Thursday, March 14, 2019

Meet Shweta Taneja - Originator of Anantya Tantrist Mystery Series

We would like to welcome Shweta Taneja on our platform. It is a proud moment for us to publish an interview with the best selling author. We have already read and published her book's reviews.
She has recently published 3rd part in the series, which is "The Rakta Queen: An Anantya Tantrist Mystery". So without wasting time let me give you brief of our conversion. 

What were you like at school/college apart from studies?
I was always the backbencher, the slacker, and the one who would make trouble for the teacher. In college, I was the one who bunked frequently and headed to see movies.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? Which author inspire you the most?
Reading is essential to learning the art of writing. Each and every author I read has taught me something or inspired part of the way I write. I’m a voracious reader and pick up anything from fantasy, science fiction to romance or high literary or non-fiction. My favourite though, remain in the realms of fantasy: Masters like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Ursula Le Guin and Octavia E Butler. I’ve learnt so much from each of these writers and keep learning everytime I pick their books up again.
When did you start writing?
As a career I began writing in early 2001 which means I’ve been writing for 18 years now (wow, did not realise that). My first article was a 1,000-word interview for a fashion magazine. At that time, I was wowed that I could write that much. Since then, I’ve written a 1,20,000 word novel and more than 300 articles.
When did you decide to become a writer?
It wasn’t a conscious decision, just something that I kept on falling into again and again. In school, at college, I happened to be the default writer and editor in all team assignments. When I graduated from college, I found myself with an assistant editor internship with Pearson Education publishing house. I didn’t know it was to become something that would consume my life and make a career for me. It just happened that way.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I want to constantly challenge myself in the stories I create. I want to bring stories to life and to entertain my readers, make them laugh and celebrate the lives they lead.

Do you have a special time to write, or how is your day structured to accommodate your writing?
My week’s usually structured around my writing, if I’m in the middle of a novel or a short story deadline. I divide a novel into chapters and write one chapter a week. There might be days that I can slack off in a week (which I happily do), but if I haven’t finished the chapter, my weekend turns into a working one.

This schedule works well as I can take breaks during the day if I want go to a lecture or generally twaddle about.
Can you share books you have written/publish till now?
  • Fantasy > The Rakta Queen, an Anantya Tantrist mystery (YA-adults, HarperCollins India, 2018)
  • Fantasy > The Matsya Curse, an Anantya Tantrist mystery (YA-adults, HarperCollins India, 2017)
  • Mystery > How to Steal a Ghost @ Manipal (YA, Juggernaut Books, 2016)
  • Fantasy > Cult of Chaos, an Anantya Tantrist mystery (YA-adults, Harper Collins India, 2014)
  • Mystery > Ghost Hunters of Kurseong (tweens, Hachette India, 2013)

Graphic Novels

  • Mythology > Krishna: Defender of Dharma (graphic novel, Campfire India, 2013)
  • Noir Mythology > The Skull Rosary (graphic novel, Holy Cow Entertainment, 2012)

Short Stories./Comics

  • Fantasy > Granny Garam's Kitty Party: Part of Magical Women, an upcoming anthology by Hachette India.
  • Comic > My Zombie Babe: Part of Necrobaba, an upcoming anthology of comic shorts by SyenaGiri.
  • Science fiction > Bhaisaab’s Bespoke Brides Boutique: Part of India 2049, an upcoming anthology by Mithila Review.
  • Fantasy > The Daughter That Bleeds: Part of The Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018), an anthology by Kitaab, Singapore. The story won the Editor’s Choice Award and has been translated into French, Dutch and Romanian.
  • Comic > Obsolete Baby: Part of Ground Zero Fourth Volume by MetaDesiComics (2018).
  • Comic > It’s a dog’s death: Holy Cow Entertainment (2012)
  • Mystery > Terror Strikes back: Children’s anthology Celebrate! Holi (2013) released by Hachette India.
Frankly speaking, we have published more than 80 author's interview. And your's is a longest list of published work. It is indeed an awesome journey. Can you tell us about awards / recognition that you have received?
  • Invited Talk on ‘Asian speculative fiction trends’ at FedCon, Germany (2019)
  • Editor’s Choice Award in Asia for short story The Daughter That Bleeds (2018)
  • Invited Talk on ‘Rise of Indian Fantasy’ at Eurocon (2018)
  • Writing Fellow with British Council and Charles Wallace India Trust (2016)
  • Invited Talk on ‘Trends in Indian Comics’ at Cartoon Museum, London (2016)
  • Krishna Defender of Dharma is part of Must-Read List in government schools (since 2015)
  • Best Writer Award nomination at ComicCon India for The Skull Rosary (2013)
What genre are your books?
So far I’ve tried speculative fiction (urban fantasy, science fiction), mythology, mystery for adults, young adults and children.

