5 questions with The Serpent's Secret author Sayantani DasGupta

Guest post by Vaishali Nayak, associate marketing manager

It’s not every day a sixth-grader discovers she’s a princess…and an interdimensional demon-slayer! In The Serpent’s Secret, 12-year-old Kiranmala goes on an adventure of a lifetime when she discovers she’s from out of this world…literally.

In celebration of The Serpent’s Secret, we sat down with author Sayantani DasGupta for a Q&A!

About the book: On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey . . . until her parents mysteriously vanish and a drooling rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents' fantastical stories-like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess and how she comes from a secret place not of this world.

To complicate matters, two crush-worthy princes ring her doorbell, insisting they've come to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and battle demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld and the Rakkhoshi Queen in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it . . .

Q&A with author Sayantani DasGupta:

1. What inspired you to write The Serpent’s Secret?

Toni Morrison says, “If there’s a book you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” The Serpent’s Secret is the story I needed to read when I was a young reader – a book in which an immigrant daughter like me gets to be brave, heroic, and save the world! It’s inspired by the Bengali folktales I’d hear on my long summer vacations back to my grandparents homes in West Bengal, India: tales of flesh eating rakkhosh demons and evil serpent kings, flying pakkhiraj horses and wise cracking birds. On her adventures, Kiranmala travels into the land that most of these stories take place – the Kingdom Beyond Seven Oceans and Thirteen Rivers.


2.    What was your favorite part about creating this story?

All of it! I loved creating blood-curdling rhymes for the rakkhosh and brain teasing riddles for Kiranmala and her friends to solve. I loved delving into those long-ago stories and remembering how it would feel when my cousins and I would gather under the whirring fan and floating mosquito net to hear my grandmother tell us those tales. I loved sharing both the folktales and the novel with my own parents, spouse and children. I also loved sneaking in things like string theory and sun cycles into the plot. Every intergalactic adventure starring snotty, rhyming demons needs a little string theory.


3.    Besides Kiranmala, which character in the book is your favorite and why?

Hard question! So mean, asking me to choose. But maybe, if I was forced to choose (no offense, other characters), the Demon Queen. It’s so fun to write three dimensional villains – baddies with quirks and humor and heart and soul. She’s got a lot of things going for her – our glamorous Demon Queen – ok, yes, she likes to eat people whole, so that’s a problem. And she does complain about her heartburn a lot. But she may or may not actually be a powerful black hole, and how many villains can say that? 

4.    If you could travel anywhere in The Kingdom Beyond and Beyond, where would you go?

Maya Pahar, The Mountains of Illusions. Hands down. I mean, it’s an outer space nebula where baby stars are born and go to school. Plus there’s a pretty famous (dead) scientist who shows up in that chapter (no spoilers!), and hey, it would be pretty darn cool to meet somebody that brilliant. Also to be in outer space. Have I mentioned I’m a giant space nerd?

 5.    What’s next for Kiranmala?

More adventures, of course. The Serpent King isn’t going to let go of his grudge against her that easily, so he’ll be cooking up some serious trouble for our heroine very shortly. So Kiranmala’s going to have to deal with all that, and the expectations of being a hero, and of course still pass math. I mean, even legendary heroes still sadly have to pass middle school math…

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Want more? Read an excerpt of The Serpent’s Secret and watch the book trailer at Scholastic.com/SerpentsSecret