BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS of 2016. Author Q&A: Roshani Chokshi – The Star-Touched Queen

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Happy February, fellow book lovers! Ah, February. . . the month of love, what better time to do something extra special to honor one of our greatest loves, young adult fiction? Every Tuesday in the month of February I’ll be posting interviews with authors of 2016’s best YA debut novels–yes, BEST YA debut novels, meaning every book has ALL the earmarks of a MUST-READ:

  • compelling premise
  • unforgettable characters
  • lyrical and/or voice-y writing style
  • a speculative/fantasy element (yes, I am admittedly biased)
  • and a pretty cover. 🙂

Today’s Must-Read Debut YA Author is. . .

The about-to-become-very-famous Roshani Chokshi (“Rosh” to her friends).  She’s talented, gorgeous (half-Indian and half-Filipina!), and one of the nicest people in the world.

Roshani at ALA Midwinter Conference

The Book:

The Star-Touched Queen is set for release in April 2016. In case you can’t wait to start reading, St. Martin’s Press plans to release a teaser of the first several chapters in March!

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Why The Star-Touched Queen is a must-read:

Indian mythology, gorgeous writing style, wildly imaginative world-building (trees that bear memories instead of fruit!?), and a cover so beautiful it feels like stepping into a dream.

The Interview:

Eve:   Roshani, YA fans are already talking about your gorgeous Pinterest page. Where did you find such beautiful pictures to represent The Star-Touched Queen?

RC: Thank you! I guess I got ridiculously lucky on Pinterest. But I also typed in strange things in the search box, like, “gothic jeweled fruit” and “bloody hands.” You’ll get some interesting stuff…

Eve:  What made you fall in love with your novel?

RC: I love this question! I fell in love with it because of its ease. It’s not a new story. It’s threaded with a thousand and one familiar tales, from fairytales to folklore all across the world. But what made me so excited about writing it was tweaking little things and pushing the worldbuilding farther.

Eve:  Are you planning a book tour? If so, what is a question you hope someone asks?

RC: Not sure yet! I know we’re doing a blog tour, and I’m very excited for that. I hope someone asks me what my job would be in the wizarding (and witches!) world of Harry Potter.

Eve:  Now I have to ask. . . What would your job be in the wizarding world of Harry Potter?

RC: I would love to be MINISTER OF MAGIC!!!  Thank you for asking. 🙂

EveThe publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

RC: From writing to sale…about two years. The highlights have been working with my agent and editor who have been incredible champions throughout all my doubts, rewrites and crazy revision ideas.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

RC: Yes! “Satellite” by Guster, “Nagada Sang Dhol” from the Bollywood film Ram-Leela and, don’t laugh, “679” by Fetty Wap. My brain is a many-fangled beast…
spotify:user:227tl52wwdhignryikiunkm2y:playlist:3hE4yTjI7YOKBSMDtrDRve

EveYour eclectic song choices make me want to read the book even more! Speaking of music, YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft have been known to perform at publishing industry events with their band, Tiger Beat. If you were in an authors band, what instrument would you play?

RC: Glass harmonica. It’s just so strange. I must possess it.


Eve:  I LOVE the glass harmonica. Great pick. . .  What are some books you recently read that you loved?

RC: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik recently ate my soul (in the best way possible) and I also loved RADIANCE by Catherynne Valente.

Eve:  Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

RC: I think putting my phone on Do Not Disturb has been the most helpful. Maybe it’s just me, but I  can get anxious on social media. So, if I’m not careful, it can take up way more hours of my day than it should.

EveIn the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

RC: Very much!!! But that’s part of the beauty of writing. We want it to be read, seen and felt. So taking that first step with beta readers and critique partners is a wonderful and terrifying moment.

Eve:  Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

RC: Yes. I found them on sites like Ladies Who Critique or Twitter!

Eve:  Your novel has such an evocative title. Who came up with the title, The Star-Touched Queen? Was this the same title you used when querying agents?

RC: When I queried agents, I used the title “THE GLASS GARDEN.” After signing with my agent, we sold the book when it was titled THE BRIDE OF DUSK AND GLASS. AFTER selling, we changed it to THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN thanks to the geniuses over at MacMillan.

Eve:  What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

RC: I try to get most of my writing done in the morning-early afternoon. The light in myRoshani Chokshi fave reward cadbury bar favorite room is at its softest, and it makes me feel deliciously inspired. I do reward myself! Every 1k gets me half a Cadbury bar. I do, however, frequently break these rules…what are rules for after all…

Eve:  Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?

RC: When I get this way (and it does happen), I read my favorite books. I return to the worlds of Neil Gaiman, Laini Taylor and Catherynne Valente. I let them guide me back to why I love writing.

