In darkness and light: An interview with author Tanu Shree Singh

Despite the bright colours, the protagonist stays enveloped in a dark cloud

Despite the bright colours, the protagonist stays enveloped in a dark cloud   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tanu Shree Singh on her new picture book Darkless and why it’s important to talk to children about difficult topics

There’s something strange about Ani in Tanu Shree Singh’s Darkless. He is always surrounded by a dark cloud. It’s not till the end that you realise why. A chance conversation with a friend “who was working on a project about light and dark as a concept of physics” led Tanu to write this book. “I see light and dark as emotions. When you are low nothing seems colourful. And that became the spring board. It had to be a picture book because I could visualise the dark and light!”

Talk about everything with kids, says Tanu Shree Singh

Talk about everything with kids, says Tanu Shree Singh   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Write Way
  • When: Any time an inspiration strikes is a good time
  • Where: Anywhere, any time, anyhow. I have jotted things down while in the metro on my mobile too. So I have no system whatsoever
  • How: Laptop and at least a dozen notebooks for emergency notes
  • What: Just peace. The boys are told beforehand to disturb me only in case of life-threatening issues. Minor earthquakes do not count

Given that the book is about dealing with loss, Tanu feels that it is extremely important to “talk about everything” with kids. “In our fear of hurting, confusing or saddening them, we hide plain facts and do them a great disservice. Children perceive much more than we give them credit for. Now the choice is ours: Do we want them to perceive whatever there is in their surroundings according to the limited framework we have presented to them or do we want to arm them with facts and help them in the process of understanding?” She points out that there are many many books that talk about loss and resilience, both for parents and kids. “The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers and Boo! When my Sister Died by Richa Jha are very close to my heart. And if you are looking for a little help on parenting you could also check out Keep Calm and Mommy On!

Darkless by Tanu Shree Singh published by Puffin

Darkless by Tanu Shree Singh published by Puffin   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A few favourites
  • Books: The Winternight Trilogy
  • Authors: Anushka Ravishankar, Neil Gaiman, Frances Hardinge
  • Picture book: The Art of Tying a Pug
  • Book-to Movie Adaptations: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The text in Darkless is kept to bare minimum but complements the illustrations and conveys the child’s emotions very effectively. It took around 20-plus drafts, says Tanu, to arrive at this. “In one picture book writing workshop, my editor Richa Jha and I shared the first draft and the final to emphasise the importance of a good editor-author relationship and the significance of the overall process of editing.” She describes a picture book as a collaboration between the author, illustrator and editor and says illustrator Sandhya Prabhat and Richa understood her vision. Even if they hadn’t, she says, they would have come up with something better. “None of us curbed the other’s freedom and hence the book was born.”

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 2:32:31 AM |

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