Interview With Tanaz Bhathena, Author of The Wrath of Ambar Duology

Author, Tanaz Bhathena
Author, Tanaz Bhathena

Adira: I really appreciate you taking the time to speak to me about The Wrath of Ambar duology, Ms. Bhathena!

Tanaz Bhathena: Thanks for reading the books and your thoughtful questions! ❤

A: Can you tell me a little about your writing process and the inspiration behind writing Hunted By the Sky and Rising Like a Storm? Was the process for the two novels similar to each other or to when you wrote your contemporary novels, A Girl Like That and The Beauty of the Moment

TB: In terms of the inspiration for HUNTED and RISING: I really wanted to write a fantasy series that was set in medieval India, a historical period that I was obsessed with as a teen. I also wanted to bring fierce girls and women to the forefront of the narrative; I was very inspired by a North Indian welfare organization called the Gulabi Gang, which had vigilante roots. 

Photo of Sampat Pal Devi & the Gulabi Gang

Source: Gulabi Gang website
Sampat Pal Devi & the Gulabi Gang

On the writing process for the duology: In terms of plot and characterization, it was not very different from writing a contemporary novel. The main difference really was with the worldbuilding, which was really quite fun and also a process that required a lot of thinking as this was a secondary world historical fantasy and not historical fiction. Though historical accuracy isn’t paramount in such fantasy, in many ways, it can be more challenging as you really need a deep knowledge of the world you’re developing and have to think about using your research in creative and inventive ways. 

A: My favorite part of reading your duology was how rich and layered the setting and magic system of Ambar was. How did you go about researching and carrying out your world-building for Ambar? Were there any specific books or resources you drew upon when you created the magic system and mythology for the duology?

TB: Thank you! I used primary historical sources such as Ayeen Akbary by Abul Fazal Mobarak and reading historical non-fiction by authors like Ruby Lal, Abraham Eraly, and William Dalrymple. I also researched museum archives online, and made dozens of secret Pinterest boards about Mughal and Rajput miniature paintings, clothing, jewelry, and weapons. 

Cover of "Hunted By The Sky" by Tanaz Bhathena
Cover of “Hunted By The Sky” by Tanaz Bhathena

I used existing mythology from Hindu and Zoroastrian sources (such as the Mahabharat and the Shahnameh) to create my own myths and magical creatures. I also took inspiration from a popular Indian mythical trope of the avatar: where gods take on human or animal forms and come down to earth. My magic system is more of a soft magic system, which doesn’t have hard rules, but there is a definite logic to how it works. Magic also comes at a deep cost to its users. 

A: Your story is told through a split narrative between Gul, the series “Chosen One,” and Cavas, her love interest that has his own checkered past. What was your inspiration behind creating these two different characters, and did you find it hard to balance them against one another to build up to their romance and the plot twist that comes in Rising Like a Storm?

TB: I love writing multiple perspectives, so I knew from the beginning that there would be at least two if not more characters narrating this series. Both Gul and Cavas are important voices to this series because both are being persecuted in different ways. Their unique perspectives add layers to the book that wouldn’t otherwise be evident through a single person narrator. 

A: As an aspiring mental health worker, I appreciated how well you approached the topic of trauma in your books, especially in Rising Like a Storm, in regard to Gul and Cavas and how they handled what could be seen as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as they are pushed into the new roles of leading the charge against the Sky King and their enemies. Why did you feel it was necessary to take the characters through the process of acknowledging and grieving their losses before you allowed Gul to unlock her magic and pushed Cavas to face new dangers?

TB: When you write about something as immense as a political revolution or a war, you need to also reveal the physical and mental toll it takes on people. I feel it’s important for readers to see that courage isn’t inherent, that it takes time to develop. Gul and Cavas facing their fears is pivotal to the storyline, but that could only happen once they understood why those fears existed in the first place. 

Drawing of the Sisters of the Golden Lotus by artist, Aishwarya Tandon

Source: Aishwarya Tandon & FierceReads.com
Drawing of the Sisters of the Golden Lotus by artist, Aishwarya Tandon

A: A large part of Gul and Cavas’ storylines is their families and the communities they draw on to prepare to fight the Sky King and their other enemies. How would you define community, and how did you use that definition to influence how you wrote your main characters and side characters, like the Sisters of the Golden Lotus, and areas such as the Tenements, in your duology? 

TB: Community to me is about family—the one you’re born into or the one you find for yourself—and this definitely plays into the storyline. While I was placing my characters in difficult situations, I also wanted to show them having support systems: they were not entirely alone. 

