Saturday, June 11, 2011

Savita Kalhan (Awesome Women)

I'm absolutely pleased and honoured today to welcome to my blog Savita Kalhan! Savita is the author of the fantastic, heart-racing novel The Long Weekend, which I read and LOVED last year. It's had some really brilliant reviews and if you haven't yet read it, I recommend you pick it up!

Savita also writes for the wonderful EDGE author blog, a newly formed blog where each of the contributors writes 'cutting edge fiction for teens' - It is definitely one of my favourite new websites!

To find out more about Savita Kalhan or The Long Weekend, do visit the following websites:

Over to you Savita...

Hi Clover! Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today. I’m really looking forward to it.

Can you tell me a little something about yourself?

I’m Savita Kalhan, author of The Long Weekend, which you gave a lovely review last Autumn. I lived in Aberystwyth in Wales for several years, where I did a degree in Politics and Philosophy. I followed that by turning my Batik hobby into a little business, so I would go round schools teaching classes of kids how to use hot wax and permanent dyes – you can imagine the fun they had with me! I also taught Batik classes for Art teachers too. I followed that by seven years in the Middle East where I taught English. I now live in north London with my husband and son and divide my time between family, writing, tennis, my allotment, and reading.

Did you have a role model growing up?

I guess my parents were role models to some extent. They were very traditional and very strict Indians, so home life and school life were like two different worlds.

Many of my role models when I was growing up were fictional characters. The library was the only place we were allowed to go to, so we were there every week taking out the maximum number of books we could! I grew up wanting to go to Mallory Towers, wanting to be like Jo March from Little Women, as tough as Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, as wonderful as Anne of Anne of Green Gables, and to be able to survive in the wild like Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. Actually, I think I wouldn’t have minded being stuck in the wilds of Middle Earth with him...

Who do you look up to now?

The Bronte sisters were pretty awesome women considering the times they lived in and the timeless classics they wrote. There are some teen/YA terrific writers out there, and I look up to them for the way they have raised the bar in teen and YA fiction - Jennifer Donnelly for example. It’s impossible not look up to women like Mother Teresa and Aung San Suu Kyi, Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie and many other great women who never gave up working and fighting for what they believe in.

The only other person I look up to is my husband, and not just because he’s taller than me, but because he’s just so clever and kind, loves books as much as I do, is the best cook I know and reads everything I write!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

One thing I never ever thought I would be was a writer! I had so little confidence in myself and my writing that it just seemed like an impossible dream. At most I dreamt about being a librarian, or an English teacher, or a bookshop owner. I’d still like to own a little bookshop...

Tell me something about the women in your life who have been an influence on you?

My mum has been a great influence on my life. Sadly for her she never had the opportunity to go to school when she was growing up, so she cannot read or write, or understand science, biology or geography. She even puts the climate down to the will of God. Yet her reverence for books is phenomenal. She won’t allow a book to be put on the floor, or where it might come to harm, even though the contents of those books are completely out of her reach. It has made me appreciate what schooling can do for you and not just because I can read and write. It opened up the whole world for me, which is still denied to so many kids across the world.

The librarian at Wycombe Library was amazing – she allowed me to join the adult library at 12 years old because I had read everything in the kids library! By doing so, she opened up the world to me. My two English teachers at A’ Level had a great impact on me and what I learnt from them was invaluable. It was only then that I began to feel confident in my writing.

Who is your favourite fictional character? And why?

Clover, that’s so cruel! That has to be the most difficult question anyone has ever asked me! Is it even possible to pick one character? One of my most favourite characters is Gandalf (by the way over the last 35 years I’ve read Lord of the Rings at least 20 times!) There is no other wizard quite like him and if I had to ask my favourite fictional characters to dinner, he’d definitely get an invitation.

As would Anne of Anne of Green Gables, whose exuberant and vibrant, forgiving and understanding nature in the face of everything life threw at her was something I always aspired to being as a teen, but failed at miserably.

