Sheela Chari is the author of Finding Mighty and Vanished, an Edgar Award finalist. She lives with her family in New York. Her advice to you...."Write, imagine and write some more".



The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

Based on the Peabody Award–winning podcast, this tech-filled adventure series pits intrepid Mars Patel and his outcast friends against a brilliant, enigmatic billionaire as they race to figure out why kids are disappearing from their school.


Mars Patel’s friend Aurora has disappeared! His teachers are clueless. His mom is stressed out about her jobs. But Mars refuses to give up—after all, his own dad disappeared when Mars was a toddler, before he and Ma moved to Puget Sound from India. Luckily, Mars has a group of loyal friends eager to help—smart Toothpick, strong and stylish JP, and maybe-telepathic Caddie. The clues seem to point toward eccentric tech genius (and Mars’s hero) Oliver Pruitt, whose popular podcast now seems to be commenting on their quest! But when the friends investigate Pruitt’s mysterious, elite school, nothing is as it seems—and anyone could be deceiving them. 



How did you approach novelizing a podcast?

I wanted my book to appeal to fans of the podcast and to readers who had never listened to it before. So I didn’t copy down the episodes word-for-word. Instead, I tried to follow the general story line but also tell you a little more about the backgrounds of the characters and how they became friends — things that you don’t hear in the podcast. There are also group texts, emails, podcast transcripts and comments to give you a flavor for the way the characters talk. This way you get to “hear” Oliver Pruitt, Mars, Caddie, and the rest of the gang on paper.


What are the ways teachers can use podcasts as a compliment to a traditional book?

Podcasts are a great tool for discussing dialogue and narrative. For teachers using the Mars Patel podcast and the novel together in the classroom, a good exercise might include asking students to compare similarities and differences between Chapter 1 and Episode 1 of Mars Patel. How does the dialogue in the podcast reveal information and tell you about a character’s personality? What do you learn that’s different about the characters in the same scene when reading about them? 


For students interested in writing their own podcast script, teachers can visit the Candlewick web site for my videos on how to adapt a scene from a favorite book into a short podcast. There are 3 videos total and each one is only a few minutes long. No extra materials needed — just a copy of your favorite book!


Was it important to you that Mars was of Indian decent, or was he just a kid like any other? 

The answer is yes and yes! It has always been important for me to feature main characters in all my books who are Indian-American. It’s also equally important for me to show them living lives like any other child growing up in the United States. Mars is a smart, thoughtful person who takes risks, makes mistakes sometimes, and looks out for his friends. His “Indianness” is one component of who he is, but there are other parts to him as well.


As a mystery writer, what first attracted you to this literary style?

I believe all stories are mysteries — we read to find out what happens next. Mysteries also help me with plot. If something or someone goes missing, I know the story is going to be about how my main character gets to the bottom of that disappearance. A mystery can also be about how my main character grows and becomes a better person. I’ve always appreciated how mysteries can be about an exciting adventure AND a personal journey.


What was your favorite book growing up? 

My favorite book as a child is A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L’Engle. Not only is it a wonderful story, but the book was given to me by my best friend. She is now a children’s librarian and I’m a children’s author!


How did you get started writing?

I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was in third grade. I love to read and I would write stories down on paper when I was young. In college, I took writing classes and then I went to graduate school to get an MFA in creative writing. Eight years after that, I published my first novel!


What is your advice to young authors?

Read as much as you can. Read different kinds of books, even those you might not consider reading at first glance. Find other kids who like to read and talk about books with them. Learn by what you read. Write stories, too. Write and imagine and write some more, and don’t worry about getting it right. Write for yourself and the person you are going to be.