A: As a lover of the fantasy genre and a child of the 90s who had a limited amount of reading material in the fantasy genre that centered on characters with Black, Indigenous, or other people of color (BIPOC) who I could relate to, your mantra of “decolonizing [the] imagination” to not center the West rings so true to me. An area where I saw this happening is in your usage of language throughout The Wrath of Ambar duology. Was there a conscious choice on you and your editor’s part not to go the traditional route of italicizing or explaining phrases for Western readers that aren’t English? If so, is there a significant role you wanted language to play in your novels and world-building? 

Drawing of Gul & Cavas, the main characters in The. Wrath of Ambar duology done by Aishwarya Tandon

Source: Aishwarya Tandon & FierceReads.com
Drawing of Gul & Cavas, the main characters in The. Wrath of Ambar duology done by Aishwarya Tandon

TB: Yes, it was a conscious choice on our parts to not italicize non-English words—doing so felt like othering them. Language is a huge part of worldbuilding as it’s a gateway into a place and its people and their culture. I wanted readers to feel like they were in an Indian-inspired setting and language was a big way to bring in that immersive experience.

A: Keeping with the topic of “decolonizing imagination,” I watched a panel you did with the Carl Brandon Society called “Our Literary Mothers – Desi Authors on Influence and Inspiration,” and a topic that really resonated with me from that panel was how you and your fellow Desi panelists point out that as authors of color, you’re each telling your stories even when you draw on cultural mythology. However, you’re not always going into the writing process to “teach” the reader about your race or culture or to act as a spokesperson for any one marginalized group you belong to. As an author, have you ever felt pigeonholed to mold your writing to the will of what you think the reader may want or to protect the image of your culture or religion while staying true to the integrity of the stories your writing?

TB: All the time. It’s really a delicate balance—staying true and authentic for readers who are familiar with a culture, while also trying to be as clear as possible for those who aren’t. One thing I like to do is leave clues within a sentence to help readers interpret what a word means, without dumbing things down. I also add a glossary at the end because I feel it’s a nice little reference for readers who want to know more about the culture and it can be their starting point to Google and YouTube deep dives!

Carl Brandon Society Talk – Our Literary Mothers: Desi Authors on Influence and Inspiration Salon

A: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers or resources that you’d recommend to help perfect the craft of writing?

TB: Advice: Finish the book, it won’t write itself. 

Cover of "Rising Like A Storm" by Tanaz Bhathena
Cover of “Rising Like A Storm” by Tanaz Bhathena

A couple of resources: Absolute Write Water CoolerPoets & Writers. But the best advice I can give is read a lot of books! You will learn more from reading books than you will from any creative writing class. 

A: I loved The Wrath of Ambar duology and am sad the series has ended. Are you working on any other books I can put on my TBR List?

TB: I’m hoping to be able to announce something in the coming year. 😁

A: What’s on your Summer TBR Reading List?

TB: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

and Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee.

Thank you for your time, Ms. Bhathena!

Rising Like A Storm is out now!

 

MLK Giveaway Hop

The MLK Giveaway Hop is hosted by The Caffeinated Reviewer & Mocha Girls Read !

Image created by Mocha Girls Read

Welcome to my stop on the MLK Giveaway Hop, which is hosted by The Caffeinated Reviewer & Mocha Girls Read.  The giveaway will last from Monday, January 18, to Monday, January 25, 2020.

Thank you to Harper Teen, Simon Teen, and Mahogany L. Browne for allowing me to receive finishing copies of the following books. Originally, these novels were meant for my Instagram Kwanzaa Giveaway. But, I wanted to give back to my subscribers for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Cover of The Black Kids
Author, Christina Hammonds Reed

Synopsis: This coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots. Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year. Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne

Author, Mahogany L. Browne

Synopsis: A novel-in-verse about a young girl coming-of-age and stepping out of the shadow of her former best friend. Perfect for readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Nikki Grimes. 

Cover of Chlorine Sky

She looks me hard in my eyes
& my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don’t dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.

With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.

Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds

Cover of Early Departures

Synopsis: Justin A. Reynolds, author of Opposite of Always, delivers another smart, funny, and powerful stand-alone YA contemporary novel, with a speculative twist in which Jamal’s best friend is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again.

Jamal’s best friend, Q, doesn’t know he’s about to die . . . again.

He also doesn’t know that Jamal tried to save his life, rescuing him from drowning only to watch Q die later in the hospital. Even more complicated, Jamal and Q haven’t been best friends in two years—not since Jamal’s parents died in a car accident, leaving him and his sister to carry on without them. Grief swallowed Jamal whole, and he blamed Q for causing the accident.

Author, Justin A. Reynolds

But what if Jamal could have a second chance? An impossible chance that would grant him the opportunity to say goodbye to his best friend? A new health-care technology allows Q to be reanimated—brought back to life like the old Q again. But there’s a catch: Q will only reanimate for a short time before he dies . . . forever.

