Hello Readers! I’m pleased to welcome Varsha Ravi, author of YA Fantasy debut novel- The Heartless Divine, for an interview on Books Teacup and Review. Check out more about the book and author in this post.
The Heartless Divine by Varsha Ravi
Publication Date: November 29th 2019
Genre: YA / Fantasy
In this unexpected twist on mythology inspired by Sangam India, reincarnated lovers find themselves bound together, connected to their past by a centuries old tragedy that only one of them remembers.
In the ruthless martial empire of Naja, Suri is the crown’s unfailing blade. But the princess dreams of a life exploring the lands beyond the borders, unshackled by blood. The king and queen offer her freedom, at a price: marriage to a king she’s meant to kill, and the death of Athri, a kingdom her family once nearly destroyed.
Her only obstacle lies in the mountains above the Athrian capital of Marai, where a young prophet sees a world struck by catastrophe—a world where a girl lies dead in the temple of the fire god, and the city lies burning below.
Centuries later, Suri lives with no recollection of her past lives. Haunted by her family’s deaths eighteen years ago, Suri sees the boy bleeding gold on her doormat as an opportunity to unravel the mystery of the car crash that took their lives. But not all gifts are created equal, and the boy soon proves to be more trouble than he’s worth, a dangerous link back to a world of gods and wishes.
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Varsha Ravi is a senior at California High School. She was born and raised in Illinois, before moving to North Carolina. She is currently living in the Bay Area, California.
As a kid, she read voraciously, encouraging her to attempt writing her first stories at a young age. Even as she grew older, creative writing continued to be a passion of hers.
The Heartless Divine is her first novel.
When she’s not writing, she can be found reading, studying, or curating Spotify playlists.
Can you tell readers a little about your book, The Heartless Divine? What they can expect from the book?
The Heartless Divine is a book about human choice in a world dictated by fate. It follows two different timelines: one set in the U.S.A. in the 21st century, and one set in 200 A.D. in a country inspired by areas of Sangam Era India. In the modern timeline, a nineteen-year-old college student named Suri finds herself mysteriously bound to an amnesiac god weakened by an attack he can’t fully remember. The rest of that plot mainly follows their budding friendship as Kiran struggles to piece together his past and how it connects him to Suri in the present. The past plot follows the first lives of the soulmates, over seventeen hundred years before the modern arc. Suri, an assassin princess from a foreign country, is arranged to marry the young king of Athri. Her assignment is to kill him immediately after the wedding. However, the king’s adopted brother, the messianic prophet of the kingdom, has a vision of her death soon before her arrival. This plot largely follows the span of time between her arrival and the wedding, as Kiran tries to protect Suri and she struggles to confront her feelings regarding the upcoming assassination.
Readers can expect a complex, mythology-inspired fantasy with romance, drama, and tragedy.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
It came to me while I was writing another book, actually. Back then, a lot of the details that I now feel are incredibly salient and relevant to the plot didn’t exist; more than anything, my first grasp of the book hinted more at underlying themes in the premise: a tragic love story bookended by humans and gods and sacrifice, and a peek at the darker sides of love and power. Thinking about it now, I might’ve thought up the initial premise while listening to a song (most of my ideas appear when I’m listening to music).
What inspired you for fantasy setting and reincarnated lovers arc of The Heartless Divine?
Setting wise, I knew I wanted to tell a story across two different timelines, with fundamentally different circumstances. There’s definitely an element of fate present in the story, and I wanted to play with how the timelines paralleled one another and differed, to emphasize the characters’ agency but also bring in a kind of inevitability with regards to their endings. The reincarnated soulmates arc stems from that greatly – Suri and Kiran are different from their past selves, and yet they still fall in love.
The magic system in the book was always meant to be tied to gods, but more than that, I liked the idea of tying it to souls. Souls don’t change, but they can be changed and manipulated, and are the same in humans and in gods. I thought it would be interesting to create a fantasy where magic was innate and visceral instead of nature-based, especially since the novel itself is closely tied to emotions borne of such things.
What type of characters do you love and hate to write? What is your favorite quality in protagonists? Does anyone in real life inspired you to write them?
This might come off a bit trite, but I really love writing characters that are human. I like imbuing them with the flaws and dreams and strengths that come with every one of us, and I also love writing the different dynamics between naturally conflicting characters. I also love playing with idealistic and cynical characters, and the spectrum of morality. My favorite quality in protagonists.
I don’t enjoy writing characters that are incontrovertibly good or evil, or adhere too closely to a certain trope. Although I feel like those kinds of characters do have a place in fiction, it’s personally not as fun to me when there’s no apparent depth to a character’s actions.
None of my real life acquaintances have directly inspired a character, though I do feel like some of the character’s traits might have been inspired by my close friends, and my interactions with them. There’s no real character inserts, though.
What is the most interesting aspect of The Heartless Divine?
I modeled the book after a classical tragedy with the aim of emphasizing the heavy hand of fate throughout the plot. I think the most interesting aspect is how the supposed freedom of human choice works into that; whether human agency is real, and if not, whether it still matters to feel as though you have control of your own fate. Another interesting aspect of the book is the dichotomy between humanity and divinity; by making one of the characters a god who was once a human, it was really fun to play with the boundaries of what defines inhumanity, and thus, what defines humanity.
Tell us about your journey to publication.
I decided to self-publish. Juggling revisions, publication, classes, and college applications wasn’t easy, but my father helped out with a lot of the minutiae of the publishing process.
What are your most favorite and least favorite thing about being an author?
My favorite thing is probably just writing. It can definitely be overwhelming at times, but the rush that comes from working through a good scene is unbeatable. Research can also be really fun.
My least favorite thing is probably the self-consciousness that comes with knowing my work is publicly available. I’m confident in my writing, but it’s a little strange to know anyone could pick up the book and read it now, after so many months of it being solely my own.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I prefer to write at home on my bed, but I’m pretty flexible with location as long as I feel somewhat secluded. My only real ritual is that it’s difficult for me to get into the mood if I’m not listening to music. I’ve made several playlists for each of the projects I’ve worked on.
What is the next project you’re working on?
I’m currently working on the sequel to The Heartless Divine. Plotting it has been incredibly fun so far. I think it’s an interesting foil to the first novel; it has a lot of the same themes, but circumstances change drastically, and the decisions the characters are forced to take become much messier and darker.
Can you describe The Heartless Divine in five words?
Fate, doomed love, human error.
And the last one, top 3 tips for aspiring authors.
- Read as often as you can, and as much as you can. Reading helps with understanding plot structure on a deeper level, and being surrounded with prose can help spark inspiration. It’s also just really interesting to see some of the amazing books out there these days.
- Write as often as you can – even if you can’t get anything on paper one day, try to keep yourself engaged by plotting and fleshing out the details of the story. But writing even a few hundred words each day does help stabilize flow and style.
- Don’t be self-conscious of your work on your first draft. I’ve definitely struggled with this and continue to, but the time I spend stressed out about specific sentences or paragraphs is wasted. Over time, I’ve begun to place faith in the revision process and trained myself to write whatever I want to on the first draft.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Readers can check out my website (linked below), as well as my twitter.
Purchase Links: Amazon
What do you think about the book and interview? Have you read this book? Are you going to add it to TBR?
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