to the Gold Rush history, but it was fun writing a contemporary story in the city I love.

Q. I have read the book and liked your style and the characters who are extremely life like. Did you do any research for them? Are they based on any real life children you have met?

A. Characters in The Fourth Wish are entirely fictitious, but they are probably a conglomeration culled from numerous sixth grade students I taught for many years. It’s such an interesting age to teach, because students are very individual by eleven or twelve. I’ve always loved to write though, and even during lessons, part of my brain would be noticing little gestures, facial expressions, etc., or paying attention to comments on the playground. A writer is always soaking up things on the periphery.

Q. Is there a sequel to The Fourth Wish in the pipeline?

A. I actually have three sequels in mind, and I’ve gone so far as to “rough outline” them and write few scenes. But, this was a self-published book, and I’m heeding Agent Nathan Bransford’s advice: Wait until a book is commercially published before pursuing sequels to a self-published book.

Q. Where does inspiration for your characters come from?

A. The inspiration actually comes from the story itself. An idea occurs to me, sort of a “what if ” idea, and then the characters start evolving from the story problem. For instance, I’ve never met or known “Arthur” from the story, but he just appeared and then evolved, and in some ways he did a lot of scene stealing, too. It’s weird; I didn’t even know he was going to be in it, but once he showed up, I just knew what he would say.

Q. Are you working on another novel?

A. Yes, I’m finishing up a re-write of a historical novel. Also set in Sacramento. This story occurs in 1919, at the tail-end of the influenza epidemic. Every book is different, and this one called for a lot of research, but I’ve loved doing it. In a writing class I took, the teacher, Sands Hall, talked about “research rapture”. There really is such a thing.

Q. You do a lot of book reviews. Does it get in the way of your writing?

A. Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it takes time away from writing my own stuff. On the other hand, as I review books and analyze what makes them work, it’s very instructive for me, trying to articulate what grabs me, what turns me off, what feels believable, what doesn’t. Part of my brain is saying, “Pay attention to this….”

Q. Do you have a favourite writing time?

A. Mostly after lunch. In the mornings I’m “clearing the slate,” so to speak. I write best when I’ve gone through my mail and email and attended to nagging chores. Otherwise, they really are a distraction for me. Once I get going, though, sometimes I come back to the writing after dinner, too, in the evening. It really depends on where I am in the work. Usually the afternoon is enough, and then I read in the evening. Meanwhile, I scribble down notes in the car on a trip, and read in line at the post office, dental office, etc. Reading and writing are so interconnected for me.

Q. What’s on your current reading list?

A. Oh, gosh; what isn’t? I just finished Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes, a Newbery Honor Book, just a beautiful book, published in 2003; and the Ruby in the Smoke, a YA Victorian mystery by Philip Pullman, published in 1985, also excellent. At the same time, I can hardly wait for the next three books Sacramento Book Review is going to send me to review. They will all be current books just about to come out in the next month or two.

Q. You are an avid blogger, you conduct art classes, you write as well as do regular book reviews. Any tips you would like to share with us on effective time management?

A. Hmmm. I’m not sure my tips would be very helpful. My after school art club one day a week is for 8-12 year-olds, which is the age range for my target readership. It’s a mutually enriching experience, as we all love art, and we all love to read. I get great reading recommendations from my students while we do art. Outside of that regularity in my schedule, I pretty much follow the above, very loose schedule of taking care of chores in the morning, writing in the afternoons, reading in the evenings. It works for me; but another writer might do it all differently.

Elizabeth Varadan's Blog  -

How do you all  ( my writer friends and blogging buddies) balance everything: writing, reading, blogging, social networking, managing family and keeping in touch with friends, and sundry other jobs that  we writers do? Do you all have time management tips that we can learn from. Please share them with us.


  1. What an inspiring interview! How do I balance life? It's a harsh juggling act and some days I drop all the balls but for the most part, I piece it all in somehow.

  2. *waves* to Rachna. Super interview. The balancing act is something I've failed at miserably since becoming sick. But hopefully, now that I'm on the mend, I will do a much better job of keeping up. It can be overwhelming at times. Especially when you are readying your book for querying.

    I love what Elizabeth said about "clearing the slate" first every morning, so she can write free of distractions. So important!

    And I got my inspiration for my MG novel from the story itself. Isn't it funny how much we writers are alike and yet how different we are?

    Sweet interview, Rachna. After getting back on the computer when I came home from the hospital, your blog is the first one I visited.

  3. times I have too many things to juggle, but in the end I somehow manage to do everything. Hopefully I do them well. Time management I have yet to learn.

  4. Robyn...hope you are recovering well! How sweet of you to visit my blog first.

    Yes Robyn, many times the inspiration comes from the story itself, the characters literally jump out without us being aware of it. Sometimes they tell us where they want to go and what they want to do.

    All the best with your querying!