Interview: Swati Avasthi, author of Chasing Shadows

I’m thrilled to welcome, Swati Avasthi, author of Chasing Shadows and Split! Check out the interview to learn more about Swati, which character’s prose she struggled with, the original title of Chasing Shadows, and her favorite type of word!

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The Interview


Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write?

What surprised me the most was that storytelling in the visual format, the graphic sections, was the easiest part for me.  I hadn’t written in that form and never really thought of myself as a visual writer. Being so comfortable in the form was a pleasure.

 On the other hand, the prose for Savitri — the PoV that you would think would be the easiest for me since she is probably the character who is most like me both in terms of racial identity and personality — was a real struggle.

Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication?

BIDDEN was the working title for a few drafts.  As the story developed, it became clear that Holly wasn’t being called to the Shadowlands. Rather she started pursuing the Shadowlands and so a word like “chasing” seemed like a better fit. I named the Land of the Dead “the Shadowlands” because of a biblical association (“though I walk through valley of the shadow of death”).  Since I wasn’t talking about ghosts but about the idea of absence, shadows seemed like the right fit too.

What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general?

Oh a ton, of course. For CHASING SHADOWS, there are a few texts that directly influenced the book.  The Hindu legend of “Savitri” is retold and intentionally mistold in the book.  Certainly American superhero comics influenced this book from DC to Marvel to Vertigo (but not really in the same way since I came to them as an adult) and, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman, which is a wonderful story. 

All these texts influenced me as a person – helping to inform my understanding of what it meant to grow up, to stretch loyalty to the breaking point, and to lose people you loved.  Since they influenced me as a person, they ended up influencing me as a writer, too.

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

Jobs – lots of varied jobs from teacher/grader to paralegal to mom.  Although being a paralegal and coordinating a domestic violence clinic really influenced my first novel, SPLIT, even more than that was working in the theater because it has really shaped my writing.  I think of characters as whole people whose desires drive the action of the story and that comes from the theatrical notions of superobjectives, objectives, tactics, and beats.

If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?

Wow, that’s even harder than picking a writer. I love words – the way they sound, the way the feel in your mouth, the way they carry a meaning and associations.  I love words that are nouns and verbs like “stain” or “swallow” or “split” (all titles of my publications) and I picked the titles in part because I loved the word itself.  So today, I’ll say, “grasp” because it has energy, a clear visual picture, and multiple meanings.

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?

In every place I’ve lived I’ve come up with a local spot – watching Lake Michigan break against concrete blocks by myself in the early morning at “the point” in Chicago, up in the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque New Mexico hidden in a copse of Aspens, walking on a shale beach beside Lake Superior. But I can’t easily to get to most of those, living in Minneapolis proper, so I opt for my bedroom. We have light blocking curtains and when I really want to escape, I turn off all the lights in the house, close the door, pull the curtains and breathe.  It’s the closest thing to a sensory deprivation tank that I think I could stand.  I revel in not being able to see my hand and just disappear into the darkness.
Find out more about Swati and her books here! 
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