'I feel like I've returned home'

Updated: Sep 09, 2019, 19:21 IST | Fiona Fernandez

Known for mythical fiction thrillers, Ashok Banker returns to his first love, writing for children, with a new series that celebrates school life. Edited excerpts from an interview

'I feel like I've returned home'
Ashok Banker

Was there a trigger or a specific reason that inspired this series for children?

I began my career as an author with children's books, stories and poems. They were published by Christian publishers like Together in Bangalore and the Pauline Sisters in Mumbai. Thanks to Sushmita Chatterjee, my editor, I had an opportunity to return to my roots. The Invisible Spy, the first book in The Secret School Mysteries, is one of the most enjoyable books I've written of all my 73 books so far, and it's wonderful to see so many young readers enjoying it. It's my first book to get all five-star reviews!

What are the challenges you faced while shifting gears from mythical fiction to writing for young minds?

SceneIllustrations from Banker's The Invisible Spy, the first in the Secret School Mysteries series. ILLUSTRATIONS/ RAVI GUPTA

Children's books, realistic fiction and crime fiction — these are the kind of stories that come most naturally to me. I had to do extensive research and change the mindset to write mythological fiction, especially because I'm not a Hindu and did not grow up exposed to the Hindu myths and gods. Frankly, with books like The Invisible Spy, I feel like I've returned home!

What research did you undertake to craft this series? The kids hail from varied backgrounds and have interesting character sketches...

Illustrations from Banker's The Invisible Spy, the first in the Secret School Mysteries series. ILLUSTRATIONS/ RAVI GUPTA

In some way, they're all a part of me. I'm of mixed parentage: Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Portuguese, Sri Lankan and Indian — South Indian, Goan and East Indian. In terms of religion, I am of Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, and Jewish blood. There's upper caste, low caste, and scheduled caste in me. All in one person! So it was simple to separate them into different characters, who then grew and became their own persons. Peter, Sania, Asha, Usha, Arun, and even Uru, are each so diverse and unique, yet they are all 21st-century Indians!

What's it about?

SceneIllustrations from Banker's The Invisible Spy, the first in the Secret School Mysteries series. ILLUSTRATIONS/ RAVI GUPTA

Secret School Mysteries is a series aimed to engage readers from eight to 12 years. The first in the series, The Invisible Spy (Scholastic India), is already out. Each book, released every six months, is a rollercoaster of mystery, adventure, and sci-fi. It follows five young protagonists as they discover life lessons at a school.

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