McArthur Krishna Discusses What Would it Be Like?
Interview sponsored by Amberjack Publishing
The Children’s Book Review | July 5, 2016
The Children’s Book Review: What inspired you to write this book, and what do you hope children will take away from it?
McArthur Krishna: I think it was a combination of things that led to this book. One, in college my horoscope told me I could be a “ballerina, bull-doze driver, trapeze artist.” I was a little bummed since I had planned on being a desert-princess-turned-bandit. But, the horoscope made me laugh as it reminded me that truly our lives are our best creations… and we decide what we want to be. I ran a creative firm for more than a decade and was a chicken with its head cut off most days. Running your own business is just intense work—and it was my whole world. When I made a huge life shift and got married and moved to the Magic Land of India, I found I had to figure out what I wanted to be next. And that made me realize there were lots of things I never considered. And that led to a Tshirt I saw one day “Be yourself. And if you can’t be yourself, be a pirate.” But could a girl be a pirate? Turns out, YES. And perhaps that’s not the most altruistic career you may want your child to pick… but the point of including that idea in the book is to open the door of possibility. That’s what I want children to take away from it—anything is possible. Create the life you want.
How did you choose which women to write about? Who was your favorite historical figure in the book, and why?
I wanted a mix of everything. So I made a list of possible careers and then tracked down options. I wanted a mix of ages, ethnicities, arts and sciences, silly and more for-real careers.
I think my favorite was… and I am thinking hard as I like them all… maybe the spy. I always wanted to be a spy. And I think she was my favorite because she named her own fake limb. HA. Love that. Or Madame CJ Walker– she was just so impressive and an inspiration to what we can all do with our lives in giving back.
The illustrations are great, lending a child-friendly tone to the biographical aspects of the book. How did you choose the illustrators? Did they create the artistic style of the book, or did you direct it?
I have actually worked with this team of illustrators on a number of books now. I first picked them as I saw a couple of books they did and I loved their smarts and textures and color and sense of fun and and and. I adore them. After working with them on a few projects, I think we have a respectful and fluid relationship.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
A princess turned dessert bandit. I had my whole outfit picked out… boots, flowing robe, turban.
I appreciated the well-deserved shout-out to mothers! What motivated you to include mothers alongside heads of state, spies and a Supreme Court justice?
I think some of the most ambitious people I know are mothers. I ran a business for more than a decade and most days being a mother is tougher work than that. Mothers deserve the shout out.
What are your thoughts on the increasing number of books for children, girls specifically, that push STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)? How do you feel your book fits in to that conversation?
I think it is mostly true that you can’t be what you can’t see. (There are exceptions with some people who are able to see a vision beyond what they’ve ever witnessed—but not most of us.) Stories are a great way to show kids new horizons. For all of the books that extend the conversation of possibility for both boys and girls, I am a fan. My book both celebrates women who made new things possible and offers that same opportunity for the reader.
As a writer, how do you balance the fact-based and serious side of non-fiction with child-friendly prose and tone? Your book does a great job of straddling the two, making history accessible.
This question made me laugh. I am a much better story-stealer than I am an original story inventor. So, for me, that balance is easy—I live it and talk it every day. In my family, I have a sister and brother who are much better storytellers than I am. I am only in the running for the third best storyteller— I grew up listening to people tell amazing stories that were part fact and part curveball of hyperbole. So these stories were easy to tell. The historical women I chose to write about are some of the great life creators… and I just borrowed their stories.
What is your writing process? Are you writing for a certain child in mind, and if so, do you let the child beta read?
I write and put away and write and put away. I read aloud. I let is sit. I lean back and see if I can imagine the illustrations that go with it… I try to see if it’s a story I would want to read for myself or to children.
I don’t write for a certain child—but I do write for a certain mother. And I not only let them read it but I call them up and get them to weigh in!
What has been your most exciting piece of feedback from this book?
Two people asked me if the writer was based on me (before they read the name)—ha! It is actually Isabell Allende – and much grander writer than I am. But I liked the fun of the question.
Can you tell us about your other books? Do they have similar empowerment themes?
I write for both delight and for what I think is needed… so, yes, my other books are similar in issues of empowerment, diversity, adventure, and life possibility. I have three series with three different publishers. One series is on social awareness issues with Scholastic India, one series is religious books focused on strong women from scriptures, and then the series with Amberjack. The ones I have done with Amberjack are all about life adventures with a range of protagonists that a variety of children can relate to or be exposed to.
Can you tell us more about the “Adventure Page” at the end of the book? It was full of fascinating tidbits of historical knowledge!
I am always the person who wants to know more. Google on a smart phone is one of the key items I “need” in life. My siblings hate going to museums with me because I want to read every sign. For me, it was natural to want to include more of the information for the story as I thought people would want to know more… and I wanted kids to know these were real people. The stories of these women are as grand as anything in fiction—but these people are REAL. The tidbits at the end are to help make that point.
Written by McArthur Krishna
Illustrated by Ayeshe Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta
Publisher’s Synopsis: With real-life examples of women from a wide range of walks of life, girls learn they can do anything. Would you like to sail the seas as a pirate? Swing, flip and sparkle as a trapeze artist? Solve big problems as the next president? Or simply be happy to be yourself?
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Little Adventures | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978092587218
“Highly recommended for all children, though girls will be more likely to appreciate female role models in both traditional and non-traditional roles. The handy appendix at the end of the book gives more historical information about each famous person. ”–The Children’s Book Review
Read our exclusive interview: McArthur Krishna Discusses What Would it Be Like?
Enter to win a copy of What Would it Be Like?, written by McArthur Krishna and illustrated by Ayeshe Sadr and Ishaan Dasgupta.
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Age Range: 3-7
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About the Author
McArthur Krishna has always been a shape-shifter. She’s been a business-woman, river guide, window-washer, waitress, Forest Service archeologist technician assis- tant, graduate student, backpacker, daughter, sister, vixen, traveler and some day, hope-to-be true companion. She has a good story to tell from all of these adventures.
While she grew up in dancing’ in wild and wonderful West Virginia, McArthur now lives in rural and riotous India on a wild adventure. She vowed to never be bored in her life!
“Now, I write to shift the shape of the world. I hope the stories that bloom from the bliss ride of life are as delightful to read as they have been to create.”
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