What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
In the context of my writing I would say the biggest challenge I set myself is writing STARCURSED, a YA historical set in 12th century India. It was a daunting task for a non-academic like me and took a ton of research, but I think I accomplished my goal of making the story accessible and interesting to teens. It’s a work of fiction, and non-literary fiction at that, but I feel like there are so many girls out there who found out about Leelavati from my book and that was worth the difficult journey of writing and getting the book published to me.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved reading but found myself and everything and everyone I loved and observed around me to be missing from the books I read. The few books that I could find myself reflected in tended to be heavy issue books and not the upbeat, joyful books I craved. When this glaring gap was still very much present when my kids were old enough to read I had to do something. It was a steep learning curve to teach myself to write but I love the work of creating stories and having the privilege of sharing them.
What is a book that you think everyone should read?
SO many!! I think everyone who loves books needs to read Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, romantics have to read Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, and literarily everyone should read Cosmos by Carl Sagan – it had a big impact on me growing up.
What is your creative process like?
Messy and random initially, but once I’m sure an idea is worth investing months of work in I am very organized and diligent. There is nothing harder than filling an empty page sometimes, but also nothing more fulfilling when the ideas and words are flowing. Both of these states regularly happen to me and I just try to get on with it as best as I can.
How does your heritage influence your work?
It influences the stories I want to tell, the lens through which my characters see the world, the big picture of what I’m writing, the details…everything really. However there is universality to the human condition and good writing will always reflect that and appeal to anyone regardless of heritage, I believe.
How many books have you written?
I’ve published four novels – one for younger children and three for teens and up. I do have a couple more I’m writing currently and several ideas I’m playing with that may or may not end up as complete stories.
Who are some Asian women you admire?
I had a lot of exceptional women in my family… my sister Anuja Chauhan is a writer and columnist who is never afraid to speak her mind, my mum who won a gold medal for science in college and was accepted to medical school in 1950s India (she wasn’t allowed to attend and had a family and raised four daughters instead), my other sisters, my mausis, my nani…they were and are amazing women. Of Asian women in the US today I admire NPRs Meghna Chakraborty, Youtube superstar Lilly Singh who just started a late night show on NBC, and SO many YA and children’s writers Grace Lin, Jenny Han, Samira Ahmed, Malinda Lo, Ellen Oh, Sayantani Dasgupta, Uma Krishnaswami… too many to count!!
What is next for you?
I have two new books I’m working on currently and I’m also hoping that some of my books published in India might find a home in the US too. Stay tuned!
What is your go-to coffee order?
Tea, always. Earl Grey or Darjeeling.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem facing Asian women today?
Depending on what strata of society and what part of the world we’re talking about Asian women face so many challenges. New world/old world, orthodox/progressive, urban/rural…it’s like we exist in many parallel worlds that are completely different from each other. If I had to pick one problem I’d say gender inequalities since those cut across all these lines and impacts us in many different ways wherever we live…education, work-life, health, finance it impacts everything.
Nandini Bajpai grew up in New Delhi, India, one of four sisters and many cousins, in a family that liked to read. She lived and worked in India, Australia, and the US, before settling in the Boston area with her husband, kids, and a fluctuating number and variety of pets. Although she’s been a bookseller, systems analyst, TEDx organizer, PTO Mom, animal foster and more, her first love is writing.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.