NAW Interview with Roshani Chokshi

Roshani Choksi

Roshani Chokshi is a South Asian fantasy writer and poet who lives in the South. She has a giant dog named Panda, some cows named after obscure ice-cream flavors and a deep, unrequited love for fairy tales in all shapes and sizes.

NAW- Tell us about your forthcoming book. How did you get the idea for it? What is it about?

Growing up, I was always pestering my Indian grandmother to tell me stories, which invariably had their roots in the rich and varied narrative of Hindu mythology. One of the stories I used in the novel (the tale of Savitri and Satyavan), I learned at my aunt’s knee in a beautifully illustrated book. While my parents always encouraged my siblings and I to read with voracity and curiosity, I was always disheartened to find that representations of non-Western cultures were few and far between in the realm of YA fantasy.

I am quite bad at summarizing my project, so here’s the query I used. I credit it for helping me find my incredible agent, Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency:

I’m seeking representation for my YA fantasy, [WORKING TITLE] which is complete at 85,000 words and re-envisions Indian folklore.

Sixteen-year-old Maya can outmaneuver a soldier, decipher political double-talk and slip out of the tightly guarded harem with her eyes closed. But when her father announces she’ll be married within the week, nothing can change his mind. In less than a day, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets — a room where time stands still, a garden of glass and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. When she breaks Amar’s trust and explores the Memory Tree, her discovery not only ruins the balance of the human and Otherworldly realms, but also unleashes Chaos incarnate.

Determined to protect the people she loves, Maya sets out to restore the fractured balance. But to succeed, she must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives, travel through the seamy underbelly of the Indian Otherworld and perform the impossible: trick Death himself.

NAW- Tell us about some of the poetry that you’ve penned down. When did you start dabbling in writing, at what age I mean?

I started writing stories when I was 10(ish)? When I write poetry, I try to write with the eye of telling a story from an unexpected perspective or projecting the experience onto an unfamiliar setting. Poetry’s ability to expand on the ephemeral, twist sensations into line and rhythm or distill a feeling into metaphor has always entranced me because it’s a process of transformation.

NAW- So what genres you like as far as poetry goes; free verse or will you write by the metre in future?

Free verse!

NAW- Tell us about your other life. What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m currently in law school, so even when I’m not writing (creatively), I’m writing or staring at hopelessly dense material reading and trying to make sense of statutes, interpretations and cases, etc…

NAW- Please name your favourite poets. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?

There are some writers whose stories are so beautiful that they read like poetry to me (Catherynne Valente, Vladimir Nabokov and Angela Carter are my idols).  In general, I prefer epic poetry. Sanskrit epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are inspiring not only because of their cultural significance, but also because of their continued relevance. Even now, they are revisited, analyzed and extolled to the extent that they might be considered “living” texts. Beyond those epics, I studied 14th century British literature at Emory University and particularly loved reading Breton lais, which often contained supernatural and fairy-realm Celtic motifs.

NAW-What are you currently reading?

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Although nowadays, my gigantic casebooks steal precious time from reading and writing.

NAW- What will you be working on next?

At the moment, I’m working on a Middle Grade Fantasy about a young boy who is determined to grow up and believes his dreams are holding him back. So, he crawls to the edge of his bed, falls into Dreamland and sets out to confront the Sandman. While my YA fantasy revolves around Indian folklore and mythology, my half-Filipino heritage strongly influenced both the conception and characterization of this MG fantasy.

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