This month we are delighted to shine a spotlight on one of Stillwater’s most recently published authors, Abhimanyu Sukhdial, who also happens to be one of our community’s youngest new authors.
SLM: Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your background?
AS: I’m 12 years old, and I attend 7th grade at Stillwater Middle School. My parents are originally from India, and they have lived in America for more than thirty years. I live with them and my younger brother who is a 3rd grader at Westwood. I love writing, making films, and playing video games.
SLM: Tell us about your first published book.
AS: My first published book is called Three Days Till EOC, and it’s about climate change but with a sci-fi/dystopian twist. It describes a future world in 2100 when the sea levels have risen and destroyed most of the planet. There are only 1000 “Earthlings” left living in a town called Soledad, and it is three days before EOC (end of civilization) when an inescapable, violent hurricane is expected to hit land. Everybody has lost hope that they will survive, except for one person — a climate scientist named Graham Alison.
SLM: We understand that you won a contest for this story. Can you tell us about that?
AS: The contest was organized by Stone Soup, a children’s magazine for kids thirteen and under. I have been writing book reviews and movie reviews for Stone Soup since 4th grade. At the start of the summer of 2019, they announced they will be holding their first-ever international book contest, and that the winner would get their book published. I was waiting for a contest like this for ages, and since the competition was for kids my age, I decided to go for it.
SLM: What made you want to write this particular story? What was your inspiration?
AS: The idea of climate change actually wasn’t my original idea. My first idea was about a disease that’s killing everybody around the world (ironic, right?), but I realized that that story was too generic and cliched, so I decided to make it about climate change because 1) it’s a subject that is getting a lot of attention right now due to the wildfires, hurricanes, and other disasters; 2) I wanted to point out how deadly climate change can be but in a thrilling and entertaining way and 3) it’s an idea that can be expanded upon or discussed in many different ways if you write it correctly.
SLM: Have you always enjoyed writing? What do you like most about it?
AS: I love writing, but it’s not always awesome. Sometimes, it’s a pain. Really. When writing Three Days Till EOC, I felt sometimes I wanted to just throw my computer on the ground and go do something else. But I decided not to, and that’s what’s so hard about writing. The process of writing, editing, revising, and then submitting is no easy and fun task, but the end result is so satisfying. It’s the main reason I love writing so much. My favorite part of writing is just coming up with the idea since I don’t need to worry about any grammar or spelling mistakes.
SLM: What do you think makes a good story?
AS: I’m a tough critic, but I think good stories need 3 fundamentals:
- Not a ton of description. I’ve read many books with huge, long bits of description, particularly fantasy books like The Way of Kings. I have no problem with description, since it’s necessary to write a book, but some books just go extremely overboard with it. I tried making Three Days Till EOC clear, precise, and action-packed, without worrying too much about description.
- Good characters. This is essential to what makes a book not just good, but GREAT. The characters have to be creative, and also tie in with an interesting story for it to fully work. A really good book that does this is See You In The Cosmos, by Jack Cheng. It’s so funny and interesting, with a very energetic and loving main character and a compelling story. I highly recommend it.
- The ending. Some books and movies (like the Harry Potter series or Bullitt) are mostly just fun adventures without much of a theme or heavy message to them. Don’t get me wrong, the Harry Potter series is great, and Bullitt is one of my favorite films of all time, but what makes a book so masterful is when it ends powerfully. Maybe a fun ending with a cliffhanger, that leaves you longing for a sequel (Some books get a sequel, some don’t). Maybe the ending is mysterious, scary, and strange (Like the film, Donnie Darko), or maybe the ending is just powerful, creative, and tackles some heavy themes, while still being entertaining. Those are what make a story transform from just being good to great.
SLM: What have you learned from your experience?
AS: I’ve learned from writing Three Days Till EOC to never give up and to stay focused on your writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing. I keep a running list of story ideas on my laptop. But before EOC, whenever I had faced problems in figuring out how to continue with a story, I would just give up. I would stop writing, and then move on to another idea. But I’ve learned after writing my first book to just hang in there, even if it requires hours of work….because working on that idea to make it the best it can be is super exciting and fun…especially after you get to the finish line.
SLM: Some youths your age have already begun setting goals for their future while others are still figuring it out. Both options are completely valid and there are no “right” answers to any of these next two questions. As a seventh-grader, you have lots of time to set goals and look ahead to your future.
What role does writing play in your future goals?
AS: Writing is what always keeps me interested in stories. Anytime I watch movies, read books, or hear other people share their stories, I find it fun, but I never thought I could one day write a story myself. But when I realized writing is as simple as going to your computer and typing your ideas into a Word document, I just strapped myself into my chair and wrote idea after idea, story after story. Some of my stories are finished. And others are yet to be finished. The simplicity of writing (the fact that you don’t need many materials to do it except for a laptop) and the challenge and satisfaction of the creative writing process is something that really excites me…and I always come back to it whenever I can. With schoolwork becoming harder and more challenging these days, I feel creative writing helps me relax and recharge.
SLM: Do you have an idea of what you think you might want to be when you grow up?
AS: That’s a tough question. Honestly, I’m still searching. I want to be a writer, but I also want to do other things like make movies and become a writer in a bigger magazine. I mainly want to be a writer though.