2018 had been a good blogging year for me but I decided to take my content up a notch in 2019, which meant doing things that scared me. One of those was to write to authors I adore with all my heart to see if they’d be interested to do a Q&A on my blog. Roshani Chokshi, one of my favourite authors of all time, has a book coming out on January 15th for which I’m very excited, so I decided to send out an email and see what transpires. To my absolute delight, I heard back soon and she was sweet enough to take time off from touring, writing, wedding planning and celebrating the holidays with her family to answer a few questions. If you’ve read my December wrap-up post, you’ll know that The Gilded Wolves is on the list of my most anticipated January releases. I haven’t stopped shouting about my love for the Aru Shah series, which made it to my best of 2018 and yearly wrap-up post! I also raved about A Crown of Wishes, the companion to The Star-Touched Queen on my blog back when it had a much smaller audience. My point is that it’s no secret that I love Roshani’s writing, so I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to chat with her! With that gushy introduction aside, let’s dive in to the Q&A part!
Here’s a little information about today’s wonderful guest –
Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of Aru Shah and the End of Time, The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and The Gilded Wolves. Her work has been nominated for the Locus and Nebula awards, and her books have appeared on Barnes and Noble’s Best New Books of the Year and Buzzfeed’s Best Books of the Year lists. Chokshi lives in Georgia, but doesn’t have much of a Southern accent. Alas.
N: Hello, Roshani! It’s a pleasure to have you here on Unputdownable Books. Congrats on all the success your books have had!
R: Hello, Nandini! Thank you. I’m thrilled to do an interview for your blog!
N: Let’s start from the very beginning of your writing journey. How hard or easy was it for you to get The Star-Touched Queen, which is a diverse fantasy, published?
R: I was very fortunate early on to sign with an agent who supported my vision from the start. We certainly had a slew of rejections, but I wouldn’t say it was any more difficult to sell than another book? There was some pushback from people on the outside who told me the subject matter was “too different” but I am happy that the book’s release and reception proved otherwise.
N: The Star-Touched Queen was one of the earliest YA fantasies I read inspired by Indian culture and pushed me to read more diversely, so it holds a very special place in my heart. I’m very curious to know, among all your written work so far, which character has become your personal favourite?
R: Kamala, the sassy talking horse from The Star-Touched Queen! I loved writing her. It’s strange because I didn’t originally intend for her to be the comedic relief, or even as present a character as she ended up being. I didn’t think anyone else really liked my humor and I was so happy to see her resonate with readers. I think seeing how Kamala was received encouraged me to let myself more on the page, and that’s how I ended up writing bizarre/100% me characters like Aru.
N: That’s a fun fact I didn’t know! Aru is my personal favourite and I love that you’re drawing more from your personality and experiences. Speaking of Aru Shah, that series feels like a deeply personal project as it is based on the stories you grew up with. How did you manage the fine balancing act of keeping the elements of the Mahabharata that makes it a revered classic while doing something completely new with it?
R: I am a practicing Hindu, and so in my heart and always at the back of my head, was a commitment to honor the lessons within the Mahabharata even as they were reframed through humorous/contemporary situations. I will never please everyone, but that wasn’t my aim. I wanted to write the story I needed as a kid. The story about seeing myself in a position of power, about seeing my name and my heritages, my worries and the power of my family’s stories.
N: Very well put, Roshani! I would have loved to read Aru Shah as a child but I’m happy we’re getting such wonderful #OwnVoices stories at least now. Let’s talk about your writing process a bit more. Do you always have multiple writing projects going on simultaneously? How do you manage to keep them all straight?
R: At the moment, that seems to be the case! I cannot be in the same writing stage for two projects at once. Meaning, I can’t be drafting two things at the same time, but I can be revising one thing and drafting another. The wonderful thing about shifting my focus to character-driven stories is that I always have a sense of what these characters want and how that will turn out. Knowing those emotional threads helps keep those stories straight. 🙂
N: I hope all the budding authors in the audience are taking notes! As a reader, I prefer character-driven stories to plot-driven ones as well. Since you’re having a hectic schedule currently, I’m wondering are you the kind of author that hates going on tours or do you love them?
R: I love going on tour! Nothing is more humbling to me than being able to meet the readers who have championed my stories, introduced them to their friends, and fed the stamina of my imagination through their sweet messages, awesome photos and all around love of story.
N: Aww, Roshani, that’s so sweet! One day perhaps I’ll cross all the seas that divide our lands and get to meet you! Are you working on anything besides The Gilded Wolves and Aru Shah series?
R: Nothing official outside those two contracts. One day, I want to write a story that is a love letter to Atlanta. It’s also no secret that I’m always joking about writing a Santa Claus origin story, but I honestly love the tradition of stories around the fire during winter. I love how the bleakness of a dying year necessitates the spirit of joy and generosity, and that is the true crux behind any sexy Santa tale.
N: For everyone who’s sad that Christmas is over, here’s something to cheer you up! I cannot wait to see what you have in store for your fans next, Roshani! Before you go, let’s quickly talk about books that you’ve loved. What books/authors would you recommend to readers who want more amazing diverse MG or YA fantasy after they’ve read all your titles?
R: All the books by Rick Riordan Presents are phenomenal! I also really loved Darkdeep by Brendan Reichs and Ally Condie; The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta.
N: Thanks for these amazing recs! Every single book on the Rick Riordan Presents line is an auto-buy for me and I will second the recommendation for Sayantani’s book, which I think is an underrated MG gem. Thanks a ton for agreeing to do this Q&A and taking out the time from your busy schedule for it. I wish The Gilded Wolves and Aru Shah and the Song of Death all the success in the world!
If this chat made you curious about Roshani’s upcoming book, here is the synopsis –
Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.
Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.
The Gilded Wolves comes out in US on 15th January, 2019 and in UK on 1st February, 2019. It is also the February book club pick of Stars and Sorcery, a monthly book club run by me that is dedicated to reading science fiction and fantasy books by authors of colour! DM me or let me know in the comments if you want to join in.
Roshani also has Book #2 in the phenomenal Pandava Quartet, Aru Shah and the Song of Death, coming out on April 30, 2019! I won’t be posting a synopsis due to spoilers for the first book, but I highly encourage you to pick up Aru Shah and the End of Time before the sequel comes out. Check out my review here for my in-depth thoughts and for the book’s links. If you’ve already read and loved Book #1, please consider supporting Roshani by pre-ordering Aru Shah and the Song of Death here –
You can find Roshani online here –
What did you think of my first Q&A post of the year? Are you a fan of Roshani? Are her books on your TBR? Do you have any suggestions about which author I should have on the blog next? Let’s discuss in the comments section below!