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Interview with Subhash and Sujata Kommuru Author of Chatur

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KommurusBIO:

Subhash and Sujata hail from India. They migrated to the United States along with their memories of childhood and youth. Now that they are parents, just like every immigrant they crave to introduce their child to the culture and values of their upbringing. Yet it is challenging to teach something while you are in the midst of adjusting to a different culture yourself.

Subhash and Sujata both work in different disciplines and have different styles and backgrounds, but it is the upbringing of their son that brings them on the same page. That exact place where they meet is captured and reflected in their stories, where Subhash can express in words, and Sujata can illustrate them beautifully. Where he puts it in black and white, she adds color to it. You get the idea!

These stories are their attempt to share a glimpse of their childhood days with their son. He is their inspiration to write short stories that have meaning to them and provide teaching in some shape or form.

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About Chatur

CHATUR is a hilarious and entertaining picture book written in Hindi (also with Hindi phonetics) for kids.
CHATUR is a wise laundry man. MAND is a loyal, reliable, albeit sluggish, partner in Chatur’s trade. He is a lazy donkey whose mantra is “Na Na Na hum to aaram karenge!”

Chatur’s ambition and Mand’s attitude doesn’t blend well. So Chatur comes up with a wise plan to reverse his fortune. He brings ATAL the elephant to do Mand’s job.
The plan starts out well and it did reverse his fortune substantially, but How?

Read Chatur(Hindi) a comical and fun read for kids. It is sure to tickle your funny bones. Bright illustrations are sure to engage readers. Chatur has a humorous theme with a subtle message and young readers not only have a laugh, but towards the end connect with each character and sympathize with them.
The book is written in Hindi script and also in Hindi phonetics to make it easy for everyone to read
Book Excerpt

Hindi:
Yeh kahani hai Chatur dhobhi aur mand gadha ki. Aalsi Mand ka naara hai “NaNa hum to aaram karenge” aur Chatur ki nazar sirf taraki par hai. Jab Mand ka tevar chatur ko khatakne laga, to usne dikhai apni chaturai. Kya chatur ko apni chaturai mehnga padega?

English:
This is a story about Chatur, the Dhobhi and Mand the donkey. Chatur is smart and progressive by nature and his Lazy donkey Mand’s answer to any request was “No No No, I gotta take it easy”. Chatur realized that his success is limited by Mand’s attitude, So Chatur thought of a smart idea, will it work or will it hit him back?

 
INTERVIEW:
Chatur-CoverQ: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Subhash. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

A: Chatur is my third published book, first one being Bargad which are written in 2 languages Hindi and English.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

A: Bargad is my first published book. I never tried my hands into traditional publishing because that meant committing to writing as a career and profession. I am a father and that is my sole reason to write so self-publishing was the route for me.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

A: I never tried my hands into traditional publishing. I am a father and that is my sole reason to write so I decided to self-publish. Self-publishing gives me a lot of flexibility one among them is ability to pick my subject and say it the way my son understands. I don’t have to do any market research ahead of time and figure out what is hype in market. I just write and deliver.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

A: Rejections can always be looked upon as a chance for improvement and a feedback. I have never tried to get into traditional publishing so I don’t have any rejections of that sort to share about. But I did get a taste of it when I got my first round of review on then unpublished Bargad. Everyone in friends and family speak greatly of it but hearing it from outsider forced me to rethink. So I ended up reaching quite a few folks and challenged them to just critic it. I summed them up and found that they all like the story line and the end lesson for kids so it was only vanity or the decorator words that needed addressing so that eased me a lot and the final product did hit the bulls eye. Chatur had an advantage that way. After Bargad I never take my story on just what I believe. I run it by a large group and ask them only to comment on shortfalls and then deliver the final story.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

A: Self-publishing is a great way to express yourself. I highly recommend everyone especially parents to try this route. Every parent has a way to entertain their own kids but it’s never formalized. But publishing gives it a structure. And there are tons of kids out there just like yours and would love to hear your stories and trust me, you will be amazed as to how many different angles they learn from a simple naïve story. When I presented Chatur to few kids and narrated the story, the only thing common was the laughs and giggle. Starting from which character they enjoyed the most to what they learned were mind blowing. I feel that sometimes even grown-ups cannot analyze a story as good as kids too.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

