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Author Interview: Mitali Perkins

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on June 3, 2008.

It is an honor to host Mitali Perkins at Into the Wardrobe. Mitali is the author of the middle grade novel Rickshaw Girl and the young adult novels The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen, Monsoon Summer, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, and First Daughter: White House Rules. Mitali is also the author of several short stories and several non-fiction works. She is an excellent writer and a very nice person!

And now presenting... my interview with Mitali Perkins! :o)


What was it like writing First Daughter: White House Rules? Did you have "typical" writing days or writing rituals?

I wrote under deadline as I signed the contract for the books before they were written, which meant I had to be stern with myself. I forced out 2000 words a day to finish the draft. And when that was done, I needed a couple of writing retreats away from home to revise and finish the story.

You studied political science at Stanford University and public policy at U.C. Berkeley. How much has your educational background helped you write political teen novels (the First Daughter series)?

I'm not sure if anything I learned at school actually informed the books, apart from the basics of the political process, but the subject matter was definitely in line with one of my passions. I'm a confirmed political junkie and love the crazy ride of American presidential elections. That's one of the reasons I agreed to write the books.

I find it very interesting how blogging is an important part of the First Daughter books. Why did you decide to make the main character, Sameera Righton, a very popular blogger?

I love how blogging allows me to express my voice and connect with others, don't you? It seems like a natural practice for a teen who likes to write and wants to be real. Interestingly, when I wrote the books, Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain, hadn't started her popular blog yet (mccainblogette.com), so I like to think that Sameera was a good example for her.

How many more books can we expect from the First Daughter series? And what's in store for Sameera?

None that I know of. I imagine she'll end up as a journalist, don't you? And probably still with Bobby down the road -- she's a loyal soul. Meanwhile, she's blogging away about the real First Kid wannabes over at www.sparrowblog.com.

What are the challenges and rewards of being an Asian American writer?

Challenges: Being marginalized as a "multicultural" author of "multicultural" books for "multicultural" readers.

Rewards: Writing stories that reflect the richness of my heritage and reveal the insights I gained growing up as an immigrant kid.

Do you celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month? How did you celebrate it this year?

I usually celebrate the month by blogging about it. This year I collaborated with the other Fusion Stories authors, which was wonderful. I got to know them and their writing and feel like we're building more bridges in the children's book world.

I am just nuts about Fusion Stories! What is the story of how and why the Fusion Stories group was formed?

The idea came into Justina Chen Headley's fantastic brain (the site of many great ideas), and she recruited me, Grace Lin, and Paula Yoo to kick things off. We found six other authors who had written books releasing in 2007 or 2008 featuring Asian American characters that aren't folk talkes nor "typical" immigrant stories, and it quickly became a wonderful collaboration. My part was to finalize the release, design and maintain the website, and handle requests from the press.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience living between cultures (struggling with a cultural identity because of having been raised in a different culture from your parents)?

(For this question, Mitali has shared a video with us. Check it out for the answer and to learn more about Mitali!)




What is your message for young people today living between cultures?

Stay balanced. There are rewards to be gained when you're at home in more than one culture. Check out this essay I wrote about both the gains and losses of growing up between cultures: <http://www.mitaliperkins.com/notestozero.htm>

On a more personal note, why do you call yourself a cyber-geek? :o)

I love playing around with web tools, blogging, and figuring out html code. Learning and mastering new techno stuff keeps my brain cells firing.

Now for something even more fun! A character from the First Daughter books, Miranda Campbell (Sameera's cousin), is famous for her frosted oatmeal scotchies. Do you often bake scotchies? Can you share Miranda's recipe with us? :o)

No, I don't bake them myself but a lovely lady in our church makes some for our family and I always gobble them up. Here's a recipe for oatmeal scotchie pan cookies with frosting:

OATMEAL SCOTCHIE PAN COOKIES
2 c. unsifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp. water
1 1/2 c. quick oats
1 (12 oz.) pkg. butterscotch morsels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Combine butter, brown sugar, eggs, water; beat until creamy. Gradually add flour mixture. Stir in oats, butter, and scotch morsels. Spread in greased 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool completely.

FROSTING
Thick Vanilla Frosting

1 cup shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
4 tablespoons milk

Beat together shortening and vanilla for 30 seconds medium speed with an electric mixer. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar a bit at a time while beating. Then add 2 tablespoons milk. Slowly add in the rest of the powdered sugar and the rest of the milk until you get the right thickness for your frosting.

Thank you so much for being a guest here at Into the Wardrobe, Mitali! :o)


For more information about Mitali, visit her official website www.mitaliperkins.com.

And chat with Mitali at her great blog, Mitali's Fire Escape!

(This wonderful illustration portrait of Mitali Perkins is by Jamie Hogan, the illustrator of Mitali's book Rickshaw Girl).

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