Summary of Seeta's first book.
Two children aged eight and ten go on a holiday to an island in the Indian Ocean.
The younger one believes that there are dragons on the Island and persuades the older one to join in the search for them.
Seeta, you have travelled a lot and worked for many years as a doctor including caring for sick children. What made you want to write for children?
I find that I can just make up a story. I’ve always been able to. I look around, see a tree and can think of a story about it.
I’ve always wanted to write and thought a proper grounding would help so did a creative writing course for children at Birkbeck College, London.
You speak English at home but know Sinhala and some words of Tamil. You must be interested in words and language! Are there some words that don’t translate easily or well?
The commonest words that do not translate well are "goodbye". The equivalent in Sinhalese would mean "I will go and come".
How are you? The recipient will answer giving a list of ailments and misfortunes.
Another is putting something off or postpone will translate as "dropping off on the way".
How long did it take you to write your first book?
About a year but this was a year of great change including moving city and home. My second story took just a couple of weeks to complete.
How did you decide on the setting for your story?
For much of my life, I worked as a GP but retired a little early – at 60 – and since then travelled the world. To Hanoi and Saigon (which was full of remorseful Americans, ashamed of using Agent Orange), to Petra, right across the US in a Greyhound, to Canada where I saw moose walking through the middle of Calgary, to Ireland, to Sri Lanka (of course) and to Denmark where there were so few people on the street I wondered if there had been some awful epidemic.
When we returned to Sri Lanka, we stayed in a house on a tea estate in the hills, where mornings were misty and, in the evening, lights came on like fireflies resting on a green mat. Those lovely scenes made me think of this story. There is also a dearth of children’s books written by Asians for Asian children. I decided to place the story in Sri Lanka where I grew up.
Was it difficult to find the right artist to illustrate it?
As often happens, the publisher took control – for better or worse. Finding the correct artist took a long time and finally two different artists with two styles were used
Do you think using two separate artists worked well?
I have some reservations but many authors have such concerns.
Did you have any help honing the story?
Yes, from writing colleagues in Cambridge Writers travel group.
Did you try it out on any children?
Yes, on my six Grandchildren. Last month, I also read it to a class at the Morley Memorial School in Cambridge and was pleasantly surprised that they followed the story despite it being set outside England. The children asked lots of intelligent questions about my work.
Are you planning a launch event?
I shall be launching the book event at Heffers bookshop in Trinity Street, Cambridge on Saturday 10th September at 2pm
When and where will the book be available?
The book will be available at Yapa Bookshops in Colombo, Sri Lanka and at Heffers after the launch.
Have you a writing work-in-progress now?
Five women in the Cambridge travel writers group have got together to produce an anthology of travel writing based on the personal experiences of each member while travelling in Nepal, India, Egypt, Mauritania, South Sudan, Philippines and rounding the Cape and elsewhere.
Tell us about your plans for further books.
I have written The Lonely Cat and hope to find a publisher for this. Meanwhile, I shall be looking around for further inspiration. It is everywhere.