A: It was great feeling. We did not tell any of our friends until the day of publishing. To garner early feedback we sent manuscript to them without any credits and simply said that there is this story which someone wrote and are asking for your feedback. The day we got published it was a shocker for everyone, for atleast a week both me and my wife, Sujata, were on phone continuously telling people about book and how satisfying it felt.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

A: Especially as a first time author you tend to live in a dreamy world and we were no different. We were banking heavily on friends and family and it worked but after week one you realize now what? So we were dumb struck just like a deer in front of the headlight.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

A: No not at all. I love to self-publish.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

A: After Bargad and now Chatur I have two more titles. One is The magic of friendship and another Mother’s love can conquer any fear! I have made myself a promise before writing stories that I will always write sensible stories, no short cuts. I want to be able to tell stories that my son not only appreciates but learns a lesson or two from them. It won’t be just for entertainment or with any one goal. It has be multi-faceted and as he grows I want my writing to reflect his age.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

A: I come from an IT background so part of reason of getting published was the ease with which you can do things. For every question there is a tool that can help you. So my expanded my horizon from writing into my profession of IT and use some tools for book layout, creating pdf, ebook etc. While the whole thing was fun but it was time consuming. Just for the knowledge sake of it, it was well worth it but if I were to think of how much time it consumed I would have been better of trusting professionals to do that job.
Book layout is about 25% technical but most of it is an art.
Chatur from get go has been in the hands of a professional, Nayan Soni. He is a very talented illustrator and designer. I am very happy of my choice and he did an awesome job by bringing his own style and putting life the story.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

A: There is this very cute little girl her name is Ashwina, she is same age as Arya. I read Bargad to her just once. After the story I asked her how did she like the story, she said in a very calm voice “It was very very nice.” I was happy to get the praise and felt proud. That was that, or so I thought.

After almost a month, one day in Ashwina’s school they were asked to do a free drawing meaning draw anything that comes to your mind. She drew a scene from Bargad and told her teachers the story of Bargad. While most of the credit goes to Ashwina to retain the story, images for such a long time, but I am extremely proud to have a meaningful story that she wanted to hold on to.
That has been my biggest accomplishment.That alone is the reason I always advice fellow children’s author to always write sensible stories and don’t flaunt on using slang just to make it sound funny, kids grasp those things while it may sound funny and help you sell but it leaves a wrong impact on kids.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

A: I am an IT consultant.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

A: I don’t think I will give up on writing. I started it only for Arya but now that I am writing, I have found a great venue to invest myself in. I don’t have too much time in hand to say that writing fills those voids, but it gives me a different direction and gives me an outlet when I need one.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

A: That’s a very interesting question. You are making me think now. Up until we had Arya we would always think about our profession and our lives but now when we talk about future we always think of what Arya would be like 10yrs from now. I haven’t seen that far for my writing career or atleast haven’t mapped out game plan, may be in that time I would have written some YA books too.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A: Thank for your giving me the opportunity to share my opinion on your distinctive blog and exceptional readers and besides all the other great authors visiting here. I migrated to US from India and brought with me memories of land rich in culture and beliefs. For as long as me and wife were by ourselves we never took a moment to think about our cultural heritage and our values. But once we had Arya, our son, our perspective changed. He was growing up fast and seeing American culture all around him. That’s when we realized that there is a treasure called “India” which he is not exposed to and will never get to know unless we do something about this. Sure we can take him to local gatherings, temples, celebrate one of two festivals but that simply is not enough. Kids learn a lot from many different channels, One of those most effective channel is books. For Arya any time is story time, no matter how sad or how mad he is a book can always come to rescue.
So that got me into making up stories and morals that we have learned as a kid and narrate those stories to him. But I had to pick up a pen when he started to demand that I tell the same stories over and over again and use same immersive words every single time. So I decided to pick up a pen and start writing something with cultural significance, something that he cannot learn anywhere else and put it on paper so every time I read it will be exactly the same.
I am presenting lessons that can make a better person, be able to see good from bad, be able to see through evil and understand mechanics. Be able to differentiate right from wrong. But channel will always be an Indian theme.

I believe every parent has a children’s book writer in them. I strongly urge everyone to pick up a pen and start doing it for this industry needs sensible story. While professional writers are good but only a parent can speak to what their kid wants.

 

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