Author Khyrunnisa A. on her first novel Howzzat Butterfingers
What comes to your mind when you hear the word butterfingers? Clumsy? Awkward? Meet Amar Kishen, a 13-year-old boy who lives in Khyrunnisa A.'s novel, Howzzat Butterfingers and you would also probably think: endearing and lovable.
Howzzat Butterfingers, to be published shortly by Penguin, is the author's first novel. Built around a character she originally created for children's magazine, Tinkle, the book is a delightful tale about a totally clumsy, yet much-loved, young teenager nicknamed Butterfingers.
“Butterfingers was my first story for children. That was a long time back – in the 1990s,” says Khyrunnisa explaining that the story was her entry for a short story competition held by Tinkle for adult writers of children's fiction. But how did she think of this name? “We are all pretty clumsy…dropping or scattering things around all the time. So the models for the character are there in me and around me,” she explains. It is exactly this light heartedness and humour that the writer brings to her work too.
Full of humour
It has always been a sheer delight interacting with Khyrunnisa who works as a professor of English at All Saints College in the city. Not surprising, therefore, that this natural humorist has created several hilarious twists, turns and fun moments in the novel. Being an English professor, she has also let her love for punning take over at various points in the book.
In line with its title, cricket plays a leading role in the book and Butterfingers is vice-captain of his school's cricket team. Cricket was a natural choice as a setting, given that Khyrunnisa's is a “cricket-crazy family!”
As the blurb says: ‘Books, balls, bats, people, anything can go flying when Butter is on the loose.' However, it is all this that makes him such an endearing character. So what does his creator like most about him? “He's exuberant, lively, clumsy. He's a quintessential boy. Everything about him is endearing,” laughs Khyrunnisa. A big hit with the young readers of Tinkle, Butterfingers has been receiving rave responses for a long time and now, with this Penguin novel, he's out to win more hearts. Writing the book took only two months, but the research and post-writing work took lots of time, says the author.
Responding to the clichéd yet inevitable question whether writing for children was more challenging than writing for adults, she says that writing well is always challenging, irrespective of genre or label. At the same time, she feels that writing for children is always difficult as one is constantly deciding on what to write and what not to write.
For this reason, she doesn't agree with people who think that children's literature cannot be taken seriously as it is ‘easy.' When writing for children, “it is important to tie all loose ends at the end,” she adds, commenting on how much focus a children's novel demands. Enjoying this experience thoroughly, she intends to write more Butterfinger novels and stories.
Pre-empting a comparison between Harry Potter and a possible ‘Butterfingers phenomenon,' Khyrunnisa says that the children in her book use no magic. They don't have special powers. It is very much a real world in which she creates “a school environment where there is much fun, joy and camaraderie.”
So what's next in the pipeline for this prize-winning author who also occasionally writes for adults? “More writing,” she says. That translates into more fun and more enjoyable literature for her readers – children and adults who never stopped being children.
And for all we know, clumsy could become the new ‘cool'– if Butterfingers has his way.