What were you like as a teenager and how did you cope with all the changes that occurred?

I seem to remember not being too awful as a teenager, or perhaps my memory has kindly ‘lost’ the bad bits and only remembers the nicer things! Some of the things I wish I had forgotten are - I always had the wrong clothes and terrible pink plastic NHS frames for my glasses, which were completely awful but the only things we could afford! I remember there was one time I was allowed to go to my friend’s house and flares had come and gone by then, but I turned up at her house in a pair of luminous yellow crimplene flares and a horrendous blue jumper with red diamond shapes all over it. My poor friend decided that maybe we should stay in...

Some of the nicer things I remember are...are...I’m struggling here...okay, I give up! The library was my saviour in so many respects. By immersing myself in books I was able to escape from everything happening around me.

If you had any advice for yourself as a teenager, what would you say?

Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by anyone at all or led (and misled) by peer pressure.

Be your own person.

Of the issues and concerns that women are faced with today, what's the area you most like reading/writing about?

Many of the issues that women are faced with today are the same as those women of a hundred or two hundred years ago faced, with exploitation and abuse high up on the list.

When I read the terrible statistics on rape, it makes my heart bleed.

When I read about girls being denied access to schooling in countries such as Afghanistan it makes my blood boil. Women are not less than men, and they should not be treated so.

Teenage girls need to know that they have a voice so that when they are women they know how to use it.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would just like to say that I think the Awesome Women feature on your blog is inspired, Clover!


Thank you on behalf of the EDGE authors for inviting us to contribute to it. I know the others are really excited about being your guests here over the next few months.

Would you mind if I let your followers know the Edge authors’ schedule for your amazing Awesome Women feature?

Keren David (When I was Joe, Almost True, Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery) – 18th June

Bryony Pearce (Angel’s Fury) – 2nd July

Miriam Halahmy (Hidden) – 9th July

Katie Dale (Someone Else’s Life) – 16th July

Dave Cousins (Fifteen Days Without a Head) – 30th July

Sara Grant (Dark Parties) – 13th August

Paula Rawsthorne
(The Truth About Celia Frost) – 20th August

Wow, what wonderful and fascinating answers, Savita! Thank you for that. I'm totally with you on the terrible fashion sense and chunky plastic glasses, by the way :) I also find it really interesting the different paths you have taken in your career, absolutely fascinating!

And it looks like we have so much fun in store for us with the rest of The Edge authors visiting my blog soon. I know I'm looking forward to it :)


  1. That is a brilliant post. I am looking forward to featuring The Edge authors too. It is lovely to see that Jo March has inspired so many writers. Savita, you remind me of Matilda, when you talk of your librarian allowing you an adult ticket.

  2. I always love discovering Aberystwyth University alumni - they get everywhere :D Great post, really interesting answers.

  3. Fascinating answers to some tough questions and I absolutely agree about not succumbing to peer pressure. Hard for teenagers and hard for adults but so important!

  4. Hi guys, thanks for the great comments!
    Clover - big thanks for hosting The Edge Authors and for your amazing Awesome Women feature!
    Jenni - are you an ex-Aber person too! Wasn't it a great place to go to Uni?!
    Vivienne - soo looking forward to your Edge Interviews! Hope The Long Weekend hasn't kept you up all night...
    Miriam - I'd happily go back to Uni years, but teenage years would be too hard to revisit!

  5. Thank you so much Savita for such fascinating answers :) I think it'd be really interesting teaching others about batik. Also that it would be really fun to do.

    I'm also amazed at anyone that has such a profound connection to a book and will read the same book so many times. I love that.

  6. Great interview. Fantastic insight and great post. x

  7. It's great to find this - I will be pointing it out to my daughter to show what you can achieve. I remember Savita's glasses! I expect we all have our fashion disasters in the past. My only question is when is your next book coming out? Let us know so we can pre-order it again - I also want to make sure our local library gets a copy!


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