“It is so important to teach children about all the obstacles they might face and how they can overcome them.” -Harsha Sheelam
When’s the right time to become an author? Can you really write entertaining stories that still teach children important values? How do you respond to those well-meaning but doubting remarks about following your dream? Find out all this and more when you—
Meet Author Harsha Sheelam!
Harsha Sheelam always had the passion for writing. In the year 2016, she practiced writing more extensively. This led to her recognition in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and digital content. She possesses versatility in writing stories, debatable topics, politics, social, fashion, entertainment, reviews, fashion, and lifestyle.
Today she is a children’s book author. She debuted in 2017 with the book Beautiful Inside and Out, which is a collection of short stories. She launched it with the aim of empowering young girls and boys. She has the dedication to her craft which makes the children believe that they are beautiful inside and out. The same year her juvenile fiction novel, Good Exists In All That Exists released. As the title suggests, the book is based around the theme of good overpowering the bad. There is a hidden meaning for every action. The book does not fail to enhance the enchanted experience of the reader.
Beginning of a new year, in 2018 The House of Terry Atterberry made it to book-selling portals. Terry’s tales champion hard work, perseverance, honesty, and compassion. The riches that kids gain through this book are overcoming fear, not undermining people, understanding no one is perfect, knowing your true friends, and more. The book is a collection of 15 inspiring fables from the life of a fictional character.
Today, 3 books old, and anticipating more, this is Harsha Sheelam for you.
Let’s get started!
You’ve always been a writer. What made you decide that it was time to publish your stories and become an author?
I knew I wanted to expand my horizon. Before publishing my debut book, I was a professional writer. But I didn’t want to restrict myself and always knew I wanted to be a published author. Fortunately, an opportunity came knocking, and I didn’t think twice before accepting it.
Beautiful Inside and Out is a collection of 10 moral stories for children, based in lush fantasy lands. Which theme was the first one you wrote? Did you find it difficult to choose only 10 themes?
The first story that I wrote from Beautiful Inside and Out is “Little Felicity of Barrowfield.” It was about loving people irrespective of their color.
It’s always difficult to welcome new themes in your book. A little research, and more imagination helps me with ideas.
What made you choose fantasy as the backdrop for these stories over another genre?
I am not a non-fiction writer. But, if the story is related to a child, and could be interesting to read and relatable, then I would give it a try. I haven’t given much thought to other genres, but I am sure that romance is not for me.
The House of Terry Atterberry is your second collection of meaningful stories for children. How did you come to choose the name of this young boy? Is this character based on your own childhood, things you’ve observed in others—or something else?
I was looking for short names of little boys. And I came across the name ‘Terry.’ I wanted a rhyming world for his last name and could only thing of ‘berry’ but that seemed too small. I still remember how I decided on his last name.
This character isn’t based on my childhood, but certain themes of this book like bullying for being fat does come from my childhood.
Do you have any favorites among the moral themes you write about?
I can’t decide on my favorite theme. Funny, it feels like asking a mother to choose who is their favorite child. But I can say that most of the characters who play the father in my stories are bakers or own a bakery shop that serves the best desserts. I think that comes from my love for desserts that I can’t decide on any other occupation.
Good Exists In All That Exists came in between your children’s books, and is written for young adults. Did the protagonist, Claire, spring to mind with the story lurking behind her, or did you have the suspenseful setting first? Was this a story that had been building in you for a long time?
I never had a setting. I never brainstorm or have a layout for my stories. It all happens through the flow of imagination. Fortunately, for me the story came out with many twists towards the end and there were many revelations about why certain things happened previously. It made the novel much more interesting, leaving young adults in a sense of amazement by the end.
What do you hope people will take away with them the most after they read each of your books?
The books are a rich mine of so many diverse morals for children of today. It would also be helpful for parents to engage with their children better and make them understand about not letting themselves down due to failure, being un-put-downable by others, being who they are, and accepting others for who they are without any judgments.
In contemporary times, it is so important to teach children about all the obstacles they might face and how they can overcome them with a strong mind.
You clearly enjoy writing books for both children and young adults, and melding real and fantasy worlds! Do you ever see yourself branching out into other audiences and genres?
I might branch out to poetry. Short poems, which tell so much in a few words, are my forte.
The poems will cater to young adults and adults.
What’s surprised you the most about the publishing experience?
When I went to the producers for my children’s TV show, one of the heads asked me, “Do you know children’s books don’t make a lot of money in India?”
I said, “Yes, I do. But there are a few who do, and a global audience.”
Also, all the people who say, “Oh, you’re so young for an author.”
I felt like authors are stereotyped to be old. Funny.
What are you planning to launch next?
I am planning to launch a short story book of four friends, and a poetry book. Whichever makes their way quicker to the market.
Now for some just-for-fun challenge questions…
What type of book do you reach for to relax?
I love Archie comic books. I got that from my grandfather.
Which celebrities, dead or alive, do you admire the most, and why?
As an author I’ve always admired J.K Rowling. I am a Potterhead, and I will watch a Harry potter movie every time I come across it on TV, or when I feel like. I think she worked so hard to be where she is, and I love people who work hard.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I do read the reviews. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I don’t like dark chocolates, but there are many who do. So we just have to accept the good and bad ones, and not let them get to your head.
When you get a story idea, do you scribble it on any scrap of paper or napkin you can find, or do you have a special notebook or online tool where you keep all the inspiration?
I have a mini notebook where I put down some immediate ideas I get while lazing around.
While we’re not saying you need this, what one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I don’t want to give up on anything to be better. I’d like to go hand-in-hand with everything that I have to be better at what I do.
If you could go back in time, what writerly advice would you give yourself?
If I remember well, when I was 10, I was so bad at essay writing. When my mother read them she scolded me so harshly, and the next day I see her walk into my room with story and essay books. I made sure I read them. I wouldn’t give advice to my younger self but would like to thank her for listening to her mother. Also, I’d say follow your passion; don’t ever think about what you will get in return.