Interview with Bali Rai – Stay A Little Longer

Aman’s dad is gone. Mum won’t say it and she’s struggling to talk about it, but it’s a fact and he isn’t coming back. Aman has been feeling more than lost and alone since he died. It just seems to be her and mum against the world, even against their family. When a lovely man called Gurnam moves in next door, it looks like he might fill a little gap in her life. But Gurnam has his own sadness. One that’s far bigger than Aman can understand and it’s tearing his life apart…
A touching and evocative tale of unlikely friendships and finding happiness in the hardest of times.

What would you like readers to take away from Stay A Little Longer?
The story is about sadness and depression. About two people, one young, one much older trying to get on with life as they face their demons. They find solace by talking to the people around them – friends and family – and mostly by spending time with each other and learning that they aren’t as alone as they feel. If I want readers to take anything, it’s the old adage that a problem shared is often a problem halved. That’s not always the case with depression, of course, but it can help. The story is about finding hope in the darkest of times. It’s also about the value and power of inter-generational friendships, and how young and old each have something to teach the other.

Do you have a character or moment in Stay A Little Longer that has special meaning to you?
Although not necessarily a special meaning, the moment at which Aman calls Gurnam “granddad” really cements the emotional arc for me. It was one of those unforced incidents that writers can often create. I didn’t plan it that way, it just made sense in that context, and it brought a lump to my throat.
The most special thing for me is the letter Aman writes to her father. My emotional relationship with my own father ended when I was around ten years old and he fell seriously ill. He didn’t pass away until I was fourteen, but in that time, he couldn’t engage emotionally or physically, or remember anything, and we didn’t get to form a bond beyond my childhood. That still hurts to this day, and I often wrote letters to him. Letters that he never got to see. In that sense, this is a very personal story for me.

Since we last spoke, do you feel anything has changed when it comes to “diversity in publishing” and “gatekeepers”?
Luna: to read the previous interview, which I HIGHLY recommend click on this link HERE.
Haha – that interview was very widely read! I haven’t seen much change. There’s greater awareness and acceptance, perhaps, and there are a few more diverse authors being published. Mostly, it’s the same old, same old. Lots of handwringing and very little else. And, where there are more diverse voices appearing, are those writers being afforded the same promotional and marketing spend?
You can publish as many “diverse” voices as you like. If you don’t promote those voices, or spend some money marketing them, what then is the net result? It just leads to more voices being left to find their own place in an already over-saturated market. Diversity of opportunity must go hand in hand with promotional and marketing equality. How many diverse voices were on at Edinburgh this year, or Hay? How many are being reviewed on the biggest platforms? How many see their faces and/or book jackets staring back at them on the tube or bus, or at a railway station? I still see the same handful of white authors being promoted, and when a new name breaks into that club, they tend to be white too. Kit De Waal wrote an excellent piece about working class writers, and that’s a point worth making too. Where are the poor writers, combatting the lazy and prejudicial stereotypes about working class people? There is much work to do.
I’m more hopeful at the moment than convinced. But there are some great people in publishing who are trying to do things better – and those more aware gatekeepers are very welcome. That’s why I love working with Barrington Stoke.

I’m giving you a free platform to talk about anything – GO:
Oh wow – where do I begin? It has to be libraries. We need to fight for them, defend them, promote them, and stop them being shut down. We need to stop the nonsense about “volunteer” run libraries being adequate replacements for those run by actual, trained librarians. No disrespect to the actual volunteers – I’m sure they’re lovely – but they are NOT librarians. We also need a government that truly understands the link between children, reading, and school libraries and librarians. Truly understands that you can’t have high standards in literacy without a library and librarian in every single school – properly funded, properly paid.
Just look at where the reliance on “fast-food” information (Wiki, youtube etc…) has got us. I know that some aspects of online information are great and often very welcome, but I also meet school pupils who know more about the Illuminati, “lizard people” and Love Island than they do about The Holocaust, colonialism or basic politics. Young people who know all about some celebrity’s latest banal utterances, but can’t name a female scientist, even when prompted by me. And, the big one, of course, faked information. Whether on websites run by uncaring mega-corporations, or those by groups and individuals with prejudiced ideas and vested interests, lies are rife across the Net. How the hell are our young people supposed to ascertain fact from fiction, truth from deceits etc? Librarians show us how to appreciate, understand and utilise information. For that alone, each is worth a thousand bloody bankers. And that is just one vital aspect of what they do. There is a fight to be had, over fake news and those who disseminate it. Librarians are our secret weapon, our ace in the hole. We should be lauding them. Instead, we are ruled by a bunch of political pygmies, destroying librarians’ very worth and dismissing their value to society. It makes my blood boil!

Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people know:
I can’t ride a bike, and I don’t swim very well – both things that I missed out on learning because of my father’s illness and my mother’s subsequent lack of energy through working and looking after my father and rearing my sister and me. My father’s illness and mother’s low wage meant that we struggled for money, so we never went on holidays, never went to the sea side, adventure parks, cinema etc… I didn’t even own my own book until I was in my late teens, hence my adoration for libraries. I was ashamed of this for years and rarely told people – silly, isn’t it? I still can’t ride bikes now, but I’m not overly concerned about that anymore. I am going to learn to swim properly though. That’s a promise I made to my little girl and I intend on honouring it.
Other than that, I’m a very open book (pun intended).

Have you thought of a question you wish people would ask and never do? If not, is there a question you want to ask your readers?
People never ask what your least favourite book is – so that would be interesting. I’ve been asked so many questions since 2001 that I’ve probably heard them all.
A question for my readers? That’s much easier. If there’s one thing you’d love me to write about, what wold that be and why?


Bali Rai is the multi-award winning author of over 30 young adult, teen and children’s books. His writing pushes boundaries and has made him extremely popular on the school visit circuit across the world. Two of his books are recommended reads for KS3 and GCSE. He lives in Leicester, and wrote his first novel, (un)arranged marriage, whilst managing a city centre bar. Bali spends his spare time cooking, reading, listening to reggae music and following Liverpool FC.

Twitter: @balirai

Stay A Little Longer is out now! 

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