After spending his childhood years in the quaint neighborhood of Shivaji Park in Mumbai, India, author Prashant Pinge earned his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University, then a master of science degree in management from Lancaster University. His love of campus life then carried him to the Indian School of Business, where he enrolled in the post-graduate management program before earning a post-MBA master in international management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. After working as an engineer for awhile, Prashant returned to Mumbai to join the family business and start his own marketing and branding firm, Media Panther.
Prashant began writing in 2003, after a vivid dream compelled him to climb out of bed and put pen to paper. While he has yet to work out the details of that story, he has released several children’s books and young adult novels in the fantasy genre. His first book, Avantika’s Garden, was published in 2009 and told the story of an adventurous group of animals that live in and around a house in suburban Pune. His books have been nominated for the Crossword Book Awards, with Raja & the Giant Donut being shortlisted in the Children’s Writing category in 2011. His recently-released novel, Sceadu, is a fast-paced tale that takes place in a land within the human shadow.
Prashant lives with his wife and son in Mumbai where, in addition to writing, he enjoys collecting old coins, reading fiction, traveling to exotic destinations, watching movies and listening to music. To learn more about him and his work, visit www.prashantpinge.com.
What was your upbringing like, and how did it shape who you are today?
I have been brought up with strong middle class values. I played outdoors in the sun, read books while slurping on ice cream, spent a good part collecting all sorts of things from coins and stamps to matchboxes and playing cards, enjoyed my time with the family on holidays and during festivals (India has a lot of them), and just had a lot of all round wholesome fun. I believe my childhood experiences have not only helped me appreciate the simple things in life but also given me the courage to follow my passion.
What aspects of the writing process did you struggle with the most when you were first starting out, and how did you overcome those struggles?
I have always had a great imagination but never really entertained the notion of channeling my ideas into words. That all changed when I had the dream that initiated my journey into the literary world. I was very excited about the prospect of writing, but the last piece of fiction I had penned down was probably some essay in high school. It felt like a daunting task to write a complete book. I suppose the hardest part was keeping my patience. I had hardly completed my first chapter and my mind was already goading me on to the next idea. I still struggle with this at times, but a disciplined approach along with a notebook to capture these moments of inspiration has kept me on track.
Who are your biggest creative influences?
As a child, I devoured every Enid Blyton book I could get my hands on. So I would have to say that she was my strongest creative influence growing up. In recent times, Phil Pullman has been a very important influence. I think he writes beautifully. Then there is Agatha Christie. I feel she is a master of storytelling, especially when it comes to holding the reader’s attention ’til the very last word. I also enjoy Somerset Maugham’s short stories. His vivid descriptions are a treat to read.
How have you grown as a writer over the years?
My journey into the world of writing has been nothing short of amazing. I believe the primary reason for this is that I am passionate about my craft. I started with writing children’s fiction, a genre which I enjoy working in immensely. After four books and two short stories in this category, I recently released a work of young adult fantasy fiction. I am currently working on a romantic comedy and am also researching material for a historical fiction novel. So yes, I do believe I have grown as a writer, not only in experimenting with different genres but also adapting my style to varied audiences.
What inspired the story of Sceadu?
Sceadu is the old English term for shadow. I have always been fascinated by these supposedly docile grey shapes. Shadows are rarely given a second look during the day; a few of us fear them at night. They, however, never leave our side, quiet companions at times, popping about on walls and other surfaces at others. But what if these neglected entities held a land replete with dangerous creatures simply biding their time to escape into our world and cause destruction? It was this question that inspired me to write Sceadu. But Sceadu is no ordinary fantasy. It has a completely logical basis, interwoven into the narrative by combining elements of psychology and mythology.
When it comes to your approach or your process, how does writing a young adult story such as Sceadu differ from writing children’s fiction? Does it differ?
I firmly believe that every story should have a fantastic plot, interesting characters, and be well written. So whether it is children’s fiction or young adult fantasy fiction, the essential ingredients of creating a great story remain the same for me. However, what does change is the audience. When I write, my aim is to immerse my audience into the story. So I have to keep their sensibilities in mind when I work on the book. The complexity of the plot, the depth of the characterization, the language used, the length, etc., then come into play.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Writing allows me to channel my creativity and bring my imagination to life. People talk about traveling the breadth of the world. My proverbial pen takes me on wonderful journeys within the depths of my mind. And here’s the best part: I don’t require a passport.
What do you miss most about college life?
I have spent some of the most glorious years of my life on campuses around the world, from Purdue University in the U.S. to a semester at the University of New South Wales in Australia, from Lancaster University in the UK to the Indian School of Business in India and finally the Thunderbird School of Global Management back in the U.S. I miss almost every aspect of college life, the beautiful campuses, the lifelong friendships, the charged learning environment, the all-nighters in the library, and simply the thought about all the possibilities that lie beyond.
From your perspective, what are the biggest differences between life in Mumbai and life in the United States (and Iowa in particular)?
Mumbai is a large bustling city of more than 20 million people, the financial capital of India. Most of the cities I have stayed in the United States such as West Lafayette, Cedar Rapids, Glendale etc. have been very small by comparison. So the biggest difference would probably be the pace of life. What I really enjoyed about my time in the United States and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in particular, is the quality of life. I miss this city of five seasons, especially all the beautiful parks and the serene lifestyle it offered. From an author’s perspective, I do wish Mumbai had the large format bookstores, the extensive library system, and just the well-developed publishing eco-system that is available in the United States.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten recently?
I really enjoy my wife’s cooking. And I have one meal in particular that tops my list of best meals, at least in recent memory, by a mile. I am a huge fan of Chinese cuisine, especially noodles. A few weeks ago, my wife made this sumptuous noodle soup in a chicken broth with mushrooms, pak choi, and spring onions along with a liberal helping of prawns. But the secret ingredient was this awesome shrimp paste made in hot chili oil. I had so many bowls I couldn’t even reach the main course.
What are you working on next?
I have been working on a romantic comedy. It is the first time I shall be working in this genre. But it’s been a rewarding experience thus far. My endeavour is to not only infuse humour into the story through creating quirky characters and putting them in hilarious situations, but to also use the language in a way that does justice to this genre. It is quite a departure from my usual way of storytelling, but I am enjoying the process. I am also currently doing research for a work of historical fiction.