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- author Jackie French

Tuesday 7 September 2021

12 Curly Questions with author/illustrator Inda Ahmad Zahri

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I went through a super awkward childhood phase where I looked like Harry Potter – dodgy haircut, glasses, braces, skinny with baggy clothes – and was often mistaken for a boy.

2. What is your nickname?
Inda binda. Someone started it in school, and it stuck.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Being tortured to give up my secrets. This is why I did not become a spy.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words.
Searching hidden gems, teetering on poetics, occasionally sliding into rhyme.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Hopeful, lyrical, hard-working, curious, constant.

6. What book character would you be, and why?
I’ve always wanted to be Matilda! I love Roald Dahl’s stories and Matilda is such a cool heroine – she is clever, has a strong sense of justice, a wicked streak and can control things with her mind!

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?
If I could bring my daughter along with me, we would travel back to the time of the dinosaurs. She is mad about them and loves pondering paleontological facts, so it would be the most amazing treat.

8. What would your 10-year-old self say to you now?
‘Let’s go over our old stories, now that you have new ways to tell them...'

9. Who is your greatest influence?
I have many influences, but in terms of storytelling, art, courage and magic, one of my heroes is the great Japanese animator and founder of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki Hayao. Manga and anime were a huge part of our childhood growing up in Malaysia, but I was only introduced to Miyazaki-san’s oeuvre when I was working as a junior doctor – a medical student said I reminded him of a Studio Ghibli character and gave me a ton of movies to watch. I just fell into this blissful lake of magical storytelling!

10. What/who made you start writing?
My mum was the first to instil a love of books in me. I now know what a privilege it was to have shelves stocked with books in my own home. From a young age, she encouraged me to start a diary, and it became something that I did on and off in various mediums, pretty much to this present day.

11. What is your favourite word and why?
Unfurling. It makes me think of something with lots of pent-up potential, finally showing itself off in the sunlight. Paddy fields, flower petals, pages and pages of writing.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. In the book, the main character carried a copy of Herodotus’ The Histories as he explored the desert, placing mementos between its pages and scrawling notes in its margins. In real life, The English Patient became my Histories – I took my copy with me on my travels and always opened it up to find some masterful writing, and a different way to think about the world.

Inda Ahmad Zahri writes and illustrates stories inspired by natural and cultural gems curated from her travels and lovingly added to her Malaysian heritage. She is also a surgical doctor, swapping her writer’s hat and paintbrush for scrubs and scalpel when duty calls. For more information, see www.indabinda.com.