Thursday, 14 June 2012

Interview: Laxmi Hariharan

Today we have author Laxmi Hariharan on the blog. This is really exciting for me, as Laxmi is from India AND writes science fiction, which is an awesome combination! We chat about Laxmi's books, about writing science fiction and the quirks involved in it and of course about India! Also, Laxmi has graciously agreed to hold a giveaway for a $10 Amazon Gift Card too, so go check it out as well!. Now, let's get started!


Describe your book? How do you come up with the idea for the book? 

The Destiny of Shaitan is a delicious blend of gods & humans, sacred & profane; a gripping ride offering a glimpse into your own power. Partially set in a futuristic Bombay, this coming of age story is painted against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world. When Tiina accompanies Yudi on a mission to save the universe from the ruthless Shaitan, she seeks more than the end of the tyrant; she seeks herself. The final showdown between Tiina, Yudi, and Shaitan has unexpected consequences, for Shaitan will do anything in his power to win the fight.  The stakes are high and the combatants determined. Will Shaitan's ultimate destiny be fulfilled

I am inspired by Indian mythology. My grandmother narrated me these amazing stories of Indian Gods and Goddesses and their fantastic adventures, when I was growing up in Bombay. So I think the seeds of this book were sown when I was a five year old. I hope The Destiny of Shaitan will introduce an entire new generation around the world to Indian mythology – in a very cool, easy to understand fashion. 


Who is your favourite character from your book? Is there a character in your book you think the readers will hate?

My favourite is Artemis. Artemis was only an inanimate spaceship, until I gave her a feminine point of view. Just like that she developed a crush, a feeling akin to hero-worship for Tiina, and everything changed. The dynamics between the two are fascinating. Tiina is such a strong character and there is a very masculine side to her. This automatically resonates with Artemis. Artemis also represents that part of Tiina which cannot be reined in. She is a free spirit. With the help of Artemis, Tiina has to find herself first. I think in my next novel I will  dig deeper into the adventures of Tiina and Artemis.

It would be easy for me to say that viewers would hate Shaitan; but I think they will find him fascinating; he is not an ordinary villain. He is quite multidimensional. Shaitan is inspired by Ravan, a mighty villain from Indian mythology—a ten-headed demon, Ravan is evil, but also great scholar, a capable ruler, a good father. Shaitan’s dilemma is that he does not have a choice. Cursed by Shiva to being killed by his own son, he has to kill his children or be killed himself. Yet, he wants to experience all the emotions that come with being human; albeit only half human, this side drives him to seek companionship, love, and fulfillment in having a family. I enjoyed writing Shaitan. He is the villain, with a heart.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

Gosh! You know. This novel is my first born. Only it took me nine years to deliver this baby. In between I moved three countries and also lost my first baby a few years ago—It was a near death experience, which somehow compelled me to birth this book. I had this strange superstition that I had to birth the novel first and a real child would follow. It was as if  being on death’s door made me realise that the time is now! 

What are your current projects?  When is your next book coming out?

I am in the process of researching my second novel called The Seven Islands. In fact I will be in Bombay this December for real time inspiration. 
In the Destiny of Shaitan I created a new order of the solar system set in the late 29th century to early 30th century.  In this world, the planet of Java where the readers meet Tiina for the first time, is an ideal place where rice paddies are farmed and gigantic swarms of bees roam. 
Bombay on the mother planet Earth on the other hand is a gritty place where Rai was left when his mother, one of Shaitan’s mistresses, escaped and gave birth to him. Compared to the lush planet of Java, Bombay and Earth are filthy, almost sordid. Very similar to Pluto which is Yudi’s adopted home planet. So in the Destiny of Shaitan, I elude to the setting of The Seven Islands, a futuristic Bombay—the original city is destroyed, leaving only the original seven islands in its place—it is here that my next novel is based. I stay in the same galaxy I have created for Shaitan, but zoom into the city of Bombay as a setting for the characters. 

Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you, something you could not read just about anywhere.
  1. I am a healer. I love energy healing and am trained in Metatronic and Vortex healing. These natural energies are like science fiction for me. You can feel them but can’t see them.
  2. My great grandmother was a gypsy
  3. I look exactly like my father right. Talk about patterns being passed on from father to daughter or mother to son as in the case of Yana to Yudi. (It is ultimately the fact that Yudi is identical to his mother Yana in face and gesture which pushes him over the edge. There is no getting away from our past or the patterns of our genes.)
How do you research or come up with the science for your books?

Another little known fact—I have a degree in Bio Chemistry, so am an ace at flow-charts, and basic science facts; all that boring analytical stuff. This helps me ground my science fiction in fact.

How important is it for scifi books to be based on real science?

