Kids + Teens

Meet the author and illustrator of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

We’re excited to share a conversation we had with Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes the author and illustrator of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth. Sanjay Patel is an animator and storyboard artist for Pixar where he has worked on A Bug’s Life and Cars 2. Emily Haynes is one of our humor and entertainment editors by day and a children’s author by night.

What was your inspiration for Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth?

Sanjay: The original myth of course. Upon hearing the account of the Mahabharata a poet/sage named Vyasa is sent to find Ganesha to have him write down the story/song. There ensues a fun negotiation about how they will recite and record the story. While he is writing, Ganesha’s pen breaks and he cleverly figures out that he must break off his own tusk and use it to continue writing the story down.

Emily: Sanjay told me that he wanted to do a picture book based on this story and I took the idea and ran with it. I came back with a story that I think is more kid friendly and colorful, while still retaining the spirit of the legend.

What is your workspace like?

Sanjay: I work in a loft above the kitchen in our apartment. Sometimes Emily starts cooking and I can’t concentrate because it smells so yummy.

Emily: I work sitting on the couch below his loft space. We call it my office, but it’s really just a comfy couch where I can get as horizontal as possible while still typing. The set-up is a lot like what Sanjay illustrated on the back flap of the book.

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?

Sanjay: I draw and plan everything with paper and pencil until I have a blueprint that I believe in and that meets my publisher’s approval. From there I spend the rest of my time in Adobe Illustrator building vector shapes to create the artwork. At this point the only thing that slows me down is the colors. It’s impossibly hard for me to assign colors and have them all work together.

When you were a kid, what did you think you would be when you grew up?

Sanjay: A comic book artist, or an architect, like the dad in The Brady Bunch.

Emily: I wanted to be a fireman or an astronaut. But then it turned out I was best at being a word worm.

What is your favorite fable?

Sanjay: Virtually any of the Vedic stories. I especially love the legend about Shiva and Parvati and their twice born son Ganesha. First Parvati created him from the earth since Shiva wasn’t cooperating with her, sexually that is. Then it tells how Ganesha was beheaded and then brought back to life by his father Shiva. Great Vedic family drama!

Emily: I loved the Brothers Grimm stories when I was a kid, though I haven’t read them for a long time. It fascinated me that these Disney style fairytales actually had a much darker and more complex side.

What is your favorite type of candy?

Sanjay: That’s a tough one. I have a major sweet tooth. Just bought Cherry Clans and Lemonheads the other day. Still picking out the corn syrup from my teeth.

Emily: Jellybeans! And licorice. Especially licorice jelly beans.

What movie or book do you most wish you could live in?

Sanjay: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Which I kinda lived, but with different parents and on the opposite coast. And I was never named after a Russian writer.

Emily: That’s a tough one. I think I really enjoy most books because I DON’T live in them. It’s hard to write a good book about a really happy and awesome place/situation. Oftentimes the drama that makes for a good story is something I’d much rather experience on the page than in real life.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

Sanjay: Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

Emily: Lots of issues of The New Yorker as well as How to Be Good by Nick Hornby.

What makes you laugh?

Sanjay: Johnny Ryan, Family Guy, 30 Rock, all funny stuff.

What is your favorite color?

Sanjay: The way J. Otto uses orange.

Emily: I wear a lot of green.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Sanjay: I didn’t have any children’s books that I owned as a kid. I did however have a zillion comics. My favorite was Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller.

Emily: I had lots of books. I remember loving Where the Wild Things Are and then The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I got a bit older.

Book you bought for its cover?

Sanjay: Our Friend the Atom

Emily: That’s totally Sanjay’s department.

Who would you like to see on a bank note?

Sanjay: Chris Ware

Emily: Jed Bartlett

What profession other than your own would you like to give a try?

Sanjay: Ninja

Emily: I’d be a full time ceramicist.

What is your motto?

Sanjay: Don’t worry, Ghee Happy

Emily: Seriously.

Who is your hero?

Sanjay: Bill Watterson

Emily: I don’t know that I have a hero, I’m much more of a generalist. Right now I’m interested in Louis CK.

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