It’s time for our latest Spotlight On interview and this time we are catching up with YA author Pooja Puri whose debut novel The Jungle, a brave and beautiful narrative about two teenage refugees in Calais, publishes tomorrow.
Pooja first tasted publishing success with her short story Chess, and later graduated from King’s Collge London with a first Class degree in English Language and Literature. In 2014, she was chosen as a winner of the Ideas Tap Writer’s Centre Norwich Inspires competition. She will soon be embarking on a MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. She is represented at the agency by Lauren Gardner.
1) What inspired you to start writing children’s books?
I’ve wanted to write children’s books ever since I was a child. For me, there was always a kind of magic held in the pages of a story. Being able to create whole worlds from a handful of words – what could be more magical than that!
2) What comes first: The character or the story?
Character – always!
3) Where is your favourite place to write/ when is your favourite time to write?
I have a few places where I like to write – my desk, the kitchen table, the sofa. I don’t have a particularly strict schedule when it comes to my writing so try to write whenever I can.
4) If you weren’t an author what would you like to be?
Being an astronaut would be incredible! Though I’m not so good with heights so perhaps it’s not the best alternative career choice.
5) If you could collaborate with any writer past or present who would it be and why?
This is a hard one! Although she didn’t write for children, I think it would have been great fun to work with Jane Austen. I’d also have loved to work with Roald Dahl.
6) Who is your favourite children’s book character, and why?
I’ve lots of favourite book characters, but one of my favourites has to be Matilda. A bookworm with magical powers – you can see the appeal! On that note, I’ve always thought of Miss Trunchbull as one of the best villains ever created.
7) What’s your favourite word/quote?
‘You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think’ – Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne.
8) What was your favourite book when you were growing up?
When I was younger, I loved Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It’s difficult to choose one book, but I had lots of favourite authors: Nina Bawden, JK Rowling, Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman, Eoin Colfer, Jamila Gavin – to name but a few!
9) What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I play the guitar. Though I think I write better than I play (perhaps why most people don’t know about it!)
10) What has been your career highlight so far?
Holding my first book in my hands!
Bonus question: what other genre of writing would you like to do?
My second book is a historical fiction novel – a very different writing experience to The Jungle!