We interviewed another very senior writer. Leela Gour Broome has worked with children for some 25 years, both at various schools, teaching music, mime and dance, then in 1990, as Director of our own Nature and Environment Camps – the first residential camps for children between 7 and 12 years. She began writing in 2004, first writing short stories for various children’s papers and magazines. In 2010 she published her first book for YA (Young Adults).
She studied for her B.A. English Hons, at Fergusson College, Pune, and also completed her Royal College of Music Exams, London, in Western Music, at the Pianoforte. She attended various short courses through the years.
She has won an Award in a government Essay Competition, and for short stories in her teens, published by Statesman, while in Delhi, completing her school years. She stood First in India, in her Final Exam for Piano, conducted by the Royal College of Music, London.
What inspired you to start writing?
I was inspired to write ……from the age of 12 years. As an Army kid, I grew up quite rough and tough, loved the outdoors, music and the arts and crafts. As the eldest of four sisters, often held responsible for the others, I was also a bit of a loner, enjoying solitude, following my own hobbies and interests whenever possible. Books/ reading/ authors and adventure fascinated me, and I was CERTAIN I wanted to be a writer one day…..it was just a question of time! By the time I was 16 I was writing my own hand written magazine ( we didnt have computers or typewriters in those days!), bringing out one each month. It was full of imaginary news, views, reviews, drawings and cartoons. About 12 years ago, I threw them all out, and regret it to this day! After a long interval being in the constant company of children both at school, then during our camps, I itched to stop everything and start writing. It was only in 2010 that I finally did sit down and write my first book, Flute in the Forest – a story that had been sitting in my head for some 40 years!!
What did you like to read when you were a girl?
As a girl I read ……Louisa May Alcott, E. Nesbitt, Francis Hodgson Burnett, Kipling, Jim Corbett, and then ofcourse, many of the Classics – Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Moby Dick, Swiss Family Robinson, David Copperfield and all the Charles Dickens books, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Daphne du Maurier, Steinbeck, Hemingway and Somerset Maugham.
What is the greatest challenge in writing a book?
The greatest challenge…… in writing a book, is to write something that will make your reader pick up the book and then not be able to put it down till its done! In short, its got to have a great subject ( if possible with a twist), or written in such a style as to grip the readers interest. I have so many little observations/ experiences/thoughts that I think YA and younger readers may enjoy…….but I also know I have to make the writing compelling enough to hold their attention, or the story is lost! And finally, my story must inspire! For me that’s the biggest challenge, I guess.
How much research do you do before writing the book?
So far, the books I have written (there are three more in the pipeline right now) are all gleaned from some personal experience, and a LOT of imagination! I do cross check afterwards, to be sure I have the facts right, though! There are the beginnings of another book in my head, but for this one, a lot of research will have to be done, which means a lot of spare time will be required. Lets see how it goes.
What motivated you to write the book “Flute in the Forest”?
As mentioned earlier, the seeds of this story had been with me for about 4 decades. It was a bereavement in the family, a mourning period, a laptop, and a sudden overload of free time that got me going. Once I began on the story, I found myself completely immersed in it, sometimes getting up at 3 am to sit down and begin writing again. I realized I had bottled up the story for so many years and everything needed to be written down before it was too late! I was so involved that I completed the book in 3 months flat!
Can you tell us more about your latest book “Flute in the Forest”?
Its the story of a thirteen year old protagonist, only child of divorced parents, living with her father, a Forest Ranger in South India. She loves and understands the forest and its flora and fauna, and is most comfortable here. A polio survivor, she is physically disabled but has an indomitable and charming spirit, though lonely. Her mother, a dancer, had left to join the stage when Atiya was very young, and now her father forbids music in the house, to prevent Atiya from taking a liking to it, and leaving for the city to study it too. Atiya makes friends with Gopal, a young boy of fourteen, the son of her village school teacher and they have an adventure in the forest. On the way home she hears the magic notes of a flute and at a later date, she returns to meet the flautist, an old man who is ill, grouchy but a brilliant musician. A rogue elephant enters the story, and the three of them make an unlikely threesome, sharing companionship,and a growing friendship that leads to acceptance and understanding. There are forest scenes I could not possibly leave out, they form an integral part of my book. Some of these were personal experiences, when I lived as a young wife of the manager of a tea estate in South India. I hope, ofcourse, that my readers will get a feel of the forest through the story in this way, too. Like all my work, this story too, ends on a positive optimistic note. If I’ve inspired the reader with the story, then I think I’ve achieved what I set out to do! Ruskin Bond has given my book a great review.
Who are your favourite authors?
YA writers – Sue Monk Kidd, E. Nesbitt, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Zilpha Keattey Snyder, Ruskin Bond, Shel Silverstein, Gerald Durrell.
Adult Fiction writers – Ruskin Bond, Amitav Ghosh, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Daphne du Maurier, Andrea Levy.
How much time do you dedicate for writing on a daily basis?
I’m usually at the laptop by 10 am on a daily basis. Its a habit I got into easily, once our camps closed and time lay heavy on my hands. The laptop was a new phenomena for me, and I took to it like a duck to water! I use it much like the old typewriter – the advantage is that my work is now easy to read, I can rewrite/delete/add/ check out quickly, – my handwriting is an awful scribble, so the laptop is a boon! The one disadvantage is that I cannot draw between the words, which is frustrating sometimes! When I am busy with a book, writing becomes obsessive, and I keep returning to my laptop all day – between housework, if necessary. Writing is not, and has never been a painful task for me – if you feed me with coffee and snacks all day, I’d be glued to the laptop 24×7, probably!! I write in what I consider inspired bursts, sometimes pages and pages of it. Then, once the chapter is done, I return to read the whole thing through, cutting out/ adding/ chopping/ changing to ‘clean’ up my work. That takes time, but I have never found that painful either. Strange, perhaps, but true. What does give me gripes is bad grammar , spelling mistakes or paragraphs which are superfluous or badly expressed…….I will take great pains to alter these, and will continue editing and re-editing my own work till I think I cannot change another word.
What words of wisdom would you like to give to aspiring writers?
a) Writing is NOT a money-making career. Take to writing only if you believe you HAVE to write to keep you ticking!
b) Get a professional editor to read your work before posting your Mss to potential publishers.
c) ALWAYS read the publishers requirements before sending off your Mss to them, ie, What genre? How many pages? Chapters? Book Synopsis?
d) Read a couple of books on Writing Books, if possible.
e) And, write, write, write every day.
f) And read, read, read every spare moment you have!
You can buy her book now: