Butterfingers is Back! In Conversation with Khyrunnisa A.
We’ve all read and loved the children’s magazine, Tinkle. One of the most exciting comic books, it would definitely remind most millennials of their childhood. Most of us will recall one prominent story in Tinkle is Butterfingers. A story about a 13-year old boy Amar, who is clumsy and always up to something mischievous, but good at heart and very loving.
Butterfingers did very well in the Tinkle series, and therefore the author Khyrunnisa decided that it was time Butterfingers got his own book.
In 2010, she released her first book Howzzat Butterfingers, which revolved around cricket. Soon after this book was followed by The Misadventures of Butterfingers, Goal, Butterfingers and Clean Bowled Butterfingers. Now Khyrunnisa is launching her fifth book called ‘Run, It’s Butterfingers Again!‘ and we wanted to talk to her about it.
Here’s a short interview with the creator of Butterfingers, Khyrunnisa A.
How did the idea of Butterfingers come up?
There was a competition for adult writers of children’s fiction, organised by Tinkle, a long time back, in 1996. This was when my son was very young, and we used to get Tinkle at home. So I thought since I am an English professor, and I love English, why not send a story. The first story I wrote was Butterfingers. The reason I chose that story was because, you know how we all are at home, so clumsy. At our home, we call each other butterfingers when we drop something. Anyway, my aim was to write something different because to win a prize. So I wrote a sports-based story since there was very little written on the topic. It was a cricket-based story that I thought of, with Butterfingers as the key figure in the story. This story won the second prize in the competition and I was quite happy with that.
The story writing would have stopped there, but the assistant editor of Tinkle then, Prabha Nair, came to my house to meet me. I was surprised that an editor would make the effort to find out where I live and come visit me!
She asked me to enter the competition next year, and so I did. Butterfingers won the first prize in the competition for the next 7 years! This is when they asked me to start writing for them on a regular basis, which I did. However, I changed the character’s name from Mukesh to Amar. Amar is my son’s name and he’d never let me use his name for anything. One day, I asked him if I can use his name, and since he was busy thinking about something else, he just nodded. So I took that nod as a yes, and that’s where the beloved name comes from.
So Butterfingers became a regular character, and popular too.
Why did you decide to publish Butterfingers as a separate book?
When stories get converted to the comic strip format, they lose a lot in the process. They focus more on the illustrations and making it snappy and fast paced for the children, rather than focussing on the writing. So, I thought, what about my original writings? My stories would sometimes run to 2,000 or 3,000 words. I vaguely had an idea of publishing them as a short story collection.
When I had enough short stories, I approached Penguin, the publishing house. They got back to me fairly quickly. They told me they liked the concept, but they don’t publish short stories for any author, and they asked me to think of writing a novel instead.
I went back to the first original Butterfingers story because I always thought it had the potential to be elaborated.
I wrote the synopsis and sent it to Penguin, which they approved, and two chapters later, I had a contract, and that is how my first novel Howzzat Butterfingers came to be.
Who illustrates your books?
There were a few people who illustrated the Butterfingers book, but the most promising was Abhijeet Kini. When he first illustrated Butterfingers, I really fell for it, because he captured the essence of Butterfingers so well!
His illustrations had everything I wanted my character to have. The fun, the mischief, it was just perfect.
What are your future plans?
I really can’t tell. Butterfingers could possibly continue because I’ve gotten positive feedback. I have a lot of other short stories that I’ve written for both adults and children. Maybe I could publish them. I also write regular columns in magazine called Dimdima and a column in The Hindu, both of which are doing well. These are very different from the Butterfinger stories.
However, most of my plans have to be kept aside because of Butterfingers. One could say, I’m stuck in butter! I want to take some time out to write novels for adults and children, and I should be able to take some time out in the future to do so.
Would you like to see Butterfingers as a cartoon TV series?
I don’t mind, actually, it has all the potential to be a very successful cartoon series. With the kind of readership it has, and a lot of children are already familiar with Butterfingers, it can do well.
However, when a book becomes a movie or a TV series, it loses a lot of its essence – but that’s a risk one has to take.
I think I’d not mind at all if it became a cartoon series. I want children to enjoy their time. Nowadays children are under a lot of stress and parents ask too much from their kids. If a Butterfingers cartoon series makes them happy, then that’s good. It’s my aim to make the children who read Butterfingers happy and carefree.
Khyrunnisa’s fifth Butterfinger’s book called ‘Run, It’s Butterfingers Again’ releases on the 15th of May in Thiruvananthapuram.
Pic credits: Sruti’s BookBlog