BWW Interview: Roshani Chokshi, author of ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME
Yesterday, ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME by Roshani Chokshi debuted into the world. Aru Shah is the first character to be introduced in publisher Disney Hyperion's new Rick Riordan Presents line, which BroadwayWorld talks about in more detail here. Today, BroadwayWorld is sitting down with Roshani to pepper her with questions regarding her new series.
Aru Shah introduces readers to Hindu mythology, especially the epics. The series centers around twelve year old Aru Shah, who often tells tall tales that get her in trouble. Her mother runs the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture. Aru has grown up hearing all the lore of her culture, but never thought that she was the reincarnation of one of the five Pandava Brothers from the legendary epic poem Mahabharata until a dare goes wrong, she touches the cursed Lamp of Bharata, and accidentally releases the Sleeper into the world--and everything in his footsteps freezes. It's up to Aru and her new Pandava sister Mini to go on a quest and save the world while simultaneously learning the truth about their destiny.
Aru Shah begins with a bang, and is a great way to kick off the new Rick Riordan Presents line. Any kid obsessed with mythology or Riordan's own books will become enamored with Aru and Mini and be anxious to continue their journey in future books.
Because this is a new series, we wanted to sit down with Roshani and share secrets about her new novel, her writing process, and, of course, what it was like working with Rick Riordan!
~How did you go about choosing which elements of Hindu mythology to bring to life in the world of ARU SHAH? What kind of world-building went into building your foundation for the series?
That was a particularly difficult task because these myths have so much nuance depending on the region. This is also a great thing because I had a wealth of interpretations to choose from. For me, I chose the worldbuilding that I thought would have the largest common denominator among readers, which meant sticking with major characters/villains from the epics. The modernized settings, though, were my touch :)
~What was your favorite scene to write? (Side Comment: I really loved the Night Bazaar and how it was a Costco, but could accommodate any type of demigod or mythical being!)
Of course I loved writing the Night Bazaar!! I try to put a Night Bazaar in every book I write, perhaps in the hope that saying it enough times will somehow make it true. My other favorite scene was the Palace of Illusions! Poor Palace . . .
~What is your favorite Hindu myth? (Side comment: I love that you are introducing me to Hindu mythology, which I know very little about. From all the myths you introduced, I particularly loved an offhanded remark when you talked about how Urvashi made an outfit from skipped heartbeats that she sewed herself.)
Alas, I'm not sure that Urvashi actually has a sari sewn of heartbeats, but it certainly fits her persona. I think my favorite Hindu myth is the tale of Narasimha. I do plan on introducing it, because it's delightfully gruesome and has riddles (two of my favorite things) but I need to figure out the right context.
~Being a pre-teen can be so hard, especially when you don't quite fit in! I really like the way you chronicled middle school life in a way kids will relate to. What was middle school like for you? Did that shape how you wrote Aru's experience at all?
LOL. Yes. Writing ARU has been sorta therapeutic because I got to exorcise a lot of my middle school demons. Like Aru, I was a notorious liar with no obvious talent at anything. I loved writing, but I failed 7th grade English (my 8th grade English teacher changed my life though <3). I loved telling stories, but I hated the books we were reading. I desperately wanted to be beautiful, but there was no mainstream context for 1st generation immigrant kid beauty. So it was a lot of not finding spaces to exist and trying to force my way into them.
~How did you decide what sort of locations to use when creating quest stops? One of my favorite elements of the Percy Jackson books has always been the way something we see as ordinary can actually be extraordinary, and I loved that this was also true in Aru Shah. How do you choose what to transform? It seems like so much fun (but also so hard to come up with...it's all so clever and I love it)!
Oh, I just thought of where I'd wanna go! And I totally agree, that's one of my favorite aspects of PERCY too! But I think it goes for all kind of magic and even the magic of growing up, that the most enchanting aspects lie in the ordinary.
~What was it like working with Rick Riordan and having ARU SHAH be the inaugural titles in the Rick Riordan Presents line? How did you get involved in the line?
HE WAS (IS!) AWESOME! His teacher background really came through in his editing style. He's got great attention to detail, helped guide me in the right direction, but always made sure that my voice was being preserved and showing through. I actually heard about RRP completely by chance! And I started salivating at the mouth for the opportunity to write a story in the line. I sent off those first three chapters of ARU with a hope and a prayer and zero expectation of anything happening. I was, blessedly, wrong.
ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME
is available NOW!
ABOUT ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME:
Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN.
She grew up in Georgia, where she acquired a Southern accent but does not use it unless under duress. She has a luck dragon that looks suspiciously like a Great Pyrenees dog. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. She is the 2016 finalist for the Andre Norton Award, and a 2016 Locus finalist for Best First Novel. Her short story, The Star Maiden, was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.