Evil stepmothers abound in fairy tales and mythology. Most of us grew up with stories about Cinderella’s stepmother who jeopardized Cinderalla’s chance for happiness. A common trope has been to pit a stepmother against her stepdaughter. When viewed through a modern lens, we realize that these stories depict the lack of female power and how their livelihood depends on the men in their lives. It is no wonder these women are typically battling for a man’s attention.
In Indian mythology, Queen Kaikeyi in Ramayana is the catalyst for the epic. She banishes her stepson, Rama, to the forest for fourteen years and sets in motion the quest for Sita. Her crime is wanting the throne for her birth son. Her desire paints her in a dark light compared to the sacrifice of noble Rama.
For a good stepmother, you need to turn to Mrs.Dashwood in Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Here, the stepson wrongs the stepmother by his greed.
Coming to my books, you catch a glimpse of Queen Charu in the prequel Novella. She is not an evil stepmother. Nor is she a saint. She is misguided, complex, and human.
Her chapter Queen of Malla in Heir to Malla is one of my favorite. It is a quiet chapter of a mother sharing her story with her daughter. Her words reveal so much about the place and agency of women in those times.
Prince in Shadow introduces the readers to the Land of Magadha. This novella is available to my Newsletter subscribers for free.
A prequel novella to Heir to Malla, this tale opens a window into the Malla dynasty. Royal siblings, Princess Meera and Prince Jay had led a sheltered life. That was about to change. Grab a hot chai and plunge into a tale of royal intrigue laced with love.
I typically send a monthly newsletter about my upcoming book, new releases, cover reveal, and sales. On rare occasions, you might get two emails from me in a month. So there is no worry about me flooding your inbox.
This past week, I celebrated a book birthday. I published my debut novel Heir to Malla a year ago. Just two months into the pandemic and new life of masks and lockdowns, I shared the story I had been working on for over five years.
A year later, I have realized how many mistakes I made. I had no marketing plan, no newsletter, and no beta readers. I launched the book into the wild with no clue. Since then, I have joined writing groups on Facebook and learned many things from experienced authors.
I have found a beta reader or two among my avid readers. I will be releasing Prince in Shadow, an Heir to Malla prequel novella, exclusively to my Newsletter subscribers.
For my second book, War of the Three Kings, I have a simple marketing plan, mainly focused on building my newsletter subscription, sales promo for Heir to Malla, and one or two third-party newsletter promotions. I will share more details after the launch.
This journey is a marathon, and I am grateful to my readers for letting me share the stories in my head.
Many writers come from backgrounds you typically expect: English majors, journalists, English teachers, history, or literature students. Then some writers like me have no background in literature or writing except for a deep love of books.
A few years ago, I along with thousands of others, waited for the next book in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. This book series was made famous by the television show “Game of Thrones”. I had read every theory on the dark corners of the web about what would happen in books six and seven. As a reader, I was eager to find out what happened to my favorite characters. After waiting many years, a seed got planted, and I wondered what it would mean to write my own royal saga loosely based on Indian culture.
Without any training apart from having read many books, I started writing. Princess Meera, Prince Jay, the many supporting characters, and the land of Magadha took life on-page.
I only had a vague idea of the story I wanted to tell when I started. With no outline, my plot grew organically. Over 100k words later, I finished my first draft. In my edits, I chopped characters, rearranged plots and scenes but the core story of love, family, and duty remained.
Then I worked with a wonderful editor who helped me polish the story. As an engineer by training and trade, my writing before this book primarily focused on writing facts, charts, and technical specifications. A story needs settings, characters, scenes, conflict, and emotions. Each edit added depth to my tale. I am still honing my storytelling craft and having fun doing it, as I write book 2.
This year, Heir to Malla was published. Releasing a book is like raising a child and letting them go. My book is now in the hands of readers.
My hope is readers have as much fun reading the book as I had fun writing it.
My advice to writers is to write your story first. Pour your heart out. You can fix things later in the edits. And it is never late to start learning the craft.
Love vs Duty is a premise I explored in Book 1. This is a topic relevant in current times as well. It manifests itself as Self vs Society. Take the current pandemic and mask-wearing as an example. Wearing a mask might be good for the community, while the individual self might protest the inconvenience or health and safety concerns.
Sacrificing one’s self might be taken to an extreme. In some cultures, women are routinely asked to give up their aspirations for the welfare of their families. What is a good balance between the two, and who decides it?
My characters live in a medieval world. Fealty to the king and crown is expected. Marriages are arranged with an eye towards strengthening alliances. Do individual desires and aspirations have any place in these settings? Especially among female characters?
My characters struggle with these questions, and answers are not always easy.
I use two first-person point of view characters in this book. Their storylines do not happen chronologically. The astute reader would find hints in the chapters to establish a timeline and sequence of events. This allowed me to have a little fun revealing things to the readers that my character is in the dark about. The drama comes from seeing the characters make decisions based on incomplete information, while the reader is either enjoying the ride or screaming at the book (no, no, no, don’t do it. Wrong path).
When I started writing the book, I aspired to craft a strong female protagonist, while staying true to the medieval settings. Princess Meera wields no sword or magic. Her strength is still very palpable. She has influential role models to learn from, her grandmother, and her stepmother. These older women have very different traits and provide Meera two distinct paths to follow. What she learns from them is a subtext in her story. Strength comes in different forms, and Princess Aranya provides an intriguing contrast to Meera. Two adjacent chapters feature Meera and Aranya, where their similarities and differences are presented, and I had fun writing those chapters. The men in Meera’s life play a significant role in her journey. I will save that for another day.