One of the biggest perks of being a book blogger is getting to chat with authors. This Q & A is particularly exciting. Roshani Chokshi, author of THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN, is making her debut with a 2016 Most Anticipated Debut by Parade, Buzzfeed, Goodreads, Paste Magazine, We Need Diverse Books & more!
About the Book: THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN (St. Martin’s Griffin; April 26, 2016) is a lush and vivid standalone debut young adult fantasy that seamlessly weaves the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone with Indian folklore. Featuring a smart, independent anti-princess who must take her place as queen and a forbidden romance that defies the odds, debut author Roshani Chokshi pairs beautiful writing with a thrilling pace and compulsive plot, using her own Filipino and Indian heritage to create a culturally diverse and vividly imagined world.
Snippet of praise: “A setting drawn from ancient India, romance with feminist sensibilities, and a unique magic system…a stunning debut filled with lush writing, smart characters, and a mysterious plot that provides as many twists as it does swoons.” —School Library Journal, STARRED Review
Welcome, Roshani! Thank you for sharing some writing insights. Let’s start with your current novel…What/Who were your biggest inspirations for the characters in The Star-Touched Queen? Which character in The Star-Touched Queen did you personally relate to the most and why? For Maya and Amar, they were inspired by the Hades/Persephone. But I imagined those two mythological characters a little more differently. In Maya’s case, I knew that ambition was her defining trait, but I wasn’t sure whether that would manifest as seeking emotional or material fulfillment. Turns out, it was a bit of both. Kamala was inspired by my love of fiendish side characters like Mogget from Garth Nix’s SABRIEL and is probably the character I relate to the most. Her sense of humor can be a little abrasive. But she’s fiercely loyal to her friends. Other people in TSTQ were inspired by a collection of people whom I met/knew/heard of growing up.
Have you always been drawn to Mythology and what are some of your favorite mythological tales? What myth specifically inspired Star-Touched? Always! I was raised on mythology. It was one of the most important outlets for me to connect to my Filipino/Indian heritage. My favorite Indian myths are Shakuntula, Nala and Damayanti, and Savitri. My favorite Filipino story is the Igorot tale of the Sky Maiden. My favorite Western myth is Hades and Persephone. TSTQ was specifically inspired by Hades & Persephone.
Let’s talk inspiration. What Indian folklore inspired The Star-Touched Queen and where could someone who might be interested in reading and learning more about it and other Indian stories learn more? The main Indian folktales/myths that inspired TSTQ or particular scenes were: Shakuntula (plays on the idea of memory and forgotten loves), Savitri & Satyavan (bargaining with Lord of Death, wily females!) and Narasimha (the fourth avatar of Lord Vishnu who defeated the demon king Hirayankashipu). Honestly, most of these were stories I heard growing up with my family. But my favorite thing to read when I was younger were the Amar Chitra Katha comics! They’re these illustrated tales from Indian mythology and I love them so so so much.
What scene in THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN was your favorite to write? Definitely the scene where Amar and Maya are working together in the constellation room. I think it’s an important scene about interpretation, which, to me, is a major theme in TSTQ.
Did you listen to any music while writing this book? If yes, what would you say was your MOST played artist or song? Sometimes I listen to music when I write. It just depends on whether the song is distracting me or fueling some weird atmospheric part of the scene. Sometimes it’s just one song on repeat. I listen to a lot of hip hop. And when I pretty much rewrote TSTQ in February 2015, I felt furious. Not with anyone. But just with the story. Like it was itching to be told right and I was failing it. I think the songs I listened to the most with TSTQ was either Kid Ink’s “Show Me” or Kendrick Lamar’s “Poetic Justice.”
What is your dream movie cast for STAR-TOUCHED? LOVE this question. I’ve always envisioned Lakshmi Menon (the Sri Lankan model) as Maya-esque. Amar has some definite Arjun Rampal undertones (swoons forever). Gupta is kinda cheeky and nerdy, and reminds me of Imran Khan (actor not Pakistani cricket player). Gauri is cheeky, but fierce, so definitely Preity Zinta or Deepika Padukone. Nritti: Aishwarya Rai. And Mother Dhina: Rekha.
What is the most exciting part about publishing your first novel? Interacting with readers. Talking to the YA community gives me so much life.
How did you build your world and keep everything straight for STAR-TOUCHED? Flashcards, charts, webs, etc. I know everyone has their own tricks! Flashcards, backs of receipts, corners of napkins. Which is to say, I did not keep things straight at all. This is why you have beta readers. To throw virtual tomatoes at you and point out that given the rules of your world, you cannot do the thing you just did.
What type of valuable feedback have you gained from your beta readers? Pacing issues! My beta readers are great at that. They also really push me to question the WHY aspect. WHY did this have to happen beyond a plot contrivance? WHY does this character response make sense? Etc…
What does your typical writing day look like? Slogging around in pajamas; reluctantly drinking coffee that’s gone cold; incentivizing my word count via YouTube makeup videos/Buzzfeed quizzes/Simon’s cat episodes; putting my phone on Do-Not-Disturb and hiding it from myself; trying to write in a notebook and utterly failing by writing critical character/plot things on index cards or the back of receipts…rinse. Repeat.
What is your next project? Is it in the same world as STAR-TOUCHED? I just finished the companion novel to TSTQ! So, I’m hoping to get started on edits soon. I can’t wait for y’all to read it. I love it so much.
What is the one thing you want readers to walk away from STAR-TOUCHED with? I hope readers see a little of how fairytales and folklore celebrate our shared experiences across cultural spectrums. And I hope their dreams are a little star-touched and that they close the book thinking they’ve tasted fairy fruit and walked through more than one life.