Author Spotlight – Tasha Suri
Tasha Suri was born in Harrow, North-West London. She studied English and Creative Writing at Warwick University, and now lives in London where she works as a librarian. To no one’s surprise, she owns a cat. A love of period Bollywood films, history and mythology led her to begin writing South Asian influenced fantasy.
Thanks for joining us today, Tasha. Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard. It’s a f/f Beauty and the Beast retelling – WITH DRAGONS – that tackles chosen families and post-colonialism and consent. It’s also just really cool and creative and was huge fun to read. Also: did I mention dragons? Dragons make everything better.
They do! Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Joking! Sort of. I’ve only played D&D once, and I was a barbarian dwarf with a big axe. I think I’m probably more of a warlock though (I do like a good pact with an otherworldly being), and I’d quite like a dagger. Good for close-range stabbing, which I imagine is very cathartic.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, do you prefer to type or to hand-write? Why?
I like the idea of hand-writing (I love buying notebooks, I have so many), and I did write my first unpublished book by hand, but I hated having to type it up when I was done. It’s just easier typing everything immediately, and it means I can edit as I go.
And how do you like to work – in silence, with music, or serenaded by the souls of a thousand dead shrimps?
With music! I listen to a lot of Bollywood stuff, but I’m also a big fan of electronic music as well. I’ve been listening to Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy Podcast for years, which is great to write to.
Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit? Tell us something unusual about your writing method!
Total plotter. I make loads of bullet point plans of my books before I start writing them. Plans of the overall plot, plans of sections, plans of each chapter… and then things usually change anyway, of course.
Something weird about my writing method: I write my first drafts in Courier New font. Yeah, I don’t know why either.
At least all those note books will come in handy! What are your most significant non-book fantasy influences?
Early(ish) dubbed anime had a big impact on me, so probably stuff like The Vision of Escaflowne and Sailor Moon. Also the religious epics my nani used to watch on TV. They were trippy and inventive and had a huge impact on me, although they’re not strictly fantasy.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?
Does Netflix count as TV? I just finished watching the first season of The Dragon Prince because everyone told me it was great, and I did love it. If you mean TV as in that electronic box in my house, then Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, because it’s kitsch and terrible and great, so how could I not watch it, right?
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write or otherwise do any work. How do you choose to spend the day?
I’d watch a bunch of films, annoy my cat (in a very nice way – I’d just try and play with her and she’d ignore me disdainfully) and try and out-nap her.
If you could choose one punctuation mark to be made illegal, which would it be and why?
Oh, this is a tough one, I love all punctuation. I’d probably outlaw the exclamation point because I use it way too much and I’d be sparing everyone else my over enthusiasm.
In no more than three sentences, tell us a little something about your current work in progress!
It’s a companion novel to Empire of Sand, and deals with some of the fallout from Empire. It has: an illegitimate imperial scion, an angry widow, nightmares roaming the earth, and an impending struggle for the throne. Hopefully people will enjoy it!
Certainly sounds intriguing! If you could co-write or co-create a series (like The Expanse, or the Malazan Book of the Fallen), who would you choose to work with and why?
I’m honestly stumped! I don’t think I’d be a great co-writer. In a dream world where death isn’t an impediment – Angela Carter. We could write a really disturbing and beautiful series of tales inspired by a mish-mash of Indian and European myth, it’d be great.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The most helpful writing advice I ever received was: do what works for you. You don’t have to write every day or write perfect drafts or write fast or write slow. Everyone’s different and you have to find the way that works for you! Even if it’s kind of weird. I won’t judge.
I should hope not, Ms Courier New font. If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
Most periods of history that fascinate me aren’t great periods for women to just hang out (is any period of history good for that?) but probably India during the reign of Emperor Jahangir, so I could meet his wife Empress Nur Jahan, who was a total tiger-hunting, empire-ruling, widowed-but-still-bagged-an-emperor legend.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
Fear of failure is a really good motivator. If I think about how much I’d hate to have not written my book or chapter or subject, I find the impetus to fight my way through. Also, biscuits help.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I really loved From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris – clever, layered Roman Empire-inspired epic fantasy with politicians and a unique heroine. I’ve actually heard a few people saying they’d love to see Roman fantasy and here, it’s right here, and it’s brilliant!
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with what we like to call a ‘shark elevator pitch’? (It’s exactly the same as an elevator pitch, but with sharks.) (Well, one shark. Which, by the way, is currently picking between its rows of teeth to try and dislodge the remains of the last author who stepped onto its elevator.)
Ahem. So: why should readers check out your work? A shark elevator pitch of your own book in no more than three sentences – go!
Okay, you want to check out Empire of Sand because you want to read a lush, medieval India-inspired fantasy with a heroine who has to use all her cunning and courage to survive service to the Empire’s near-immortal religious leader and lull the fury of steadily awakening gods.
But wait, there’s more! Magic made of dance and blood and dreams; nightmares made of bones and shadowy desert spirits. Everything is beautiful and everything hurts, you’ll definitely love it.
Magic and nightmares and desert spirits oh my! Thanks again for joining us today, Tasha!
Tasha Suri is the author of epic-fantasy Mughal India-inspired EMPIRE OF SAND.