Born in India and raised in Kentucky, Rajani LaRocca has always been a voracious reader, reading almost anything she could get her hands on. Before she transitioned from reader to writer, however, Rajani pursued another of her passions: medicine. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, Rajani has been a primary care internal medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital since 2001. Rajani has worked through the COVID-19 pandemic; she recently received her vaccination and will be helping to vaccinate others.
In 2019, she added author to her list of accomplishments with the publication of her first book for young readers, A Midsummer’s Mayhem, an Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking. In October of 2020, Rajani published her first picture book, Seven Golden Rings, which introduces the mathematical concept of binary reasoning by weaving it into a story about an ancient Indian boy’s adventures at the rajah’s court. Rajani has five more books for children coming out in 2021, including the middle-grade book written in verse, Red, White, and Whole, which follows the story of an Indian American girl whose mother is diagnosed with leukemia; Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers, part of the Storytelling Math series, which features both the Hindu holiday of Raksha Bandhan and examples of basic concepts of patterns; and The Secret Code Inside You, a rhyming picture introduction to DNA.
Rajani’s first middle-grade book, A Midsummer’s Mayhem, received a starred review in Kirkus, calling it, “A delectable treat for food and literary connoisseurs alike.” In addition, the book was named a Kirkus Best Book of 2019, An Indie’s Introduce Selection, a Massachusetts Book Award Honor Title, A Mighty Girl Best Book of 2019, and a 2019 Nerdy Book Club Award winner. Seven Golden Rings received starred reviews from both Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly. Booklist raved, “This succeeds both as an entertaining read-aloud and as a teasing introduction to the binary system.”
Rajani lives in eastern Massachusetts with her husband and two children, where she spends her time writing, practicing medicine, and co-hosting the STEM Women in KidLit podcast. Learn more at RajaniLaRocca.com.
In this post, LaRocca discusses how the synopsis for her newest release, Much Ado About Baseball, guided her writing process, and much more!
Name: Rajani LaRocca
Literary agent: Brent Taylor, Triada US Literary Agency
Book title: Much Ado About Baseball
Publisher: Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books
Release date: June 15, 2021
Genre: Middle-Grade Contemporary Fantasy
Elevator pitch for the book: Two 12-year-old math competition rivals find themselves on the same summer baseball team and contend with brutish opponents, mysterious math puzzles, and magical happenings while forming an unlikely friendship. This companion to Midsummer’s Mayhem is a middle-grade take on Much Ado About Nothing.
Previous titles by the author: Midsummer’s Mayhem (2019), Seven Golden Rings (2020), Red, White, and Whole (2021), and Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers (2021)
What prompted you to write this book?
I knew I wanted to write a story about the “other side” of the magical happenings in my debut novel, Midsummer’s Mayhem, which is a middle-grade mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking. For Much Ado About Baseball, I knew the focus would be on math and sports—baseball, specifically, since that’s the favorite sport in our house. I’ve always loved Much Ado About Nothing, and I wanted to write a story about two people who have so much in common but can’t seem to get along without a sneaky push from their friends—and so I came up with my two protagonists, Trish and Ben, who both love math puzzles and baseball but can’t stand each other.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication?
Many writers say that writing your second novel is even harder than the first, and that was true of this book. Although it’s my third middle-grade published, it’s the second one I wrote. Once Midsummer’s Mayhem sold, I wanted to make this story happen. But I couldn’t figure out so many things: the character arc for each kid protagonist, what the magical people wanted, and how the magic worked. I felt stuck for months.
And then I turned to my old nemesis, the synopsis. And in writing a synopsis that held together, I managed to put together the puzzle pieces for this book. When I wrote the whole story, I adhered closely to what I’d put in that synopsis. Now I write a synopsis very early on in my novel-writing process.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
Every time I write a book, I’m astonished by what a magical job illustrators and book designers do with covers, and, in the case of Much Ado About Baseball, the interior art as well. Chloe Dijon, the illustrator for this book, made my characters come to life on the cover and within the pages of the book, and for that, I’m forever stunned and grateful.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I’ve realized that the themes for my novels have mirrored themes from my own life, and in particular my journey to becoming an author. A theme in Midsummer’s Mayhem is learning about your own self-worth and believing you can achieve your dreams. I went through a similar journey as an author during its writing and publication process. Similarly, a theme in Much Ado About Baseball is about finding your team—friends who will stick with you, even when you’re not sure you want to stick with yourself. And I needed my team as I struggled to bring this book to life. I leaned on my writer friends, who gave me strength and encouragement, and read draft after draft.
I also surprised myself when I wrote an interesting discussion that happens in the pages of Much Ado about the different experiences of first- and second-general immigrant kids. I didn’t set out to have my characters have this conversation, but before I knew it, I’d written it, and I liked it. I think of myself as a “plantser”—a writer who plots beforehand but also allows scenes to breathe spontaneously. This is an example of something surprising that came out of my subconscious.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope Much Ado About Baseball is a fun, fast read. I hope readers enjoy the story of two kids who have so much in common but who can’t become friends without a little help from others. I hope they enjoy the baseball, the math puzzles, and the tie-ins to the events of Midsummer’s Mayhem.
Most importantly, I want my readers to understand that they don’t have to be perfect to be loved, that friendship can overcome misunderstanding, and that forgiveness is important, especially when it comes to forgiving yourself.
If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?
Don’t worry about the market because it’s impossible to predict. Write the story you want to write, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, and remember to write true emotions, even when you’re writing fiction. Most importantly, keep writing, because the world needs your stories.