Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shifting into High Gear: Sarwat Chadda Returns!

Yesterday you met YA author Sarwat Chadda. His second book, Dark Goddess just came out in the UK on July 1st (and is the sequel to Devil's Kiss).

I'm always curious about how people come to relate to their characters and Sarwat not only writes a strong female main character in Billi SanGreal, but also created a father most people would be glad wasn't their own.

ME: Arthur SanGreal's relationship with his daughter Billi seems complicated. He's willing to do whatever it takes for "the good of the order" even if it means losing his daughter. How did you get into his head to make him the man he is in Devil's Kiss?

SARWAT: I pity the child who has Arthur as a parent! Social services would be involved, that’s for sure.

Billi lives in a world of warriors and, not putting too fine a point on it, her father is a disturbed religious fanatic. I point out he’s suffered post-traumatic stress-disorder and spent some time in a psychiatric ward.

But the story is about sacrifice. Arthur plays for the highest stake imaginable and realises his daughter is the key to victory against the greatest foe the Templars have ever faced; the Angel of Death himself. All the main characters in Devil’s kiss are driven by their sense of sacrifice, what they’re willing to give to succeed. Arthur through duty. Billi through destiny. Kay through love and Mike through hate.

If it came down to the life of millions, against the life of one, even if she was your daughter, what would you do? How could you live with yourself with whatever choice you made?
I have two daughters, both very young and if anything I’m overly protective of them. But I’m writing dark and tragic, caring parents don’t cut it in that sort of world.

ME: That absolutely makes sense. My characters are also a far cry from the types I hope my son encounters in life, but I guess our imaginations allow us to get into some really strange places! Along the same track, as an adult male, how do you write an authentic teen girl? Or does the author's gender matter at all because, at the root of everything, we're all simply human after all and connected?

SARWAT: Interesting point but I think what I focused on were issues of identity and growing up, which apply equally to girls and boys. At fifteen you’re almost an adult. Billi’s trying to decide what sort of adult she wants to be. Like her father? A Templar knight? Or normal, like everyone else? But my first reader was my wife, I have two daughters, both editors are women and so’s my agent. They made sure I kept Billi authentically female.

ME: That's great--and those other viewpoints can definitely help (my agent and editor are both male and my husband is one of my first readers).

Tomorrow Sarwat's back and we'll talk a little about being a UK author whose book's coming to America and a bit about the research and help he got putting together Dark Goddess!

Take care! ~Shannon

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