Name: Sheela Chari
Book Title: VANISHED
Release Date: Summer 2011
How does a beloved Indian instrument vanish from the hands of a late, renowned musician and end up in the possession of a potato-chip eating, perpetually tardy, eleven-year old girl?
This is what Neela Krishnan, Arlington's budding veena player, must figure out if she wants her instrument back after it vanishes one day from a church. What she soon discovers is that her veena's "vanishing" is no accident but part of a bizarre chain of disappearances involving a missing, retired minister, a kooky church sextant guarding a dragon teakettle, and Lynne, the new girl at school with a huge wad of cash and a mysterious connection to the dead musician. Hot on the trail of the lost veena, Neela winds up in India, where her success depends largely on her wits, her speed, and unlikeliest of all, a pack of baseball cards.
What made you decide to become a writer?
I was always writing as a child. I kept a journal from the time I was ten and I wrote stories for myself. In college, I was astonished to learn that you could actually study and earn a degree in writing. Who ever heard of such a thing? Around that time, I started taking creative writing courses and I discovered the whole world of writing, the short story form, and the way writers had been using it to craft some of the best writing I’d read. Studying and writing short stories in college helped me to become a writer.
Making the leap from short story to novel was tough for me, but I did it, and I’m happy being where I am. I like the novel, I like having a whole book to follow your characters and discover who they are. I like having sub-plots and complications and things not adding up so neatly.
As for why I write for children, it’s because I began reading as a child. I think of childhood, among other things, as being the Golden Age of reading, when a book has the greatest chance of bewitching, encouraging, confounding, and ultimately changing a young person’s point of view. I want to be a part of that.
Sacajawea, Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass, The Mists of Avalon, the Anne of Green Gables series, anything by Lois Duncan or Madeline L’Engle, (A Wrinkle in Time being my favorite), From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Charlotte’s Web, The Graveyard Book, The Penderwicks, The Dark Materials trilogy, the Clementine series, Holes, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, A Northern Light, War and Peace, and Poems by Elizabeth Bishop.
Morning person or night owl?
Before kids: night owl.
After kids: Neither. Unless sleep deprivation counts for one of them.
PC or Mac
PC. But those Macs look so pretty.
What did you have for dinner today?
Okra sambar (a spicy Indian stew) rice, zucchini with coconut, and yogurt.
Quick! Share 11 random things about yourself.
- I’m vegetarian, which means I don’t eat anything that once moved of its own volition.
- I play the violin.
- I’m scared of heights. I’m also scared of bridges and New York traffic.
- I always wanted to own a Wrangler Jeep. In high school, I even had a Laredo jeep keychain. The sad irony of my life is that of course, I drive a mini-van instead.
- I was born in India, raised in Iowa and Washingon State, went to college in California, lived in Massachusetts , got married in New York, and um, write about Boston.
- On Saturday mornings, I listen to Car Talk on NPR because those fellows make me laugh.
- I love to garden but hate to weed.
- Admitted: I do judge a book by its cover.
- I have two masters in creative writing.
- I have two girls that keep me busy most of my waking hours (which is many seeing as I don’t sleep much).
- I’m a frequent insomniac. Sometimes if I can’t get to sleep, I imagine what outfit I’ll wear the next day. That usually puts me to sleep in minutes. Ha!