If you ask young Dubai expat Aparna Jeyaraman when she was first inspired to become an author, the answer is somewhat surprising.

“We (my children and I) would make up stories in the night; I would make up something funny and my elder son would say ‘Mummy you should write a book’,” she shared with City Times.

Aparna’s first book, Coco’s Adventures With Miko, is now available in the UAE via Amazon.

Aimed at a reading age group of 5-11 years, the book, Aparna said, is about “a mischievous raccoon called Coco, who meets a meerkat from Al Ain Zoo and the two have wonderful adventures in the UAE.”

To give us an idea of what the raccoon and the meerkat get up to, Aparna flipped through the pages as she chatted with us over Zoom; we got a glimpse of new friends Coco and Miko, experiencing the thrills of living in the UAE where everything from a buggy ride and an unexpected kayak incident to a helicopter and rapid river ride, only fuels their appetite for more adventure and exploration. Familiar UAE landmarks like Atlantis, Burj Al Arab and Sheikh Zayed Mosque make an appearance. There’s also some interesting trivia for both kids and adults: Did you know a group of meerkats is called a ‘mob’?

Coco’s Adventures With Miko was a passion project for Aparna, who despite not having a background in writing, felt the desire to turn storyteller.

But every budding author knows the process of starting a book is anything but simple, and Aparna is no exception.

“I wrote a few samples; I wasn’t very happy, then I just improved on it more and more. I sent it to my son’s Grade 1 teacher to have a look.” The teacher while praising the story advised her to “incorporate a few feelings” in the book; then Aparna “changed it a little more.”

A resident of Dubai for the past 9 years, Aparna worked in a bank for two years and is now a full-time mom of two. How challenging was it to take out time to write her book? “My younger son is just three and a half. He wasn’t even going to nursery often, it was just like twice and thrice a week. So it was challenging; I would do my writing after they went to sleep so that I didn’t have any disturbances. Sometimes, as I’m sure you are aware, you need to be in the right mental space, and it’s not just ‘oh I am free now for ten minutes, I can write something’. So I feel you need that time, and the flow should be there.”

Apart wrote Coco’s Adventures With Miko in October-November 2020 and then began looking for an illustrator. She found Kholis Je, an Indonesian artist, on the website Fiverr; he had done substantial work in children’s books. Kholis brought the story to life visually through his vibrant drawings.

“Actually I thought that was the tricky part, getting the drawings ready and everything, but finding the right person here to help me put it together...(was more challenging).”

The entire process of getting the book out took around a year and a half, admitted Aparna and while the going wasn’t always easy, the end result was more than worth the effort. “It’s taken me so long to figure things out, but sometimes it just takes time to get somewhere,” she shared.

On why she decided to base the book in the UAE, Aparna said, “All the books I read are very generic in the sense they are about animals, feelings or situations; nothing is place-specific.”

“The scenery in Coco’s Adventures With Miko is local so that the kids here can relate to it,” she added, revealing that four extra pages in the book are just for kids to have fun colouring with.

The writer said she’s always been inspired by the UAE which she called “an exciting and dynamic place”.

“After I wrote the book, I realised I could have actually added Expo 2020 Dubai element, if I had experienced it (at the time). The UAE is constantly evolving, and there’s so much to do all the time. I think the kids here are so smart and intuitive; the books they read and the vocabulary that they have - it’s amazing. Connecting to them through their local experiences is what inspired me to write Coco’s Adventures With Miko.”

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