In our Roshani Chokshi interview, we’re talking to the author about Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality and what comes next.
When Kristen and I started Prophecy Radio, our Percy Jackson podcast, we knew we didn’t want to limit our discussions to Rick Riordan’s catalog. After all, he started the Rick Riordan Presents imprint for a reason, and we wanted to celebrate that, too.
All of the books coming out of RRP are incredible, but I’ve had a soft spot for Roshani Chokshi’s Pandava series since the beginning. It was the first book out of the imprint back in 2018, and it immediately captured my attention.
Not only did the tone of this series line up perfectly with Percy Jackson, but it was also unique and vivid and exciting. It gave me the same feeling I got when I was reading the Camp Half-Blood Chronicles for the first time.
And trust me, when you find that feeling, you want to chase after it with all your might.
I’ve spoken to Roshani a few times over the years, and it seems only fitting that I got to interview her back when she began the series, and now as she’s ending it with Nectar of Immortality.
Below are some of Roshani’s answers (edited for clarity) to the questions we asked about Aru Shah, as well as her upcoming projects. You can listen to the full interview on Prophecy Radio episode #26.
And trust me, you’ll want to. Roshani is one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to. Not only did we ask about her writing process (you’ll never guess her go-to snack choice), but we also got her thoughts on which RRP author’s world she’d love to visit, as well as Wanda Maximoff in the MCU, and a ton more.
There’s a little something for everyone here, and you’ll spend the entire time laughing, just like we did.
Roshani Chokshi interview about ‘Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality’
You were the first author to launch your series under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. How does it feel to close this chapter on Aru Shah, and what was the most daunting part of entering this fifth and final book in the series?
Oh, gosh. Well, first of all, it’s just been a huge honor, and an extraordinary privilege to be able to launch the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, to honestly become friends with the other authors. Jen Cervantes and I, we talk all the time. When I moved into my new house, I was sending her photos of quilts and bedding and duvets, and was like, “Just tell me what I should buy! I don’t know how to set up my home!” We’re very close, and I love them. It’s just so odd because I’ve been writing these books now since 2015/2016, and there are children who will write me messages telling me they’re about to graduate high school and that they grew up reading Aru Shah. Those are particularly bad days for me when I read those emails after I’ve found my third gray hair, or I wash my face and I feel like my eyelashes are slowly falling out, and I’m just this mortal sentient meat sack with an expiration date. There’s something about writing these stories especially that reminds me that yes, the flesh is mortal, and it will fade, and yet, the copyright will outlive me. And that’s pretty cool. [Laughs]
The idea that these stories will go on to have lives beyond me. That I can only control what I put on the page, but as far as someone’s emotional reaction, as far as someone’s response to a story, that’s not mine. It’s somebody else’s. And I find that uniquely humbling because it’s an act of creation to see something to take on other lives and other people’s ideas, and perhaps to also hopefully make room for their ideas. One thing we always come back to—or that I’ve found particularly exhausting being in this space, even though I’m very grateful for it—is like, “Well, how does it feel to write a book that’s so diverse? How do you feel about diversity? Let’s talk about diversity. And do you want to be on this diversity panel?” And honestly, I would rather hurl myself into the sun than talk about diversity one more time. And I think that that is the gift that these books have given me. That hopefully the gift they’ll give to other people is that we will stop having these conversations because there’s no need for them anymore. That we are seeing so many different kinds of celebrations of mythology, that we are seeing nuances of cultural experiences, and nothing would make me happier than to know that Aru Shah had helped make space for that. That we’re not just content with, “Oh, we’ve got this Hindu mythology story. We don’t need any more than that.” Are you kidding me? We need thousands! Thousands more! And that would be great, and then I could disperse my hate mail with all the other authors. [Laughs] It would be so nice not to be cancelled all alone! I joke. But yeah, intensely rewarding. I really don’t have a bad thing to say about it.
In Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality, we see Aru’s subconscious, and we see doors with labels such as, “Luke, I Am Your Father, and Other Parent Related Horrors,” and “Feelings Are Inconvenient,” which I particularly related to. What are some of the doors that might exist in your brain?
It would just be like, “Why Are You the Way That You Are?” would be one door. And the other door would just be like, “Contrary to Popular Opinion, You Are Not the Reason Why the Earth Exerts a Gravitational Force,” or something like that. It would be things like that. Or I think I would honestly just have one door that would be just labeled, “Immigrant Child Shame.” That’s a really big door for me. Mostly because my parents are fantastic. My family is so supportive. But when I went home—so, I was in law school when I got my first book deal, and I deferred law school. I moved back to my parents’ place. I gave the entire neighborhood so much great gossip. They loved being like, “Oh, see how they crossed oceans for this kid, who then dropped out. You know, they are giving her these opportunities; I hope she marries rich.” Like, blah, blah, blah. And I just remember when I first booked The Star-Touched Queen, I loved writing it. It’s got elements of the Shiva and Parvati tale, and elements of Hades and Persephone, and Cupid and Psyche, and it was so awkward to write in my house. I don’t know how my dad always knew when I was about to write any sort of kissing scene, and he would just barge into the dining room, where I was writing, and he would just be like, “Do you want to watch John Oliver?” No, I don’t want to watch John Oliver with you right now, Father! Are you kidding me? I had to finish so many chapters inside my car, just like dying from heatstroke. Because it was too awkward to be in my parents’ house writing stuff like this. I just couldn’t do it. And then my mom read my first book, and she called me, and we had her on speakerphone and it was me and my in-laws and my siblings, and she was like, “This book is sexy!” And I was like, “Ha-ha-ha, excuse me, I have to unzip my flesh and just expire.” I don’t know what’s going on. So that would honestly be a really big door. I feel like even with Aru, writing any sort of romantic tension scenes—which is weird because I love reading romance and I love writing it, but I have to write it with a blanket over my head, inside my closet. That is how I write romance. And it’s just pathetic. I’m 31. Why? Why am I like this? I can’t do this. It’s terrible. And my back’s hurting these days, and I still sit in the closet.
Hey, we all get it done, one way or another. Whatever works for you.
I know, but it would be so much cooler if I was just one of these authors swanning about in my silk robe with my martini glass and my tastefully decrepit, moderately haunted mansion. I do like a martini and I do have a silk robe, but I do it sitting inside my closet, violently weeping at the sheer awkward of existence.
So, of course we have to ask, with this being the fifth and final book in the series, do you think you’ll ever return to the world of Aru Shah?
Without being too spoilery for the fifth and final book, I did leave myself a window to climb back into the world. I would love to, I just don’t know when. I feel as though I need a bit of a break from series. Because I wrote Aru Shah at the same time the Gilded Wolves trilogy, and writing two series simultaneously and releasing two books a year and writing two books a year was hard. Understatement of the century. It was really difficult for me. And so I really feel like in order to do any sort spin-off book justice, I really need to give it a mental break and give it space.
Back in 2018, Paramount Pictures bought the rights to Aru Shah, which I personally was very, very excited about because I think this series is so vivid and cinematic, but we haven’t heard much about that since. Are there any updates that you can share with us, and do you think there will be renewed interest now that Percy Jackson and the Olympians is being adapted for Disney+?
I really, really hope that’s the case. To be honest—we were going back and forth with Paramount, and we met a lot of lovely people there and worked with a lot of interesting people, but in the end, they did not renew the option. And so, currently Aru Shah is just floating in the ether.
You hear that Netflix?
