Author Spotlight: Swati Teerdhala talks The Tiger at Midnight
Swati Teerdhala is on today's blog! Swati is a storyteller at heart. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BS in finance and BA in history, she tumbled into the marketing side of the technology industry. She’s passionate about many things, including how to make a proper cup of tea, the right ratio of curd-to-crust in a lemon tart, and diverse representation in the stories we tell. Her debut YA novel, THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT, has been named A Book Riot Most Anticipated Novel of 2019, as well as one of B&N's Top 50 Most Anticipated Novels, and it's available now from Katherine Tegen Books (with Book 2 in the trilogy to come in 2020)!
Inspired by ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology, THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT is perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir and Renée Ahdieh. See the book trailer and check out the synopsis below!
A broken bond. A dying land. A cat-and-mouse game that can only end in bloodshed.
Esha lost everything in the royal coup—and as the legendary rebel known as the Viper, she’s made the guilty pay. Now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.
Kunal has been a soldier since childhood. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has only been growing more volatile.
When Esha and Kunal’s paths cross one fated night, an impossible chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces.
As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both the soldier and the rebel must decide where their loyalties lie: with the lives they’ve killed to hold on to or with the love that’s made them dream of something more.
And now, here's my chat with Swati!
Hi, Swati! Welcome and congrats on The Tiger at Midnight. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Sure! THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT is the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy inspired by ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology. It follows the story of Kunal, a dutiful soldier, and Esha, a legendary rebel spy. When their paths cross one night and Esha is accused of the murder of Kunal’s General, a dangerous cat and mouse game starts between them, one which throws everything they’ve known into question.
I first got the idea for THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT when I was traveling and visiting an old Fort. It was the first spark of an idea of what would become THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT and the first time I heard the voice of Kunal, one of the two main characters. I looked out from one of the old window openings and wondered what would be the most odd or startling thing a soldier of old might have seen. A girl. And that’s the opening page of THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT.
I love that The Tiger at Midnight thrusts two characters together who are on very opposing sides. Did this force you to really think about their POVs and how they differ?
Yes, definitely. One of the things that excited me about this idea was writing two opposing POVs and showing that there are true moral greys in conflicts.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Ah, revisions, my nemesis. I think I’ve gotten better at revisions and I do enjoy them to some degree, but the most challenging part of revisions for me is when the story is at that stage where you’re just holding everything about it in your head and you have to somehow translate that into a coherent story. Drafting allows me a bit more freedom and lets my imagination run free, but revision is where the true book is crafted. So while it can be super challenging, also so necessary.
The Tiger at Midnight draws its inspiration from ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology. How did you balance these within your own unique fantasy world?
A lot of THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT’s world was drawn from the mythological stories I grew up with. It felt pretty natural to ground the world in those stories of my childhood, but it was a delicate balance adding my own twist on things and creating a world that combined those stories with the fantasy tales I grew up reading. The most helpful (and important) thing I did was to research as much as possible. Despite being Indian-American and drawing from many of my own experiences, there was a lot I didn’t know and having deep knowledge on the subject allowed me to create my own world off of it that felt real.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing The Tiger at Midnight teach you?
The first draft of this book, which I wrote in a few months, was relatively easy to what came after. While many of the same elements remain, I’ve changed and expanded and developed so much of the story, characters, and world. The biggest thing I learned was to not clip my wings in the beginning when drafting. To put everything I was thinking and to not hold back on the story I wanted to tell. It took me many, many drafts, but I finally got there.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Game of Thrones season 8 is starting soon and I know I’m going to be obsessed and going down the rabbit hole of theories and guesses about what’s going to happen. I’m currently reading DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE by Joan He and THE RAVEN TOWER by Ann Leckie, both of which I’m loving!
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
Enjoy the small wins. Those 500 words you were able to write during a stressful, hectic day. The full request from an agent. The praise from a critique partner you admire. Every single one of those markers are milestones on your long, hopefully lifelong journey as a writer. It can be so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing, but celebrating every win and focusing on your own path is definitely the most important lesson I’ve learned.
Many thanks go out to Swati for taking the time to tell us more about The Tiger at Midnight! Be to sure to add this thrilling cat-and-mouse YA fantasy 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,