So there are just books that resonate with you all year right? My sister and I are always looking for that one book(or two, or 3)we just want to spend the whole year bragging about and for Guinevere, The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda was it. We pretty much spent the entire year telling everyone how amazing this book was and how you pretty much need it in your life, so we were happy when we were able to secure a spot for Sarwat on our Diversity Month to finally and formally introduce him on our oh so humble Book Blog.
This bloke is pretty much knee deep in diversity!
- So this is your "official" first time of Twinja Book Reviews. Sure, we've highlighted you and your book, but this is the first time we've gotten a chance to have you on. What can you tell us about you, and your journey to become a published author?
I didn’t plan to be an author until I was in my mid-thirties. I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and spent twenty years in the constriction business.
It gave me a chance to travel and work abroad and that was when the seed of storytelling was planted. Been around Africa and the Middle East. Europe is on my doorstep and my honeymoon was spent in Central America. I lived in Hong Kong for a few years and travelled around the Far East a lot. It was AWESOME.
India particularly blew me away. Here were ancient palaces and cities right out of the Arabian Nights. There were desert nomads, the Himalayan Mountains and all of these gods!
I’d always been a fan of big myths and fantasy stories, but here was the real thing. I visited an old rundown palace on the banks of the Ganges, full of bats and with walls decorated with rotted-away tiger heads. I didn’t know it then, but this palace was to become THE SAVAGE FORTRESS.
Okay, fast forward a whole lot of years. I’m in my thirties and looking for a change of direction. I chat with my wife and we agree I love storytelling, so why not give it a go? I write a story called DEVIL’S KISS. The heroine is half-English half-Pakistani with a Christian father and Muslim mother. It grows and grows and after submissions and rejections and revisions I get a book deal with Disney-Hyperion in 2008. And my career as a writer begins!
- Let me just tell you, I loved your "Ash Mistry" series. It was one of the first times I'd read a book that celebrated taking mythology out of the West. I'd read somewhere, Ash had been sitting with you for several years before you decided he deserved his own story. What were the turning points for you that made "The Savage Fortress" happen?
The travelling. I read somewhere writing is a great second career and heartily agree. Go out and explore. See things and wonder at them. Try this and that. Gather up experiences beyond the written word. Live a life and go out and meet people.
Ash Mistry has been on my mind since 1994. I knew I wanted to do something based on Indian mythology and set in the East. At first I had a go and creating a graphic novel. I’ve a few pages of it lying around somewhere. It was great fun but didn’t really get anywhere.
I’ve always been interested in Eastern culture. I lived in Hong Kong and travelled the length and breath of China, Mongolia, Tibet and of course India. It’s so radically different from here, a bewildering experience. Maybe I needed distance of time to make sense of the story and that’s how Ash Mistry came into being. It’s about a boy grown up in the gap between East and West. About how he takes both and creates a new hybrid, the best of both.
It’s the story I wanted to tell. We hear so much about the differences between people. Between this culture and that and this religion and that one, and are led to believe there is no common ground.
Rubbish. We are all human. We all want the same thing. Respect. Love. A better life for ourselves and our loved ones. Some of us live extraordinarly hard lives, and have to make extraordinarily hard choices. But going out your door and meeting these people you find that they’re not that different, not really.
- If Im being honest, I didnt know much about you before I read your book. I got one little poke in the right direction, read your book, and then wanted to know everything about your journey as an author. It surprised me that you'd been blogging about diversity. FOR YEARS. Not all authors like to have that "diversity" conversation. It's not only uncomfortable, but it highlights the inequality many diverse authors face in the publishing world. Did you face any challenges getting "The Savage Fortress" published? Do you think there were any moments or events that skyrocketed it's reach?
I’ve blogged about my worst experience here.
Sometimes I just want to go ‘AAARGH!’.
- As an author, what has been the most successful approach to getting your books in the hands of the kids and adults alike who need them?
Write what you LOVE and work at it. You will get rejected. You will get push backs and be dismissed. Take on advise that helps, improves your work, and ignore the rest. Ignore the trends and the markets and what people says is hot and what they tell you is not. YOU will make the trend. Never forget it.
If you have passion for it, then you’ll find others who share the passion. One of my best supporters comes out of Texas and is Texan through and through but has been a fan of Ash from the onset! So don’t tell me people won’t ‘get it’ because they’re not Indian (or Inuit or Somalian or whatever).
I came out of an engineering background. I knew NO ONE in publishing. I hadn’t even heard of the term Young Adult until I became a YA writer. What matters is the STORY.
- From past conversations, you said we might expect another cool series from you if we can garner the interest to make it happen. What could people we all do to make that happen?
Woohoo, been waiting to announce a few major things!
First off is I’m writing comics. Not any old comics but for a new publisher called Graphic India. They. Like me, want to bring Eastern-based stories out to a Westeran audience. It worked with manga, so why not with stories set in India.
I’ve two projects coming out, one’s top secret but the other is 18 DAYS, a retelling of the Mahabharata. It is to India what the Iliad is to Greece, but a hundred times bigger.
It’s a legendary story between heroes in an ancient past. But this version is being told as sci-fi epic! We have bio-engineered super-warriors, god-weapons, mutants and a global war of unimaginable scale. IT WILL ROCK.
The first two volumes are done, I’m taking over writing duties half-way through the third.
I love comics and love Indian mythology so this is a dream come true.
I’m be writing the next 39 CLUES for Scholastic. The new series, DOUBLECROSS, will be four books and I get to write the series finale. All bets are off. Needless to say it will be intense.
The big announcement. I’m writing another series called SHADOW MAGIC, for Disney Hyperion. However, since I’ve already got two projects coming out we decided this will be under a pen name, JOSHUA KHAN. Think of him as Sarwat Chadda’s evil twin!
This is my high-fantasy epic with the most brilliant heroine. I’ve always wanted to have a go at creating my own mythology and this is it. It’s set in a world ruled by ancient families of magic. Lilith ‘Lily’ Shadow belongs to the House of Darkness and her family are necromancers, sorcerers of the dead.
What would it be like to have zombies as servants? To have armies made up of them? To be advised and taught by ghosts? That’s Lily’s life and, for her, utterly normal.
Throw in a peasant boy with his own secrets and a MASSIVE vampire bat and that’s SHADOW MAGIC. Due out Summer 2016.
- Finally, where can we all go to get blog post and twitter updates, new book info or just anything and everything Sarwat Chadda!
Best is to follow me and my evil twin. By Twitter I’ll keep you all up-to-date on developments on all things!
About the Author:
Sarwat Chadda has lived and travelled throughout the world, from China to Guatemala. He’s been lost in Mongolia, abandoned at a volcano in Nicaragua and hidden up a tree from a rhino in Nepal. Not to mention being detained by Homeland Security in the US and chased around Tibet by the Chinese police. Maybe he just has that sort of face.
Anyway, now he’s trying to settle in one place and stay out of trouble. Hence his new career as a writer. It’s safe, indoors and avoids any form of physical danger.
Throughout his travels, Sarwat has soaked up the myths, legends and cultures of far away places. Now, with the Ash Mistry series, he aims to bring these unfamiliar tales of ten-headed demons and blue-skinned heroes back home and put them beside the exploits of Achilles and Thor. His heroes are Prince Rama and the demon-slaying Kali. Isn’t it about time you met them too?
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