Can you describe your current book in few lines? What’s it about?
The Rakta Queen, a third adventure in Anantya Tantrist Mystery series, is a tantrik thriller based in Delhi and Banaras. At its helm is 23-year-old Anantya Tantrist, a tantrik detective who solves supernatural crime.

The Rakta Queen starts when a tantrik is brutally murdered by his chandaali slave. The same night, a group of university students lose their minds and perform an orchestrated orgy in front of the Vidhan Sabha metro station. To get to the truth, Anantya Tantrist, who is the unofficial consultant with the Central Bureau of Investigation, must navigate her way past murderous sorcerers, deadly chandaalis, an underground betting scam run by jinns, and a renegade aghori teacher.
Give us an insight into your main character(s)
Anantya Tantrist is 23 years old, a tantric detective by profession, living an independent, single life in Delhi. She takes on supernatural crime cases and solves them using mantras, potions, sass and magic. She’s a colourful, adventurous, reckless, expletive-spewing, beedi-smoking character who roams the streets of Delhi at night, dealing with whatever may come her way, human or not-so-human. Needless to say, she’s quite fun to be with J
Where did you get idea for this book?
The Rakta Queen’s sketch has been with me since I began the series. Book 1 of the series, Cult Of Chaos, was about Anantya facing her father’s legacy, while The Rakta Queen is about her facing her mother’s legacy. The ideas for specific scenes and the wacky plot it became came to be in bits and pieces through newspapers (a perennial source of inspiration), life and neighbours.
How much research did you do for this book?
It took me a year of research to inhabit Anantya’s world with tantrics, supernatural creatures and paranormal spirits, which are taken from Indian myths, folklores, oral stories, and songs. Creatures like dasyus, rakshasas, daityas, danavas, kiratas, etc are all taken from mythologies or local folklore and embedded into the world. This playing with characters and species from Indian myth and folk ecosystem, layering them with our modern world and trying to see what kind of a conflict arises between humans and others, is something that was a creative spark for Anantya Tantrist series.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
After writing two books in the genre, when it came to The Rakta Queen, though I knew the world and the character much better, it was a challenge to explore the world in a way that hadn’t been done before. Bringing in something new, from a new perspective, though you’re with the same old characters and the world, can be quite a niggle.

What was the hardest however was to let Anantya and her world go. Though I’m writing Anantya’s stories in short story and comic format as I give this interview, I won’t be working on a new novel. Not sometime soon, anyhow. I think that was really hard for me to do. To move on. The emptiness almost feels like there’s been a breakup. You might have new relationships, but it’ll never be the same as your last one.
Release date. 
2018 November
What are you working on at the minute?
I’ve started a new novel that could turn into a series. It’s a science-fiction novel for young adults. I’ve also recently finished a novel for kids, which is now trying to find a publisher. Other than this, I’m working on a few short stories in the science fiction genre.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
After spending four years of my life in one world, I can say it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. You need to be sure that the world and the characters they inhabit will entertain you, will be able to sustain you creatively and emotionally for a few years. Writing series is not easy but it’s rewarding as with each work, the world you’ve created becomes deeper and richer.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
My advice would be not to think about writing or publishing or whether you’ll find readers or whether you’ll make any money or if you’re wasting your life or if the book will sell. Don’t buy a software or take too many classes about writing.

Just write. Everyday. A little bit of the book you want to write. Put it down into a blank document. Type it. Note it down. That’s how books happen. You write a sentence, which follows a sentence, becomes a paragraph, a scene, a chapter and before you know it, your first draft is over with.
Author bio
Shweta Taneja is a bestselling speculative fiction author from India. With seven published novels, she is a leading voice in feminist science fiction and fantasy, most known for her series, Anantya Tantrist Mysteries, which will be soon adapted to the big screen. Her short story, The Daughter That Bleeds has been awarded the Editor's Choice Award and is published in the recently released anthology The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018. It has also been translated and published in SF magazines in Romanian, French and Dutch.
She’s a Charles Wallace fellow and her graphic novel Krishna Defender of Dharma in a Must-Read for government schools in India. Shweta prolifically voices her passion for Indian, feminist and diverse science fiction and fantasy. She has given talks at Cartoon Museum London, Eurocon 2018 and will be talking about SFF in the upcoming FedCon 2019 in Germany. Find her most places online with her handle @shwetawrites


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