“Seeds of War” begins right where “A Hundred Thousand Arrows” leaves off, and I think “Seeds of War” feels very different in tone from the rest of the series, in that that the repercussions from the events told in this story lead right into Upon a Burning Throne, so there’s this sense of foreboding here. How did you come about writing this particular tale?
The ancient epic Mahabharata inspired the Burnt Empire series. The Sanskrit title refers to the great internecine war fought by the Bharata clan, and if we believe the numbers listed in the descriptions of the war, it was probably the greatest war ever waged between humans. The story “Seeds of War” is quite literally about the seeds of that great conflict. The repercussions of certain choices made in this story will reverberate through the coming series of books and legends within the series. You can already see some major effects in Upon a Burning Throne, the first book.
I simply had to write this story in order to help me understand the entire story and the motivations that drove the characters to later actions and choices. I’m so pleased that Lightspeed is publishing the Legends of the Burnt Empire in the run-up to the release of the book because they help throw light on everything that happens thereafter. Having said that, if you’ve already read Upon a Burning Throne before you read this spotlight and the story, that’s good too. You’ll be able to contextualize the characters and their motivations better now.
“Seeds of War” is the last story out of the Legends of the Burnt Empire series, and you have Upon a Burning Throne coming out soon, but is it possible that we could see more Legends of this nature sometime in the future? Like a Burnt Empire-verse of some sort?
I actually have several more Legends already written. Hopefully, if enough readers have liked them and want more—either before or after reading Upon a Burning Throne—Lightspeed will want to release them as well! So if you’re reading this and you enjoyed reading “Seeds of War” or any or all of the other Legends, do post a comment encouraging Lightspeed to run the rest.
We’re introduced to Vessa, who fathers two very important characters in Upon a Burning Throne. His knowledge about the future seems almost like second nature to him. You’ve mentioned before that many of the characters in these stories are inspired by characters in the epic Mahabharata. Who is Vessa inspired by, if anyone?
Vessa is qute transparently inspired by Vyasa, whose full name was Krishna Dweipayana-Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata epic, as well as one of its key participants. While several other characters are only inspired by various figures in the Mahabharata, and still others are entirely woven from fictional whole cloth, in the case of Vessa, he is almost exactly like his counterpart in this Legend as well as in the first book, Upon a Burning Throne. But later in the Burnt Empire series he deviates quite dramatically from the original Vyasa, as readers will see.
As with all other characters and events in the Burnt Empire series, I deliberately play with readers’ expectations. If you’re familiar with the Mahabharata, you will be surprised, and hopefully even thrilled by some of the ways in which the Burnt Empire saga deviates or subverts expectations. And if you have never even heard of the Sanskrit epic or aren’t aware of its details, then you’ll enjoy it even more!
What’s next, now that these stories are all finished? Upon a Burning Throne is coming out soon, but do you have any other projects in the works?
I’m just finishing up A Dark Queen Rises, the sequel to Upon a Burning Throne. I think it’s very important for an author to finish the next part in a series before each book’s release. That way, I can relax and take in all the reactions to the published book without them affecting the next one; at the same time, with publishing lead times so leisurely in the US, it’s easy to go back in and tweak or even revise stuff if needed.
And as always, I continue to publish books in India which I don’t submit to publishers in the US. In fact, while Upon a Burning Throne is my seventieth published book in India, it’s my first to be properly published in the USA. That’s partly by choice. US readers (and publishers) aren’t really open to or interested in books about other cultures unless they appeal to sizeable part of the US population. Since Americans of Indian origin are a micro-minority accounting for barely 0.9% of the population, it means that we don’t count as a readership in our own right. (If you’re thinking that’s not true because you can name so many Indian origin authors who sell well here, remember that most of them write stories not set in their own culture and country of origin.)
The only books featuring Indian culture, mythology, legends, and fantasy are highly Americanized or Disneyfied versions which are really more American than Indian; this is especially true of YA and middle grade fantasy by Indian-American authors. They’re wonderful authors and books, but they’re not representative of what Indians are reading back home, and in fact, many of these same Indian-American authors and books are not read at all for these same reasons. My goal is to write stories and books that remain true to my culture and country of origin without Americanizing or Disneyfying anything. There are only two genres and categories in which an author can do that in America—epic fantasy and literary fiction. So those are the two main areas I am writing in. Apart from the Burnt Empire series, I am working on a very ambitious, big literary novel. I don’t expect to finish it for another year at least, so you won’t see it out anytime before the end of 2020 in India, and who knows when or if it will be out in the US. Fingers crossed! Thanks for reading.
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