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LESSONS IN SILENCE
The archives were cut like honeycombs and golden light clung to them, dousing every tome, painting, treatise and poem the soft gold of ghee freshly skimmed from boiling
butter. I was only allowed to visit once a week—to meet with my weekly tutor before I inevitably scared him away. Every time I left the archival room, my arms brimmed with parchment paper. I loved the feeling of discovery, of not knowing how much I wanted something until I had discovered its absence.
The week before, I had lost myself in the folktales of Bharata. Stories of elephants who spun clouds, shaking tremors loose from ancient trunks gnarled with the rime of
It was a dream I didn’t want to part with, but I had to settle for what magic I could create on my own. I could read more. Learn more. Make new dreams. But the best part wasn’t hoarding those wishes to myself. It was sharing everything I learned with Gauri, my half–sister. She was the only one I couldn’t scare away . . . the only one I didn’t want to.
Thinking of Gauri always made me smile. But as soon as I caught sight of my tutor of the week, the smile disappeared. He stood between two pillars of the archive section marking the kingdom’s history. Beyond the sheer number of things to read in the archive room, what I loved most was its ceiling. It was empty, wide enough to crawl through and conveniently linked to my father’s inner sanctum.
The tutor, as luck would have it, stood directly below my hiding spot.
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 (cough, me, cough) 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 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.