Remember last year when I read The Star-Touched Queen early to review it for School Library Journal? I loved it so much that I requested the privilege to review Chokshi’s follow up and companion to her debut novel, A Crown of Wishes. Rosh once again completely floored me with her vivid imagery, complex characters, and thrilling story. I am thrilled to have Roshani Chokshi here again today to talk about her fantastic new novel A Crown of Wishes.
Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for A Crown of Wishes?
Roshani Chokshi (RC): I always wanted to tell Gauri’s story ever since she walked onto the pages in The Star-Touched Queen. Both female characters have such different experiences in their childhood (reviled vs. revered) and this affects their sense of responsibility as they grow older. I wanted Gauri to push back on everything that seemed to come so easily to her. And I really wanted to address how our relationships with our childhood stories change over time :) Plus, any opportunity I can get to wax poetic about the Night Bazaar and talk about food in the Otherworld is always a YES.
MP: Like your debut, A Crown of Wishes is filled with memorable characters. Is there anyone you are especially excited for readers to meet? Did you always plan to write a companion novel about Maya’s sister Gauri?
RC: Thank you!!! Yes. I’m very excited for readers to meet Aasha. I loved writing her character so much because she’s got so much heart. I also really liked how her relationship with Gauri grew from one of convenience to actual friendship.
MP: In this novel you write from multiple viewpoints as Gauri and Vikram compete in the Tournament of Wishes. What was it like writing a linear narrative with multiple points of view? Did shifting from one narrator to multiple narrators change your writing process compared to writing The Star-Touched Queen?
RC: Omg it was so harrowing…there were days when I would just walk away from my laptop in tears because I felt like their voices were *just* out of reach and I couldn’t grasp them. But once I sat down, and really thought about who they were and why they wanted certain things, the narration became a lot more easier and genuinely enjoyable. It changed my writing process too by making me a lot more aware of characters interacting with worldbuilding. I think it made me a better writer too because it required a level of character engagement that wasn’t as present in TSTQ.
MP: Time to gush about two of my favorite characters: While Gauri is often impetuous and fierce, Vikram is more measured and thoughtful. Like Maya these two are unapologetic about their ambitions and self-aware enough to acknowledge their potential. They both negotiate the various facets of their personalities and how they present themselves both in person and through story to make the most of being underestimated throughout the narrative. Did you always know that story would play a big part in this story? How did you go about making perception, particularly with Gauri, a key part of the plot?
RC: I always knew this would be a story about stories :) To me, it felt like the most fitting end for the TSTQ universe. Maya’s story is also about perception, and Gauri’s story is about the consequences of perception. But it was challenging not to make it too on the nose, and for my characters to be reflective without being too…plodding, I guess? One of the things that allowed me to bring perception to the forefront was building that foundation of Gauri’s love of stories in The Star-Touched Queen. I could pull on those examples to explain how what she sees in A CROWN OF WISHES is filtered through two experiences: past and present, whimsy and wariness.
MP: You once again feature elements from Hindu mythology in this novel including a lot of new characters. How did you decide which myths to reference for characters in this story? Did you have a favorite character to write in this novel? Which character would you say you most resemble?
RC: Growing up, one of my favorite stories was about the vetala and Vikramaditya, which directly inspired the characters of Vikram and, surprise, the vetala! I also drew a lot on tales from the Ramayana, as opposed to tales of the Mahabharata which had more of a presence in TSTQ. For the myths in this duology, I chose based on a gut reaction to the story. They read so personal to me because they were the tales I heard most growing up and that lingered in my head long after I heard them. My favorite character to write in this story was the vetala! I think my readers can tell that I have a soft spot for monsters with strange senses of humor…
As for the character I most resemble. Inwardly, I am Kamala. Outwardly, I hope we share zero characteristics.
MP: In A Crown of Wishes you expand the world that you introduced in The Star-Touched Queen as your characters visit familiar locations like Bharata and the Night Bazaar and new locations like Bharata’s neighboring kingdom Ujijain and the Otherworld kingdom of Alaka. Did any real locations help you envision these places? Did you turn to any specific myths for inspiration?
RC: Real locations that inspired me were the Red Fort in Agra (India), the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (Turkey), and the nightlife of St. Tropez in France (lol…). The Red Fort is a beautifullll palace that made me wonder who had walked through those halls. I loved the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul for its riotous colors and the beautiful fragrances that unfurled around every corner. And as for the slight chaos and sinister beautiful people, I had to include a touch of St. Tropez. During the witching hour when the club lights are strobing, and someone turns on a smoke machine, it’s not altogether clear who is human. And who isn’t…
Mythologically, Alaka is a real place. And I had a lot of fun researching tales about mischievous yakshas and yakshinis to get the story right!
MP: Did you have a favorite scene to write in A Crown of Wishes or a scene you are excited for readers to discover?
RC: I think one of my favorite scenes is with the Serpent King and the seven brides. To me, that’s a true lesson in perception. Because it’s not so much about the images before you, but how they make someone feel. *dun dun dun*
MP: Can you share anything about your next project?
RC: I’m currently working on THE GILDED WOLVES! I really love anything that has to do with secret societies, occult objects and vague heist-y feels, so this story set during La Belle Epoque in France is basically ALL of my favorite things. Expect tons of romance and intrigue, over-the-top glamour (you know I can’t help myself…) and horrible secrets lurking beneath all that beauty…
Thanks again to Roshani for this great interview.
A Crown of Wishes releases next week but thanks to Alex at Macmillan Audio you can listen to a clip from the audiobook right now at this link: https://soundcloud.com/ macaudio-2/a-crown-of-wishes- by-roshani-chokshi-audiobook- excerpt