Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Shevta: After I read and fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s and Charles Vess’s illustrated novel Stardust, I knew I wanted to see a story like that but featuring people like me and my family: desi, Hindu, who spoke a number of languages besides English and ate delicious, spicy food and wore a rainbow of clothes in sumptuous fabrics. And just like in books filled with Celtic and British mythology, Hindu mythology would influence everything from setting to side character. Once I decided the star of the show—pun fully and unapologetically intended—would be a girl who had to go on a quest to the heavens to find her stellar mother in order to save her human father, the story and I were off to the (celestial) races.
What character in this novel do you most relate to and why?
Sheetal, who, happily enough, happens to be the protagonist! She and I both know what it’s like to be caught between worlds, though the worlds in question may differ from her life to mine. She’s also very much a dreamer and lover of books and magic and food and a believer in the power of female friendship—and appreciates a good enchanted Night Market.
Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?
To be fair, I think that’s always been true. As for why, a powerful character speaks to agency, and everyone wants to feel like they have at least some control over what happens in their lives. Finally, a unique character makes an emotional impression on the reader. Whether it’s a positive or negative impression is a separate question, but either way, that character is harder to forget.
Please describe the content of your latest read and what can readers expect from it.
A contemporary fairy tale about a girl who’s half star and half human; lush, image-rich language; a cinnamon roll of a love interest; a best friend with a great sense of humor; lots and lots of stars; luxurious, magical settings; intergenerational family relationships; lovingly detailed descriptions of food and clothes; stories; court intrigue; and music.
What’s next for you in the bookish world?
I’m working on my second book, which involves dreams and nagas and even more Hindu mythology! I can’t wait to share more about it.
Who is your current favorite writer? Why?
I’ve never been able to limit myself to one favorite anything in any area of life, so I’m going to cheat and name a few: Anna-Marie McLemore, Cindy Pon, Tanuja Desai Hidier, Laini Taylor, Holly Black.
Any writing advice for aspiring writers?
Sure! 1. Figure out what you want to write, not what you think you should. Hierarchies of “worthy” and “unworthy” writing are nonsense. 2. Take a moment to understand what it truly is you want to say; all good books, even those deemed fluff or guilty pleasures, say something. What is it you’re saying? 3. Hone your voice and your craft to the best of your ability in order to say it as authentically as possible.