Writer Spotlight - Nandini Bajpai

Nandini Bajpai

Today I'm excited to introduce: Nandini Bajpai.

Nandini is a MG and YA writer, a member of Enchanted Inkpot, she has short stories and articles published in Kahani, a Boston based literary magazine for children, and the Boston Globe (read clips here). Nandini's true love is writing fantasy and historicals. Today she's going to share her most recent YA historical with us.

Welcome, Nandini! Thanks so much for stepping into the spotlight today. 

1. What manuscript do you have out on submission now? 

STAR CURSED, a YA Historical, 71,000 words.

2. Give us the three to four sentence pitch.

It doesn’t matter that Leela is beautiful and brilliant; her stars say she’s unlucky for anyone she marries. Leela spurns Rahul, the wealthy young merchant she loves, to keep him safe, and finds solace teaching at the observatory her father heads. A year later, Rahul’s back, and the stars are aligning for them--a rare conjunction of planets will allow Leela to wed. Her family plans a swayamvar where she can choose from suitors they invite. Leela secretly invites Rahul, in spite of differences between their caste and faith. If she picks him there her choice is law. But Rahul is called away to a distant war, and though he’s promised to return, the auspicious hour ticks by as Leela waits.

Where is Rahul? Can she convince herself to defy tradition and the stars if he returns too late?

STAR CURSED, a YA Historical set in 12th century India, is a story of stars, superstitions, and first love, inspired by the real life of Leelavati, the daughter of astronomer Bhaskara of Ujjain.

Wow, I’ve definitely never read or seen anything out there like this!! Sounds great, Nandini. I love books that entertain and teach about past cultures. And of course, the first love thing I’m totally into.

3. Would you care to share the opening line or paragraph?

I didn’t stop running until I reached the lotus tank. The temple shone in the distance, its lights shivering on the mirror of the water, music and laughter wafting from its crowded halls with every gust of wind. The lamp tower soared above me, quiet, inviting, deserted. I pushed open its heavy door and started to climb.

High up in the tower the sounds from the temple faded, leaving only the echo of my footsteps, and the tinkling of my silver anklets as I ascended. The steep curved staircase could be treacherous in the dark, but tonight every niche in the tower was lit up in honor of the festival. I pushed the door open at the top and walked to the railing. There was someone there.

The clear night sky blazing with stars framed his familiar form. His face looked serious in the glow of a single flickering lamp. I could see that the tender light of the other day still shone in his eyes: Rahul.

He’d been waiting.

Oooh, we get to kick right into the romance. You weave the setting in so beautifully and use the lighting and the night to add to the mood. Very nice, Nandini. I wish I could read more!!

4. How would your main character describe you? If you entered into a scene in your manuscript, how would you be introduced, how would the MC perceive you? Give us a short scene but keep it under 250 words : )

What an oddly dressed woman. The garment she wore instead of a sari was indigo blue, but strangely ripped and faded, and astonishingly snug. But she didn’t look foreign; her skin was as brown as mine, and her long hair as dark. She knelt by the mother dog, ignoring the dust and bustle of the bazaar around us, and raised a squirming pup gently to her knee.

Not that pup, he was Loky’s favorite! I crossed the street hastily, for my brother would be inconsolable if he lost the flea-ridden creature.

“This one is taken, I’m afraid,” I said. “We spoke for it yesterday.”

My abrupt speech disconcerted her not a whit.

“Oh, I wouldn’t deprive you of Moti,” she said, her manner reminding me strongly of youngest aunt.

I stared at her in surprise. Who was she, and how did she know what we planned to name the puppy?

AW!! This is great. Now I want a puppy, too.

5. What is your least and most favorite word? Use each in a sentence, writing in the voice of one of your characters from any of your manuscripts.

Favorite word--Monsoon: Only when a flash of lightning followed by thunder announced their arrival did I notice them; the long awaited monsoon clouds rolling inland from the sea, with hawks gliding the updrafts beneath as if in praise and welcome. (Leela watching the monsoon arrive)

Least favorite word--Caste: I know that of the many things consulted when contracting a marriage, family, honor, health, possessions, star charts, caste, faith, etc., love is not considered to be of much importance, yet to me it is paramount. (From Rahul’s letter to Leela)

6. What are you working on while you wait?

An untitled YA Fantasy, set in ancient India, about a war torn land, ten legendary weapons, and Katyani—a princess believed to be an avatar of Durga, the Goddess of strength.

Sounds like another great manuscript in the making!!

7. What book have you read in the past six mo that’s inspired you and why?

Second Sight, by Cheryl Klein—Essential reading if you’re in the middle of a revision.

I just received this book (won it on Literary Rambles, yay) LOVE it!!! I think this is where the real art of the craft comes into play. The first draft is the (not easy) but easier part, revising requires a whole different set of skills. I read on your blog that you attended the Whispering Pines Retreat last week where you met and learned from Cheryl Klein. Lucky girl. 

8. Do you have a literary-character crush?

Oh, lots! Po in Graceling, Severus Snape (Sorry, Harry, he’s better than your dad), many of the Georgette Heyer and Austin heroes. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan.

Snape? Really? Now that is a surprise. You may not have too much competition on that one, Nandini. Any other Snape lovers out there? : )

9. Any random fun-facts you’d like to share about yourself?

I lived and worked in three countries on three different continents before I was thirty. Can you guess which ones : ) ?

For the answer you'll just have to visist Nandini's 'about me' page : ) And while you're there be sure to peruse her blog posts, here. One of my favorites is a post about her visit to India, which you can read here. 

Nandini, thank you so much for sharing your work and yourself with us today. I wish you the very best and know STAR CURSED will find the right home very soon.  


  1. This story sound delightful! :) I love historicals that aren't set in 1776 or WW2 (though those are great, too). Sounds very romantic! *squee* Can't wait to read it in print! :)

  2. Great interview with Nandini! I am reserving a place on my bookshelf for STAR CURSED! I think readers will be swept off their feet by this story -- and how cool that it was inspired by the real life of Leelavati.

  3. Severus Snape?? Seriously? (I'm a Sirius Black groupie myself.)

    Cool interview, ladies. I too am reserving a place on the bookshelf. Yay, Nandini!

  4. STAR CURSED sounds great! I really dug your MC's depiction of you too! I'm keeping fingers crossed for much success for you.

  5. What a great interview with Nandini! I read an earlier version of STAR CURSED (love love that title) and absolutely LOVED it! Such fun questions -except...ahem...Snape? Nandini - we need to talk....

  6. Nandini, what a great story and your character's description of you was perfect.

    Your story drips with culture and I'm very intrigued.

    best of luck with your submission!

  7. Thanks so much for all the encouragement everyone. And thanks, Paula, for having me. I think it's brilliant of you to start the Writer Spotlight series!!

    P.S. I'm never going to live down Snape, am I :)? The romantic in me appreciates his undying love for Lily, but maybe that pick has more to do with Alan Rickman's gorgeous voice than the character in the books.

  8. Nandini, you are very welcome. It was my pleasure and I wish you all the best.

    PS Nope, you won't be living down the Snape crush : )

  9. This is one of the most interesting interviews I've read. Thanks for sharing.

  10. What an awesome setting, Nadini! I could feel myself there from your opening paragraphs.
    As a fellow historical fiction writer, I hope this ms finds publication and success very soon! Thanks for the interview!


I heart comments.