For the month of May, we welcome Elizabeth Varadan and her basket of literary delights for all ages. Author of four books, she writes fiction, poetry and travel pieces. Her shorter works for children have appeared in StoryFriends, LadyBug, and Skipping Stones, while numerous anthologies and magazines have published her poetry and fiction for adults. Elizabeth is currently in Galicia, Spain, working on a cozy mystery series set in Braga, Portugal, and a collection of poems about Galicia. In addition, she blogs great photos and observations from there, so we had to start by asking how her Fourth Wish blog fits into her writing journey.
A: I started this blog right after I published my first book, The Fourth Wish, a fantasy about four children, a strange old lady, and a magician. It was a good book, kids liked it, and I was sentimental about it, so I named my blog for it (which everyone tells you not to do). Then my next book, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, was traditionally published by MX Publishing, a press that focuses on Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Since it was a Sherlock/Victorian Era mystery, I started my Victorian Scribbles blog, as I expect to write more Imogene adventures.
Then I had two more books, published by Belanger Books: Dragonella, a picture book, and The Carnival of the Animals, a collection of stories for children ages 7 to 70. But I couldn’t keep naming new blogs for new books, lol, so now I use my original Fourth Wish blog for most most of my postings.
Q: What first led you to writing? And kept you on the pathway.
A: Actually, I’ve always been interested in writing, and my mother, who also wrote, encouraged me. In elementary and high school. I used to make up little stories and write them down. I also was attracted to poetry in high school. Then work and college and work again – especially teaching – kept me too busy to really focus on writing, although I knew eventually I would get back to it (and sometimes did during summers and holidays.) When I was teaching, I was still thinking of short-stories and poetry. But when I took early retirement, I found that all those years of teaching 6th and 7th graders had left an eleven/twelve-year-old voice in my head that wanted to have adventures, so that’s when I started writing for children.
Q: Travel is such a rich part of life for you and your husband, yet you say when you were young, you never imagined it would be. Can you talk about how that change happened and why?
A: When I was growing up, we moved a lot. My mother was a single mom trying to make ends meet practically while pursuing dreams of writing and singing. The grass was always greener somewhere else. But, I’m a nester at heart. Of course, travel is not the same as moving. As my life unfolded, my older brother moved to England. I ended up with relatives there and in France. My husband is originally from India. Once we visited my brother and went on to India so I could meet my in-laws, I was hooked on travel. Then we discovered Galicia, Spain, and bought a place there, a couple hours from Braga, Portugal, so I decided to base my cozy mystery there.
Q: You are like a globetrotter with pen and camera instead of basketballs, yes? What have been the most amazing insights into life you garnered from your travels? I am especially interested to learn what you uncovered in India because I’ll be going there in October.
A: I think what has struck me the most is how open-hearted and friendly most people are in every country we’ve seen. In India I especially noticed the strong spirituality, which is what keeps people going. Despite the fact that Bollywood and Bangalore’s version of Silicon Valley has brought affluence to some, there is still a lot of poverty that is heartbreaking. But a lot of dignity and beauty, as well, like the colorfulness of saris, spices and other wares on carts and in shrines.
My husband is from Chennai, a huge city in India. I did find the surge of people and the cacophony of traffic amazing. The roads are jammed with busses, bicycles, motor scooters, automobiles, auto rickshaws, the occasional ox cart (the ox horns painted bright colors), etc. They joke that they drive by “intuition,” but that’s not really true. You’ll hear all kinds of horns and bells, while drivers behind let drivers ahead of them know they are coming round, etc. They do know what they are doing, and all you can do is sit back and relax, but it does feel alarming to someone used to lighter traffic and fewer lanes.
Q: What would you like to tell other writers as encouragement?
A: Keep writing. And keep reading. Read everything, including what you write and what you don’t write. Reading enlarges one’s world, including a writer’s world. You never know what will tick off an idea. But pleasure reading has its own value and allows you to savor well-written language. I suppose more than anything I would say write because you love it. Don’t try to write to the market (unless, of course, the market happens to be what you love). But if you write what grabs you, you’ll always enjoy what you are doing and therefore you’ll enjoy your life.
Q: How can readers contact you?
A: Well, I’m on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabethvaradan
I also have the two blogs I mentioned already:
Elizabeth Varadan’s Fourth Wish http://elizabethvaradansfourthwish.blogspot.com
and Victorian Scribbles
Appropriate age guide for Elizabeth’s books:
- For 5-7 year olds: Dragonella, a picture book
- For 8-12 year olds: The Fourth Wish, a fantasy
- Also for 8-12 year olds: Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, a mystery
- For “children ages 7-70,” The Carnival of the Animals, a story collection in the vein of fairy tales and fables, set in many lands and based on Saint-Saëns’ musical fantasy, “The Carnival of the Animals.”