I try and stick to the basic rules and play within that. So in that sense it is fantasy but not fantastical. For instance in The Destiny of Shaitan, I talk about how in the year 3000, there are nine planets in the solar system, but gone is the old order. Earth continues to be the third planet to orbit around the sun. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn stay in the original order too. But Shaitan destroys Uranus & Neptune. Instead the fictional planets of Ka Surya, Java and Arkana make up the remaining three planets in the milky-way which now consists of ten planets.   So it’s about 80% reality, and the rest fiction. See attached a diagram of this. I have to draw up detailed flowcharts on power-point, believe it or not, so that all the rules of my world are clear even to me.

If someone asked you how the world would look like 100 years from now, what would be your answer?

I truly believe that in the future there will be Half Lives ie.Humans  will breed with non–humans to produce a new breed of half human species similar to those we find mentioned in Indian mythology. Nature is cyclical. So the Half Lives will go back to recapturing some of the glorious powers we had in the past. But perhaps it will be a vastly reduced percentage of us who will survive. Many of the human race would have been wiped out due to our careless treatment of our environment.

I know your book is set in the Indian city of Mumbai. How easy or difficult is it to take this city, which is currently in constant flux, into a dystopian future?


Mumbai in 3017
The Destiny of Shaitan, is partially set in Bombay (as it was originally called. So Bombay itself is a mythical city, it does not exist anymore, and that is what makes placing some of the novel there so interesting.) I grew up in Bombay and divide my time between Bombay and London now. The crowded, dirty, dusty, cosmopolitan Bombay today may be on a real path to a desolate, dystopian landscape by 3000 if people keep up their current rate of abuse of the environment in this city.  So I actually just exaggerated the reality I see around me in this city my childhood space.

What is the most difficult part of writing SF? And, of writing a dystopian novel?

It is completing the story which is the most difficult for me. I have to make sure all the pieces fit so that they make sense to me and all the details are tied up. It becomes an obsession when I am in that phase of finding the last piece of the puzzle.

Being an Indian, I have to ask this. What is the one thing about India you’d like to change, and what do you wish would never change?

I hope the corruption is addressed. It is a virus which is eating away at the roots of our society. It permeates and impacts everything we do – the very air we breathe and is choking the very Earth that the country occupies.
I would never change our culture and our value system with its emphasis on family and education. It gives us Indians a solid grounding; a security which stands us in good stead no matter where our life journey takes us. 

If you could not write SF/F, what genre would you be writing?

Romance! I love romantic fiction. Some of my best scenes in The Destiny of Shaitan are the lovemaking scenes, especially since Yudi is quite a flirt. So here’s a scene from Tiina & Yudi’s reunion. They are childhood sweethearts who meet after almost ten years. She takes the full brunt of his desire as he kisses the corners of her eyes, the centre of her lips, the stretch of her neck, the curve of her belly button, the dip of her thighs, the soft undersides of her feet, then as if he can’t stop himself, he speeds up until it seems he is touching her everywhere at once, absorbing her through every cell of his skin, sucking her very spirit, channelling it straight to his heart. 

Which is your favourite SF author and book?

Night Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko, a well-known Russian science fiction writer. Did you know that Russia is the only country in the world to celebrate Cosmonautics Day, on April 12, in memory of the first manned space flight made by the 27-year-old Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. It’s a national holiday. How cool is that? 


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Quick-fire questions:

ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
You are talking to a technophile. Big believer in ebooks, and they are easy on the environment too. But from an authors standpoint, you need both ebooks and paperbacks, so it's more convenient for the reader to find you. 

Cats or dogs?
Umm…. Would you believe it foxes? We have city foxes in London. I actually have a few cubs at the bottom of my garden

Coffee or tea?
Masala chai, sweetened with two spoons of sugar please!

Favourite food?
Italian. I love my caprese with fresh mozzarella ( I am vegetarian)

Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
Dark chocolate only

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
My blackberry so I am in touch with everyone on twitter & FB, my moleskin diary to write out thoughts for The Seven Islands, my umbrella ( I live in London, it really does rain a lot and I hate my hair going frizzy in the rain), my lipstick (I am vain!)

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
Ritesh you’ll understand it when I say that like a nice middle class South Indian girl, I have been trained to wake up at 4am and study all through school and college; and I think my Dad was right. 4 – 8 am in the morning is my most creative writing time. I can only write at my kitchen table overlooking the garden!

If you were deserted on an island, who are 3 famous people you would want with you any why?
Batman (I love his dark brooding intense style), Michael Fassbender (I am in love!), Jamie Lannister (talk about being multidimensional!) With these three I’d never run out of conversation. 

List 3 of your all-time favourite movies?
The Fifth Element, Woody Allen’s Manhattan & Kill Bill.

        

What book are you reading now?
Right now its Pavarti K Taylor’s, Shadow on a Wall (It’s not a plug, I swear!)

