Author Spotlight: Rati Mehrotra talks Mahimata (Asiana #2)
I'm so happy to be featuring Rati Mehrotra on today's blog! Born and raised in India, Rati now lives in Toronto where she writes novels, short fiction, and blogs at ratiwrites.com. Her first book, Markswoman, was published in January 2018 and the follow-up to that duology hit shelves this week!
If a post-apocalyptic fantasy-Asia sounds like something you'd love to read more about, check out the synopsis for Mahimata below.
A young female assassin must confront the man who slaughtered her family, risk her heart, and come to terms with her identity as a warrior and as a woman in this thrilling fantasy from Rati Mehrotra, the author of Markswoman.
Kyra has returned to the caves of Kali, but her homecoming is bittersweet. She no longer knows what her place is. Her beloved teacher is dead and her best friend Nineth is missing. And gone, too, is Rustan, the Marksman who helped her train for the duel with Tamsyn--and became far more than a teacher and friend.
Shaken by his feelings for Kyra and the truth about his parentage, Rustan has set off on a quest for answers. His odyssey leads him to the descendants of an ancient sect tied to the alien Ones--and the realization that the answers he seeks come with a price.
Yet fate has plans to bring Kyra and Rustan together again. Kai Tau, the man who slaughtered Kyra’s family, wages war on the Orders of Asiana. Hungering for justice, Kyra readies herself for battle, aided by her new companions: the wyr-wolves, who are so much more than what they seem. And determined to keep the woman he loves safe, Rustan joins the fight to ride by her side.
But will this final confrontation ultimately cost them their love . . . and their lives?
And now, here's my chat with Rati!
Hi, Rati! Welcome and congrats on Mahimata. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Hi Megan! Thanks for inviting me here. I love talking about my books. 😊 Mahimata is the sequel to Markswoman and both books are set in an alternate, post-apocalyptic Asia. 850 years after a terrible war, Asiana is ruled by five Orders of Peace – peacekeepers, if you will, or assassins if you prefer. Aliens have come and gone, leaving their telepathic metal behind. The story is told mostly from the POV of Kyra Veer, the youngest Markswoman of the Order of Kali. As the name suggests, the Order worships the Goddess Kali, and invoke her before executing anyone – with blades forged from the alien metal.
The inspiration behind the world-building is deeply personal. I grew up steeped in Indian mythology, listening to stories from the epics and the Puranas. I was also an avid science fiction and fantasy reader. It felt natural to me to blend all my loves when I began writing these books.
The world you’ve crafted in the Asiana series incorporates both fantasy and sci-fi. What’s your approach when it comes to genre-blending?
My approach is simply to tell the story in the world that it needs. I don’t restrict myself to rigid genre rules. The world should be internally consistent, accommodate the needs of the story, and be a stage for the characters. This is what matters. You can have fairies in space. Why not? Just make sure there’s a reason they’re there, and they remain uniquely themselves.
Sequels are notoriously difficult. What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing Mahimata and how did you tackle it?
Mahimata concludes the Asiana duology. It is a longer, more complex book than the first, because I had so many threads to wrap up, and had to deliver a conclusion that would make sense. Honestly, I always knew how it would end, but getting there took time, effort, and determination. The editing also took several months. After the third or fourth pass, the words would blur and I would be exhausted, both mentally and emotionally.
I avoided burnout by a lovely trick – writing something totally new and different and unrelated to the complex world of Asiana. This kept my creative self healthy.
Do you have any sage advice for writers attempting dual POV for the first time?
I wish, when I had started out, someone had told me that as far as POV is concerned, less is quite often more. My first complete draft of Markswoman had thirteen POVs. Thirteen! This is quite okay for certain kinds of books, but certainly not mine. I learned that the hard, slow way. So I had the opposite problem as posed by this question.
That said, the Asiana books are told mostly from the POV of Kyra and Rustan. My advice for those attempting dual POV is to make the voice of each POV character unique. I don’t just mean the way they talk; I mean the way they think, the way they see the world, their moral compass. You must have interiority, i.e. be able to inhabit the character you are writing. If you can do that, you can carry off multiple POVs. Research helps, and so does reading other books that have successfully used multiple POVs. Think about why each character stands out to you, and about how you feel when the POV switches from chapter to chapter. Then apply what you learn to your own work.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Mahimata teach you?
I learned that even when you know everything that’s going to happen, your characters can still surprise you, and make you cry.
What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I have just finished reading Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip. It is an odd, beautifully written fantasy. There is a city, a shadow city, a dead king, a child prince, an evil regent, a sorceress and her waxling, a cast-out mistress, and the artist who might hold the key between worlds. I really admire this writer. Her Riddle-Master trilogy remains one of my all-time favorites.
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned (so far) in your publishing career?
Write if it gives you joy. Don’t let anyone diminish what you do. Keep working at your craft, and do not compare yourself to others. You have a unique voice, a unique story to tell, and one day, when you are ready, you will share it with others.
Many thanks go out to Rati for taking the time to tell us more about Mahimata, the inspiration behind it, and sharing all of her amazing advice on writing multi-POV, and more. Be to sure to add this unique sci-fi/fantasy blend to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,