Meet Rajani LaRocca.
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Hi Rajani! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now live in the Boston area with my wonderful family and impossibly cute dog. I attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and spend my time writing middle grade novels and picture books, practicing medicine, and baking too many sweet treats. My debut novel, MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM, is a middle grade Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking.
What was the best advice a cereal box or fortune cookie ever gave you?
I once got a fortune that said, “You will become a successful writer.” I held on to that for when the journey got rough.
What elements of Shakespeare speak to you the most as a reader? As a writer?
As a reader and audience member, I love Shakespeare’s beautiful language, his biting insults, and his wise observations about the human condition —its beauty and its monstrosity. I love his juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy. As a writer, I tried to channel the chaotic fun of A Midsummer Night’s Dream while writing a story that picks up where the play left off. Inspired by Shakespeare, I used lyrical language, poetry (even in certain characters’ dialogue!) and songs in MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM.
How has being a member of writing communities / organizations, helped you as a writer?
I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and the people I’ve met at conferences and workshops have become my teachers, critique partners, and friends. I’m also a member of two excellent local writing organizations, The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA, and Grub Street in Boston, MA, where I have learned so much.
Out of your upcoming releases, did any of them take longer to write than you expected?
I first drafted MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM in 2014, and revised it from 2015-2017. I have some picture books coming between 2020-2022 that I first wrote in 2012-2013 and went through many, many revisions. I also have some stories that I wrote a couple of months before they sold. Ultimately I think that stories take as long as they need to.
In Midsummer’s Mayhem, what came first – the idea of baking or the influence of Shakespeare?
I believe that Mimi came to me as a young baker first. Then I thought about the idea of an imaginary friend who turns out to be real, and I jumped to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and remembered the lines that linked the play to the family in my book.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
I hope readers enjoy Mimi’s adventures and all the fun food in my story. I also hope readers relate to Mimi’s struggles, and that they recognize that the world needs their unique contributions, and, like Mimi, they should keep striving for their dreams.