You hear that Netflix!? It’s interesting because I heard whispers of something this week, but I don’t know what that means. And this is the weird thing about being an author and then trying to get your work adapted. It’s as if you’ve built a house with your bare hands, and then you just evacuate it. You’re like, “Does somebody want this home? It has some of my blood, sweat, and tears in the cement.” It’s odd. So, I don’t quite know what’s going on. I’m really hopeful. I’m especially hopeful because now all the books are done. And I don’t know if you guys saw the news that Disney+ is adapting Tehlor Mejia’s work with Paola Santiago, which is phenomenal. Tehlor is fantastic. The series is fantastic. And so I think it does give a lot of hope that maybe something could happen. But at this point in time, nothing is quite happening yet.
We’ll be hoping with you, don’t worry.
Thank you, I’m especially hoping. My husband has taken to calling himself my executive producer and I said, “Of what?” and then he glares at me and leaves the room. You know, it’s for him. Do it for him. The poor man just wants to be an extra in a movie. He’s had a rough few years. He’s been a resident during the pandemic. Help! [Laughs]
As we’re wrapping up here, I would just like to know, what’s a dream project that you’d like to work on? It could be a book, it could be anything else in the entire world. If you could have your pick of anything, what would you like to work on next?
My friend, who I love, but she hates me apparently, threw me under the bus at a festival a couple years ago. This is Renée Adieh, who’s a phenomal writer. She wrote Wrath of the Dawn, the Beautiful Series, which is vampires in New Orleans. It’s just amazing. But they were asked on this panel, share your worst story idea, your worst writing idea. This person did not share her own! She was like, let me tell you what Roshani Chokshi said she wanted to write about. So, so rude. So rude! She was like, this woman is toying with a Santa Claus origin story.
I mean… I would read it.
Hear me out. So, I was stuck doing the dishes on Christmas Eve when my two siblings were watching Elf on the couch. And I was just like, “Wow, this is, again, one of these moments contributing to my villain origin story.” And I was just washing stuff, and I was just sinking into this idea of Christmas. This idea that all across the world, when we hit mid-winter, and the nights are the darkest, we have these figures. It’s not just St. Nicholas, it’s not just Santa Claus or Father Christmas or Father Winter, or I forget the name but there is a Persian variant, it’s like Dead something. But anyway, that there’s always this figure who comes, who’s supposed to be emblematic of hope. And yet in the Persian iteration of this story, he’s always separated from the love of his life, and this is the one day that they can be together. And then you think about the idea of Santa Claus himself: He’s all alone in the North Pole, wearing this bright red coat. Who’s to say that, one, he doesn’t look like Henry Cavill, or two, that he’s wearing this red as a sign of eternal penitence for something, and three, that he was thrown into the North Pole for something that he’s done? What did he do? What could he have done? What does it mean? So, anyway that’s where my head’s been at.
I mean, I love the sound of that, if I’m being honest. That sounds really cool.
Right, but it’s just devolved into, like, your sexy Santa Claus origin story. And now my friends will send—like, around Christmastime, I start getting deeply inappropriate Christmas cards. But I put them all around my house. It’s horrific. And I’m fine with it. I’m really fine with it! My husband is just sort of like what’s happening? Are you okay? I’m fine, don’t question my artistry. My artistry! Look at it! I’m in the throes of art. I’m just feeling my way through this labyrinth of hot Santa memes. Goodbye.
What other projects that you can talk about do you have in the works coming up that fans can look forward to?
Well, we’ve got the fifth and final Aru Shah book. The Gilded Wolves trilogy is all wrapped up. That finished up in September. And then next August, me, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon co-wrote a Halloween rom-com, which has been very, very fun. And there is something else that I’m probably going to be announcing mid-April, so if you’re over 18, go read it. And if you’re not, well, an aunt once gave me the book Flowers in the Attic when I was 13.
No! No! That book still scars me!
[Laughs] I say this just because…I can’t stop you from reading it! I would ask that you not until you’re older, but this happened to me. I turned out okay? She says, twitching. It’s gonna be fine. They’ll be fine. But I do love how when I said that all three of us were like, NOOOO! [Laughs]
‘Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality’ hits store shelves on April 5, 2022
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