An Interview with Kiran Millwood Hargrave: An Empowered Story Teller
It was with great pleasure that I recently discovered the best selling book, The Girl of Ink and Stars, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Within it's pages lay magic, secrets, love and tears which all unfolded with unparalleled skill and a clear theme of hope, empowerment and strength.
When I got the chance to interview Kiran I was so very excited. We chatted about books, women and of course, GOI&S. Here's what she very kindly shared for www.shaherazad.com readers.
Shaherazad: You're an amazing writer Kiran. What inspired you to become a story teller?
Kiran: Reading and hearing stories was the central inspiration for writing my own. My earliest memories are of hearing my family ‘myths’ - how my grandparents (a Welsh actress and Indian artist) met and eloped, how my cat Sophie was picked (my father went out to buy a heater and came back with a cat). I love how these stories change with the teller, but maintain their essential shape, like a stone smoothed and passed by many palms. My grandparents would take us on long walks and we’d make up tales about the river and woods and ourselves. All my immediate family are avid readers - my brother and I shared Dahl books, my mother ordered us Mahabharata comics from India, my father read us Beowulf. I am incredibly lucky to have always had access to books and stories, and been encouraged to use my imagination. Despite all this, I only started writing my own about five years ago - before that, I was content to be a reader.
Shaherazad: Your book, Girl of Ink and Stars, although targeted at children, is also widely read by adults. What gives it this strong audience appeal?
Kiran: I knew I wanted it to have a classic, timeless feel - to not be constrained to appeal to a certain gender or age group. So that intention for it to have mass-audience appeal was there from the outset. I was careful not to 'write down’ to my audience, or shy away from the darker aspects of the story. I think a lot of good children’s books successfully navigate these waters - by their nature they are more inclusive than stories aimed at adults. And the fact it has such a beautiful cover probably helps too! It’s not a book adults would be embarrassed to be seen reading, which is a sad-but-true-factor sometimes.
Shaherazad: Girl of Ink & Stars contains many empowered women within it's magical pages. Can you tell us more about why this is?
Kiran: Empowered women are the mainstay of my family, my friends, my heroes. I’m surrounded by them and it is a true reflection of my life to depict them in my books. The men in my life are equally part of this - I have never been told I could not do something because I am a woman. Sadly this is not always the case for everyone, so I’m committed to portraying girls and women who may not have such support, and show them taking charge of their own lives and empowering themselves. It’s hard to do when you don’t have people lifting you, but hopefully my heroines show it is possible.
Shaherazad: I know you're a keen reader; which books inspired you as you were growing up?
Kiran: There are almost too many to name but in terms of inspiration, His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, and Skellig by David Almond were all momentous, perspective-altering reads.
Shaherazad: We've been following you on twitter and are so impressed with how you cheerlead other writers. How do you manage your diary when it comes to doing your own writing, keeping up to date with new fiction and all of the public engagements which you also do?
Kiran: Twitter is a wonderful tool for engagement, though sometimes I have to turn off the internet if I’m writing to a deadline! There is no ‘typical’ day for me - I’m lucky in that writing is my only job and unless I have events at schools or festivals, I can structure my time as I please. Sometimes I will read all day, or write late into the night. Sometimes I will spend the whole day, more or less, on Twitter, and I do not consider it a waste of time when I use it to talk to readers or other authors, or shout about books I’ve loved. It’s important to utilise these channels of communication - having been at the receiving end of tweeted encouragement or praise, I know how it can lift you. I am a genuine enthusiast of any book I tweet about - integrity is important.
Shaherazad: Congratulations on your up coming wedding. We hear you'll be wearing "Equally Ever After" heels. Can you tell us more about why you picked these heels?
Thank you so much! I am incredibly excited to be wearing these gorgeous shoes on my special day. My partner and I have been together a long time, and this is the public cementing of our commitment to each other. Equally Ever After is a sentiment that really resonates with our relationship, and the beautiful, rich red matches the lipstick I want to wear. Added to that, they fit like a glove and are very comfortable, which is key as I intend to dance into the early hours - my family are coming from India and they will not let us leave by midnight! Finally, the idea and ethos behind 18HourHeels is perfection - empowering women and girls is central to my work, so it’s great to find another way to contribute.
Shaherazad: If you had to pick a single hashtag to describe yourself, what would it be?
Shaherazad: I'm really looking forward to the release of your next book in May, The Island at the End of Everything. I can't wait to immerse myself in your next literary adventure. Thanks for being an empowered woman and helping to empower others. The purchase of your "Equally Ever After" shoes has helped to educate girls living in poverty. I am sure that the good deeds your shoes have done through this will help another girl to go on and become an empowered literary genius. Big hugs.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an empowered poet, playwright and novelist. She was born in London on 29 March 1990, and started writing for publication in 2009. In 2014, her debut novel "The Girl Of Ink and Stars" was bought as part of a six-figure, two-book deal by Knopf Random House, and Chicken House Scholastic. It was published in May 2016 in the UK, where it was Waterstones Children's Book of the Month and an instant bestseller, entering its fourth reprinting within three months of release. You can find out more about Kiran and her work on her website www.kiranmillwoodhargrave.co.uk
Shaherazad Umbreen is the founder and Shoe.E.O of www.shoesbyshaherazad.com, a for purpose business set up to educate women and girls living in poverty.