Jamal is determined to make things right with Q, but grief is hard to shake. And he can’t tell Q why he’s suddenly trying to be friends with him again. Because Q has no idea that he died, and Q’s mom is not about to let anyone ruin the miracle by telling him. How can Jamal fix his friendship with Q if he can’t tell him the truth?

Ways to enter the contest

To enter to win all three novels, you MUST:

  • Be subscribed to my blog via email or on WordPress
  • Like this post
  • Comment below with your favorite Young Adult read y an African or African-American author from 2020
  • An extra entry a piece will be given for anyone who follows me on Instagram (@IntrovertInterrupted) and twitter (@MakeItLITerary) and shares a photo or link to this giveaway. Tag me on each platform, so I can count your entry!

Happy Reading!

Adira

Sadness Between The Pages: A Book Review For “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green

This book was finished on March 12, 2013. 

I give The Fault In Our Stars by John Green a solid 3 stars.  

The Fault in Our Stars Book Cover

I’d like to preface this review with the disclaimer that I do not mean to be jerky. However, my feelings in this review come from a place of wonderment at the state of emotion that come from bringing certain topics up in our society. 

That being said, something that I find so interesting about stories that deal with illnesses is that they seem to skirt the issues of being sick and the “perks” that terminally ill people seem to receive. However, John Green stands stoically in his authorship and calls us all out on our bull****.

Both, Augustus and Hazel are made into optimistic if not angsty teenagers who are speeding toward oblivion furiously reaching out for a lifeline to keep them tethered to this world. While,I respect Green’s writing style and story, I found that the characters themselves are not entirely new to literature. Hazel becomes the symbolic character that gets left behind once her boyfriend gets spirited off (no pun intended) to the after world and Augustus is the character who dies before his time. Together, their story while cute in some spots and heart-wrenchingly sad in others is not one that was fresh enough for me to fall down in total awe upon it’s ending.

Yet, I can say that I was enticed by the idea that two people could go on this sort of journey together to excavate a story’s ending from their favorite author half-way across the world. Green produces this adventure in a way that’s so realistic that I found myself seriously thunderstruck when I got to the scene where Peter Van Houten denies these two cancer-ridden teenagers their last grand “wish.” At this point in the story, I came to the conclusion that maybe what people like Augustus and Hazel really need is not so much our pity for them but, our understanding that they are really just individuals who are just like their “healthy” contemporaries who are searching for life’s answers. Therefore, the one thing that seriously struck me in this novel is that people like Augustus and Hazel are no different than you or I. Like us, their death is inevitable. However, unlike us, they have a ballpark figure of when their final days are going to draw to a close. 

Comment below and tell me what you thought of the #TFIOS book!

Overall, I found the book to be an interesting and funny read with a light romance laced throughout the plot. I would recommend the book to others as a conversation starter but, not as a book that needs to be continuously read to understand it.

You can watch the film adaptation on Amazon Prime.

(Originally posted on blogger on Saturday, March 30, 2013.)

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger Book Review

I gave this book 5 stars.

Kody Keplinger’s novel, The DUFF is the type of book you could read at any age and connect to. The main character, Bianca is a tough as nails girl who’s heart has been hardened by the pains of love. Adamant about never falling in love again, she chooses to enter into an “enemies with benefits” relationship with Wesley, the notorious womanizer of her high school who has problems of his own. Together the two teenagers work through their problems in the form of..ahem…advanced cardio for the grown and sexy. However,  even with their preconceived rules of “no feelings” being involved, Bianca and Wesley learn the hard way that love can infiltrate your heart when you least expect it no matter how hard you plan.

Keplinger’s characters are well developed and likable. Even though Bianca does come off as cynical at times, the reader gets shown that her feelings of anger and frustration are justified. The way that this character antagonizes over being “the duff” a.k.a the designated ugly fat friend, is something that is especially well portrayed by the author and made into a relatable point for anyone who chooses to read this book due to the fact that most people have felt like the dud of their circle of friends at one point of their life or another.

On the flip side, Wesley’s character while clearly placed into the cliched role of being resident bad boy is endearing opposed to annoying. Even when he makes Bianca feel ashamed of herself by calling her the duff, it’s apparent that his character is battling his own set of demons and does so only as a knee-jerk reaction to his pain.

Keplinger’s choice to use cliched roles in her work is balanced off by the fact that her storyline is solid. Never does the reader feel as if they are being rushed off into a tidy conclusion. Instead, the author paces the story so that her audience can get the full benefit of watching the character’s lives come undone and then slowly pieced back together again. Both Bianca and Wesley’s character are funny, interesting, and sarcastic enough to keep readers entertained and willing to stick wound to finish Keplinger’s story. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is in need of a good chick-lit book or who just loves a good novel about bad boys and strong opinionated female leads. Yet, I would caution against letting younger readers begin this book being that it is meant for a mature audience due to explicit sex scenes throughout the novel.