Eve:  Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”

RC: No, actually! And I WISH I DID! When I finished TSTQ, there was a great surge of “wow. I did the thing!” But that was what I was celebrating. Not the idea that I could actually find it on bookshelves one day.

Eve:  Lately, YA book lovers seem to be saying there is an overemphasis on romance in YA fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

RC: I love reading romance in YA. But I don’t think it’s critical to a plot. There are some books, like SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, which deftly handle characterization and takes the focus away from the characters’ romantic entanglements. Other beautiful books, like ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry, have romance but focus on the friendship and the experience of growing. I have no problem with romance, but I personally prefer books where romance is not the ONLY motivation for the character.

Eve:  Who are some of your favorite fictional characters and why?

RC: Howl, from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE because he was vain and wonderful and my first serious book boyfriend.     Howl from Howl's Moving Castle

Kaye, from Holly Black’s TITHE because she was fierce and gritty.      Kaye from Tithe

Razgut, from Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy because he was pitiful and deranged and wildly funny.

 

Eve:  What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

RC: I hope they forget they were reading. I hope they think they’ve tasted fairy fruit and fallen in love and spent time wandering through Otherworldly palaces.

Eve: Best of luck to you, Roshani. Ever since I read your short story, The Star Maiden, in Shimmer magazine, I knew you’d be a great success. Thank you for all your fantastic answers to my questions.

RC: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about writing. I deeply appreciate it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

RC: Pretty much everywhere!

 

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Yay!!! First Day of Summer VayKay!!!

joy

As of 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon, thirty-seven unfettered, glorious days of doing whatever I want popped up and smiled at me like a goofy toddler. For the whole month of August I get to read all the books I want, write whenever and for as long as I want, sleep in, exercise(?), spend time with family and friends, and catch up on. . . everything!

You don’t think my to-do list for the first day of summer break is that bookworm-ish…do you? 😉

  1. Make to-do list for first day of summer break.
  2. Play with dogs.
  3.  Brew tea, continue rewrite of YA fantasy, act III.
  4. Think about going for a walk.
  5. Figure out genre of the next book I’m planning.
  6. Research more literary agents who might be a good match for my YA fantasy.
  7. Finish reading Tahereh Mafi novel.
  8. Make a run to the library – whoop whoop.
  9. Hang with the fam.
  10. SUGGESTIONS??? _________________________

The Epiphany of “Write What You Know”

Epiphany

“Write what you know” messed me up as a writer for a long time but not anymore. I was conflicted because I thought Mark Twain’s adage meant I could only write with authenticity about experiences culled from my own life. But this morning, as I contemplated the third draft of my YA fantasy novel, I had an epiphany. My protagonist — a feisty, daredevil fifteen-year-old girl living in a magical, alternate world — might be very different from me, but she is exploring the great theme of my own life: Who am I? Why am I the way I am? Where do my people come from?

I am writing what I know.

Books Choose Their Authors

Michelangelo's

Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Salman Rushdie said, “Books choose their authors.” This concept of a complete work of art waiting in the ethos to be carefully released by the artist, helps me. I find it reassuring to think of my novel not as an evolving thing but as something which exists and is merely waiting to be discovered. With each editing and writing session, I chisel away at the marble to expose the True Work within.

As I move well into the first revision of my YA fantasy novel, do I see the True Work revealing itself? Yes, the characters, the magic, the plot twists, the history, they’re all very exciting to discover. But the thing I can’t seem to reveal — the thing that is kicking my excavating arse, quite frankly — is the most important element of all: what the main character truly, truly wants. She wants a lot of things. She wants to buck convention; she is very curious and wants to know where the massive structures on her otherwise bucolic world come from, who built them, what their purpose is or was. She questions the True Mission of her people and wants to turn against it. I’m having a hard time solidifying that into EXACTLY what she wants. I get this feeling that the answer is right in front of me but I’m not seeing it.

Just Keep Writing

Just Keep Writing

Lately, my writing has been hindered by an insane workload in my job as a teacher.  To complicate matters, a couple of days ago my YA fantasy adventure seemed to morph from a comforting creature into a monstrous vermin.  With 286 pages written and the second draft halfway done, I stepped back from it in horror.  I have so many ideas that it’s hard to remember to keep things simple, and I’m afraid of not being able to bring it all together.  But the answer is, and has always been…

Just keep writing.

The Word for “Lover of Words” is . . .

Logophile crocodile

Admittedly not the prettiest word, ‘logophile’ conjures an image (at least in my brain) of a crocodile, on a log, (ph)iling his claws. But seriously, how much can a person love her thesaurus? All 978 book-bound pages of it.

SEE CONCEPTS.

lexical bliss