Hello friends and welcome to Color the Shelves!
Today on the blog, I have invited the author of one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, Shveta Tharkar, and the book is question is none other than STAR DAUGHTER! I am so unbelievably excited to get my hand in this newly released book and devour it. It’s Hindu mythology inspired and about a girl who is half a human half a star who has to travel to the sky to enlist her mother’s help after she injures her father with her starfire. Now how brilliant does that sound? Plus I’ve only been hearing great things about it. That in addition to this amazing post the author wrote has me sold on it and convinced I will love it.
Writing with Your Own Mythology
When I was twenty-two, I wandered into the burgeoning YA section of my local library at the time and spotted Holly Black’s Tithe. I remember seeing the green faerie on the cover—it’s gone through many iterations since then—and thinking, Oh, cool! I love faeries. And I checked it out.
The book was rich with genuine fairylore, which Black took as a foundation upon which to construct her own original fantasy narrative. Absolutely fascinated, I later sought out the companion novel and sequel. I also started looking for and discovered other books like that.
Fast-forward a few years to when I was twenty-six or twenty-seven and finally realized that, while I’d found plenty of faerie-based novels, I’d never found a single equivalent book about people who look like me, using the mythology and folklore from my desi ancestry. I decided I would do something about that—and immediately ran into a problem.
I live in America, so unlike the Irish and British fairylore Black had used, I couldn’t assume most of my readers would have even heard of Hindu and Buddhist mythical beings like nagas (well, outside the terrible Dungeons and Dragons take on them or J.K. Rowling’s equally problematic use of “nagini”) or apsaras or have the context for a casual reference to a tale like “Savitri and Satyavan” (which I retold in the anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings). I had to accept that same shorthand didn’t exist here, which meant I would have to find an elegant way to explain everything. If I say “faerie,” for example, you get an immediate image in your mind. But if I say “apsara,” then chances are good I have to tell you what it means.
Fine. I could do that, and over time, I devised clever ways to weave in definitions that didn’t come off as vocabulary lessons in the middle of the story.
But then I ran into another, much larger obstacle. As it turns out, if your target audience isn’t already familiar with the lore and established traditions you’re drawing upon, your work runs the risk of being treated as a textbook, with you as the presumed cultural authority. Readers will assume the terms you use and the stories you share are “accurate,” and I put that word in quotation marks because as any good folklorist will tell you, stories evolve into a million and one forms over time, all equally valid.
Still, I’ve seen that reaction to work by marginalized authors over and over, including complaints that the book didn’t teach the reader enough about the culture, and it’s incredibly frustrating. Part of being an author, no matter where you’re from or who you’re writing for, is getting to play with source material and making it your own. After all, fiction is fiction, not an encyclopedia. And if the reader is still curious, there’s always Google.
So when I wrote Star Daughter, I decided not to worry about any of that and instead wove a mix of magic: I incorporated Vedic astrology and mentions of some of the stories from the Mahabharata I loved and made up lots of my own mythology. The entire starry court, for example, is my invention, though the constellations themselves are not. The gods mentioned are part of the overarching Vedic/Hindu pantheon, but my take on the heavenly realm of Svargalok is. Etc., etc.
At the end of the day, I wrote Star Daughter for the teen girl I was, who really could have used a fantasy adventure starring someone with her skin tone and the language her parents spoke and the food she ate—not to mention the mythology of her faith. That said, I think I did a pretty good job of making everything in the book accessible for anyone, and I hope readers of any background will find as much enchantment in reading it as I did writing it.
About the author
Shveta Thakrar is a part-time nagini and full-time believer in magic. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies including Enchanted Living, Uncanny Magazine, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, and Toil & Trouble. Her debut young adult fantasy novel, Star Daughter, is forthcoming from HarperTeen on August 11, 2020. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp.
(Shveta is represented by Beth Phelan of the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.)
About the book
Publication date : August 11th, 2020
Publisher : HarperTeen | Harpercollins
Genre : Young Adult | Fantasy
Page Count: 448
Synopsis : This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.
The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.
Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.
Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.
That’s it until next time.
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.