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The Write Circle first session of 2022 hosts Jane De Suza with Rukma Prince

The Write Circle hosted Jane De Suza in conversation with Rukma Prince in the first session for 2022.

Jane De Suza, a beloved and bestselling author, moved to Singapore a short time before the pandemic and before she could absorb moving to a new country, the pandemic hit and she has been in Singapore ever since. Her latest book When the World Went Dark talks about loss to children in a balanced humorous way. As the pandemic unfolded, she could see that adults were struggling to talk to children about loss and death. She used her penchant for humour to ease children into a topic that could be too much of a dark cloud to dispel.

Jane brings in a range of characters to each of her books; from young, spunky teens to 30-something housewives. It would be too autobiographical to write in the voices she knows so she loves to slip into the skins of other people. 

Flyaway Boy is about a boy who inhabits a different world in this mind. It is a bestseller and very well received critically, being shortlisted for and winning prizes, because it’s about a child who thinks differently. He doesn’t fit into the boxes his parents, other children and his school expected him to fit into. Surprising to Jane, there were scores of people telling her how much they loved the book and how they related to the story. Of her set of characters in The Midnight Years, each is a kind of stereotype of teens, and rather than being alienating, the stereotypes have the reader looking at a little bit of themselves in each character.

Her two sons, their friends and other young children she knows are often Jane’s sounding board for her books. On dialogue, cover art, etc. she readily changes what wouldn’t fit into a young person’s world. For Jane, it is priceless to receive feedback from readers before the book is out; not many have that privilege.

In the Spy Who Lost Her Head, Gulabi is a memorable, colourful character from a small town. Jane’s young life, lived in a small town in North India, influenced her writing. The women she saw there weren’t always the quiet, oppressed caricatures people make them out to be. They were feisty, with a raunchy sense of humour and it is that zest that makes Gulabi’s hilarious story unputdownable.

Jane started her career with blogging. She was at home with her first baby, and motherhood wasn’t anything she expected it to be. She started writing about her life and the realities of motherhood humorously. As with her books today, her readers, many new and not-so-new mothers, felt an immediate sense of kinship with a woman who thought motherhood would bring a rosy glow to her life and found she was quite mistaken.

She can see now that humour could have been a defence mechanism for her growing up. It is a great tool to bring down people’s walls and be able to have a conversation with them. She uses it now to tackle difficult subjects in her writing. She has written about autism, loss, death for children and made the subjects approachable for children and adults alike.

Jane had expected her latest foray into screenwriting to be an easy task, since she’s already an accomplished writer but found herself in very different waters. Books look inward and it is easy to fill two pages on someone picking up a glass of water, embellishing the action with inner thoughts and machinations.  On the screen, there are no inner thoughts to show and writing each movement of the character is tougher. She would love her next project to be a psychological thriller with romance but meshing the two worlds is proving to be tricky.

Growing up, Jane would read anything and everything, including the labels on bottles. She loved books on nature and wildlife. A habitual eavesdropper, Jane talks to everyone she encounters. All these bits of information are put away like a bird building a nest, helping her write her diverse cast of characters.

Jane’s easy-going personality cast a warm glow on the evening, and viewers had more questions than there was time.

Jane De Suza is a best-selling author, columnist and creative consultant. She has been credited as one of the few women writers in India to combine humour with thought-provoking insights: The Midnight Years is on young adult mental health, Flyaway Boy and When the World went Dark bring hope into issues like grief and stereotyping. The Spy who Lost her Head and Happily Never After are of special interest to women, and the SuperZero series and Uncool for children.

Jane is a management grad from XLRI, works as creative director with leading advertising agencies, has a satire column with The Hindu, had a parenting column with Good Housekeeping and is currently working on a film.

Rukma Prince is a PhD scholar studying English literature. Her areas of interest include contemporary South Asian fiction, memory and trauma studies, human rights narratives and the sociology of literature. In a former life, she worked as Editorial Manager at Siyahi.

 The Write Circle is organized by Prabha Khaitan Foundation, in association with Shree Cement, Siyahi, Ehsaas Women of Jaipur and Spagia Foundation.

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