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Author Interview: Bali Rai

Author Interview: Bali Rai

Hey All!

Today is my stop on the Mohinder’s War blog tour and I am here today with an interview with the author!

Title: Mohinder’s War
Author: Bali Rai
Publisher: Bloomsbury Education
Published: 11th June 2020
Format: Paperback
Source:: N/A
Add It: Waterstones. Goodreads.
Summary:A thrilling World War II adventure set in occupied France, featuring an Indian RAF pilot. Great for fans of Michael Morpurgo and John Boyne, and those who want diverse historical fiction. Thirteen-year-old Joelle Breton stumbles across Indian-born RAF pilot Mohinder Singh when his plane crashes in occupied France and it’s up to her and her parents to hide him from the Nazis. After all, her parents are brave members of the French Resistance and will do everything they can to help get Mohinder back to Britain. But when they are betrayed and tragedy strikes, Joelle and Mohinder will have to act fast if they are ever to evade the enemy. 

The Interview

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
The best thing is coming up with ideas. I tend to build scenarios in my head and develop emotional arcs for my characters to traverse. For me the reason a protagonist engages with a story arc – their motivation – is the single most important thing. Research can also be great fun, especially when you end up learning new things. Writing the first draft is mostly enjoyable. There are no rules when I draft. I don’t care about mistakes or anything like that. I just get the ideas and words out, and that lack of restriction reminds me of when I first started writing stories as a youngster. There’s a fearlessness in a first draft that disappears when it’s time to edit. I end up thinking too much and that can cause doubts to surface. Oh, and meeting readers is also a huge privilege, even after twenty years. It’s a highlight.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
I am drawn to Mo of course, but actually it’s Joelle whom I’m most fond of. She is kind, clever and hopeful, and brave in the face of adversity. Her empathy for and understanding of Mo and Madame Moreau, despite their supposed differences, show that she is wise beyond her years. This is also apparent in her understanding of the occupation and the need to resist. I found myself full of admiration for her as I wrote.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Coffee and water. I drink way too much coffee when I write. In recent years, I’ve tried to substitute it with water, and that works most of the time. However, first thing, throughout the day, and especially if I’m staying up late to write, its coffee. I adore the stuff!

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Picking my nose? Haha – not really! My worst habit is slouching which has caused me endless back and neck problems over the years. I’m more active now than I was previously (single parenthood does that) and more in tune with my posture when I sit and write. I also tend to daydream and get distracted, which doesn’t help!

How did you research your book?
I already had a pile of notes from previous historical fiction I’d written, which gave me a huge head start. Additionally, I spent a lot of time learning about Mohinder Singh Pujji, the real-life RAF pilot who inspired the story. It’s entirely fictional of course, but I wanted to get a sense of the human behind the name. Sadly, many of the non-white participants of World War Two remain unheard or less well-known to the wider public. So much of my time was spent trawling the web for information and reading several non-fiction books about Indians during both world wars. I also learned a great deal about life for ordinary French families under occupation. The Web is a fantastic resource in that regard.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A bit of both, which is the cheats answer, isn’t it? I tend to know why my characters are involved in the story – their motivation for taking part. Then, I work out a rough ending, so I have a sort of road map, minus any major detail. After that, I’m a pantser – I just start to write and see where it leads, with a rough idea of the end point, as I said. The freedom this gives me keeps me interested. The details appear as the characters work their way along the storyline. It’s organic in that sense, and my preferred way of working. Doesn’t always work, of course, but I still prefer it.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
I would choose the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s books. I was a huge fan and often mimicked Adams’ writing style in my teenage years. Both the restaurant and the Universe he imagined are epic. It would be a cool universe to live in, especially with Zaphod Beeblebrox as a guide! Adams was a comic genius and I always say the Hitchhikers Guide itself inspired the iPad. I’m sure I’m not the only one to think that. 

Oh, and just to cheat again – Narnia. That would be awesome too! I used to dream of meeting Aslan or Mr Tumnus as a child. I adored those books.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
This is such a difficult question! I would want to pick so many. I guess Adrian Mole, because Sue Townsend was my role model and hero, and Adrian needed a hug and true best friend. As we’re both from Leicester, the logistics would be easier too.

But I could list about fifty given time and space! Subhi from Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow comes to mind too, or most of SE Hinton’s protagonists. See? I’m cheating again. This question is one of those

About the Author

Bali Rai has written over forty novels about teenagers and children. Born in Leicester, his writing is inspired by his working-class, multicultural background. A leading voice in UK teen fiction, Bali is a passionate advocate of libraries, reading for pleasure and promoting literacy. He has nearly twenty years of experience in working with young people across the UK and further afield and is extremely popular with schools. He has been nominated for and won numerous awards since 2001.

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