Sunshine Shawls and Soothsaying Spiders: A Q&A with Shveta Thakrar
September 1, 2020
Have you ever wanted to enter a peacock’s mouth to visit Night Market and wear storm cloud barrettes in your hair? Or to drink blue mango juice while sidereal song dazzles your senses?
Of course you have! At the very least, you’ll certainly want to after reading Star Daughter, Shveta’s luminous YA debut. If you love romance, court intrigue, mythology, rainbow color palettes, and/ or really, really good food, this is the book for you.
Check out our exclusive interview with Shveta below! And, seriously, if you haven’t already, go buy this book, gobble it up, and join us for our book club on September 24th… where Shveta will be joining us to discuss Star Daughter!
Your writing—Star Daughter and your short fiction—is deliciously steeped in folklore. Why is folklore such a big part of the stories you create?
Short answer: I wouldn’t know how not to. Longer answer: I always wanted to see the mythology and fairy tales of my Hindu/Indian heritage in the fantasy work I loved. So I decided to weave it into my own. The tales we tell are built on the foundation of what came before, so we might as well openly celebrate that foundation by highlighting it front and center in the fantasy of today.
You’ve spoken before about some of your major inspirations for the novel, especially Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. Did specific myths or fairy tales weave their way into your work? For instance, we got strong “The Little Mermaid” vibes from parts of the story, but we have no idea if that’s something we brought to the story as readers or if it was one of the stories tickling your mind as you wrote!
Ha, I’m actually really curious which parts made you think of “The Little Mermaid,” because I definitely didn’t intend that!
My inspiration was all Hindu stuff as well as the magical worlds I carry inside me. I’m going to cheat here and reference this to recount the mythology I drew upon: https://steelthistles.blogspot.com/2020/08/star-daughter-guest-post-by-shveta.html.
What was the most fun, champagne-dizzy part of writing Star Daughter?
The Night Market! It was totally an exercise in wish fulfillment, and I spent years embellishing and polishing it, to the point my agent insisted I dial it back a bit and make sure the plot was still moving along. I reluctantly agreed. But it’s still stuffed to its indeterminate and ever-shifting borders with things I find delightful and magical and desperately want myself: sunshine shawls, soothsaying spiders, jars of marble worlds, chandini, sentient storm cloud barrettes.
I wrote the enchanted Night Market of my dreams, the place I absolutely want to go shopping—and maybe one day, I’ll stumble onto the peacock-beak entrance, too!
One of our favorite things about Star Daughter is how vivid the world is, especially the use of colors. How do you decide on a color palette for a scene or location or person? And what’s your favorite color?
Thank you! I don’t actually decide; I just go with whatever comes to me from the rich worlds inside my imagination. Originally the starry court was only going to be silver and black, but then I realized blue would add some dimension to that. Plus I think I was inspired by this outfit:
I can’t have a single favorite anything, so my favorite colors are teal, purple, rose, and silver (though I really love all jewel tones and pastels and and and . . .).
We felt terrible for Rati, even though she was being a huge jerk. Does anything change for the better for her after the conclusion of the novel?
See, I don’t actually view her as a jerk. I see her as someone who got stuck in a really awful situation due to someone else’s momentary bad choices, and that left her with few options. I think if she had been related to Sheetal, we would perceive her differently.
So much about the power of storytelling lies in whose perspective the listener or reader is asked to sympathize with. Who’s really the hero/heroine? Who’s really the villain? It all has to do with whose point of view we’re given. (Like reimagining a Grimm’s fairy tale demonizing a witch from the witch’s point of view. Is she sympathetic then?)
That said, there is definitely life for the stars outside the court, so I think yes, Rati eventually finds a different and happier path.
What are a few books that you’ve read lately that you’ve loved?
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown; The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth; Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust; Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee; Namaha: Stories from the Land of Gods and Goddesses by Abhishek Singh.
If you had to choose a fairy tale or legend or myth to tell the story of your own life, what would it be? What tale is your heart-story?
“Savitri and Satyavan” from the Mahabharata, except I’m both Savitri and Satyavan—saving myself over and over again and then living happily ever after, surrounded by love.
What projects are you currently working on? (i.e. talk up all your upcoming stuff here!)
I can’t say much about my not-yet-sold projects, though I do have a few things in the pipeline, but I can certainly tell you a little about my second contracted young adult fantasy novel! It will also be chock-full of Hindu mythology and feature nagas and dreams and my signature magical prose, and you’ll see a lot of Nagalok (the subterranean kingdom of the nagas). I’m about to dive headlong into revisions, so wish me luck.
Is there a question that you wish people would ask you, in general or about Star Daughter, they but never do? Now’s your chance! What is it, and what’s the answer?
“Why do you write fantasy?”
Because I absolutely believe in magic and want to evoke that same sense of the numinous and wondrous in others. It’s the same reason I dress in enchanted outfits and gravitate toward a mythic understanding of the world around me. There is always more to life than what we see on the surface—more sparkle, more joy, more love and inspiration and hope—and I want to bring it out for all of us.
Beautiful. We know that everyone at Carterhaugh feels the same way <3
Thank you for sharing your lovely answers with us, Shveta! Again, click here to head on over to our Patreon to join us for our exclusive Carterhaugh event with Shveta on September 24th – until then, happy reading!