Tell me your favourite song of all time (one song only, please).
Like many Indians who grew up in India in the seventies & Eighties it’s Led Zepellin’s Kashmir.

Kashmir by Led Zeppelin on Grooveshark

What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
Would it be terrible if I said Ra.One?  I absolutely enjoyed it. Bollywood meets scifi, what’s not to love especially with  the song Chammak Challo still ringing in my ears. Outside of Bollywood, I adore Game of Thrones. It is my all-time favourite. GRR is surely GOD.


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About author Laxmi Hariharan

Laxmi Hariharan was born in India. She lived in Singapore and Hong Kong and is now based in London. She has written for various publications including The Times of India, The Independent, and Asian Age. 

She is inspired by Indian mythology. This chai-swigging, technophile enjoys long walks in the woods and growing eye catching flowers. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon.

You can find Laxmi here:

|    Website    |    Twitter    |    Facebook    |    Google+    |


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About The Destiny of Shaitan

|    Buy on Amazon for Kindle    |

Kindle bestseller The Destiny of Shaitan is a delicious blend of gods & humans, sacred & profane; a gripping ride offering a glimpse into your own power.

Partially set in a futuristic Bombay, this coming of age story is painted against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world.

When Tiina accompanies Yudi on a mission to save the unverse from the ruthless Shaitan, she seeks more than the end of the tyrant; she seeks herself. Driven by greed and fear for his own survival, Shaitan bulldozes his way through the galaxy, destroying everything in his path.  Tiina wants Yudi to destroy Shaitan, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Shaitan being killed by his son. But she finds that Yudi is hesitant to do so. The final showdown between Tiina, Yudi, and Shaitan has unexpected consequences, for Shaitan will do anything in his power to win the fight.  The stakes are high and the combatants determined. Will Shaitan's ultimate destiny be fulfilled?

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30 comments:

  1. Wow! This was an excellent and enlightening interview! And she loves the Fifth Element! I didn't think anyone remembered that movie!

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    1. Wow! Good to meet you fellow Fifth Element lover! PS. if Tiina were to choose a Native American name it would be Mina :)

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  2. Dude, can I come live on your island. I love Batman and Fassey!

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  3. I love the fifth element, and loved this interview! Syfy rocks!

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    1. Hey AD! Great to meet incredible imaginators like yourself! Those are some awesome July 4th recipes on your blog too. (You wouldn't happen to have a vegeterian recipe which I could dish up in London?:)

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  4. Wow! A detailed interview! I really got to know a lot about the author and the book. 4am is such an early time to wake up!

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    1. Michelle, I am so excited to find that you live in Singapore -- one of the most romantic cities -- its where I met my husband:) Is there a favourite spot in Singapore that inspires your writing? Would love to know.

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  5. Oh, that was actually VERY interesting. I'm certainly going to take a peek on the book! And your movie taste must mean you're an awesome person. :D

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  6. Katja do tell me more about your favourite movies. Which has been the most memorable?

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  7. Very interesting interview. Liked about how you go about writing your work keeping the fundamentals in place.

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    1. Hi Kulin, pleased you liked it. Right now I am trying to focus on writing my second book. Thanks for the encouragement

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  8. A really good interview! I liked it! it was very informative!

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    1. Thanks Rosa! So pleased you liked it.

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  9. Great interview :D Definitely going to add Katja's book to my to-read pile!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement Christina. Pleased you like what you have read so far of my first born:) Do stay in touch with me at @laxmi

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  10. Wonderful Interview. She picked 3 great fave movies!

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    1. Love it that you like the movies too!

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  11. I love that the book is set in Bombay. Great interview. I love dark chocolate. Halflings huh..what a fascinating world it will be!

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    1. Hi, the Destiny of Shaitan is partially set in a futuristic Bombay. The second book in the series Return to the Seven Islands will be completely set in Bombay (at a time when a tsunami has swept away the city returning it to the original seven islands it was built on.) I am really enjoying writing about this too:)

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  12. Very nice interview. The characters sound fascinating.

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  13. great interview...looking forward to read this book...^^
    keep success !!!

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    1. Nurmawati, thanks for the vote! Do email if after reading, I'd love to profile you in my Readaers Avatars series on my blog.

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  14. I suck at biochem! Great interview!

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    1. Midu, I don't blame you. I often wondered what I was doing in a Biochemistry class -- but have to say drawing all those flow charts has helped me with plotting my book!

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  15. You have great taste in movies!

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  16. What an awesome interview. Very entertaining and enlightening. I just watched The Fifth Element a few days ago for the umpteenth time. Addicted to it.I wonder if we will ever really find intelligent life and if they will visit us? Halflings might find it tough to live on this planet.

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    1. Laura - I am convinced the future belongs to half lives - it is only a matter of time before we find and befriend species from other planets:) we are not alone :)

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