Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Colorful Interview with Sarwat Chadda

Today I am jumping up and down with joy to offer you an interview with one of my favorite authors, Sarwat Chadda!

His Devil's Kiss series is great and Billi is one of my absolute favorite main characters, male or female. Devil's Kiss is the first book in the series (my review) and The Dark Goddess is the next book (my review). These books were originally published in the UK but have now been released in the U.S.
Welcome Sarwat :)

Having briefly 'chatted' with you on Twitter and avidly read your blog, I've noticed that you have a great sense of humor. Yet as much as I love the Billi books, they are much more serious, with only small glimpses of humor interspersed throughout. Did you intentionally try to make the books a bit more serious or did it just end up happening that way? Granted Arthur isn't one to be cracking jokes!

I’m flattered that you find me amusing! The tone of the Billi books come out of the setting. I love gothic horror and Devil’s Kiss and Dark Goddess are my modern takes on that genre. It’s the gloomy streets, the shadow-filled alleyways and its the monsters. I wanted to play the monsters straight. I wanted to bring back terrifying vampires, savage werewolves and inhuman angels.

That said I think there is a gallows humour in the books. What about Arthur’s comment about needing shovels? I know I laughed.

Your books are absolutely packed with action scenes, and I love it. Are these scenes hard to write? Do you listen to inspiring battle-music that fills one with anticipation or a suspenseful soundtrack that fills one with dread to get you in the zone? :)

The action scenes are the easiest to write, I struggle with the romance! But I do listen to music when I write. For obvious reasons the song, Run with the Wolves’, featured a lot when I was writing Dark Goddess. I completely picture the story as a movie in my head when I write and when Billi and Ivan are being chased through the forests, it was with that tune playing.

RiC: I've never heard that song but I'm listening to it as I put together this interview and it's most appropriate for that particular scene!

The paranormal creatures in your book are truly terrifying. No characters falling in love with old vampires or werewolves with washboard-abs. No, your creatures want to kill. Do you have any favorite books in the paranormal genre where the monsters are scary AND not-so-scary?

I love the original Dracula. The vampires are uncanny, there is no logic or explanation to them. The fact they remain so unknown is what’s so scary. They are an inversion of the natural order of things, of God. Truly the Unholy.

I’m a big fan of True Blood and Being Human, two great tv series which feature the not-so-scary versions of the supernatural. Mitchell, the vampire character in Being Human, is my favorite blood sucker. Trying to control his blood lust but always failing. The most recent episode featured him having to confront those he’d killed, realizing the lives he’s ended and the ripple effect of all the connected lives he’s ruined because of what he is. Brilliant.

Why do you think people love paranormal books so much? And do you think we will ever see more books like yours, Cindy Pon's and even Dia Reeves', paranormal books that feature a diverse cast?

I love Silver Phoenix by Cindy. Alas, I’m not that familiar with Dia’s books. London is an incredibly diverse city, my daughters are mixed race as are a large number of their school chums. I write what I see and also I feel there’s a strange lack of diversity in children’s books, which is weird since it’s not reflected in any other form of entertainment. This needs to be fixed and it’s my goal to fix it. If I have any agenda, that’s to bring more ethnic characters into the mainstream. I recently sent a letter to a number of publishers on why is it that the only famous Indian character in children’s fiction is Mowgli, and he’s over a hundred years old. I will write on this in much more detail shortly as it’s a fundamental part of my next project.

Why do people love paranormal so much? For the same reason people love superheroes and spies. They’re larger than life and so outside our experience we get a huge thrill to be part of their worlds. The market is driven by trends, so right now it’s paranormal. My concern is that it’s become a tidal wave, washing everything else away and will eventually destroy itself because quality will drop.

I agree, we see more diversity in TV shows (but not movies just yet) than we do in books. Whoa, I'd never even thought that Mowgli was the most famous Indian character in children's fiction because it's such an old book/movie that it would not have crossed my mind. It's beyond awesome that you wrote letters to publishers asking them about that. Please unveil that new project very soon! The suspense might kill me....Oh and you MUST read Dia's books

Ivan and Billi. They banter with each other and save each other and both of them are refreshingly ok with that. Ivan gives her a gun, it's a match made in warrior/religious heaven. What was your inspiration for their relationship? Some would argue that Billi is so independent she doesn't need a guy...

On the subject of trends the one that appalls me is the huge number of passive, victim-psyched female characters out there in YA. I’m not equating violence with power but Billi very much controls her own destiny.

Billi’s key strength is her relentlessness. She’s very protective of those she loves and will do anything for them. She understands the buck stops with her. She doesn’t need a guy to save her, she can do that herself. But she needs love, like any other human. What I wanted to give her a partner worthy of her. An equal. That’s what I find difficult about a lot of the paranormal fiction, the huge imbalance of power between the (usually human) female and the (usually supernatural) male character. It’s difficult to love someone you don’t respect.

Hence Ivan. He knows Billi’s reputation and has huge respect for her. He’s a prince from an old, royal family. He’s a born leader and deadly warrior in his own right. He could have any woman he wants but he wants Billi, because she’s not interested in his wealth and status. Billi knows who she is, she knows her worth, so won’t be swooning at the first gorgeous guy who flexes his muscles at her.

I would like an Ivan in my life, I'm just waiting for authors to figure out how to make characters from the book appear in real life....Seriously though, what I love about Billi is that she can be a whiny teenager but she's determined and she definitely controls her own destiny.

Which of your characters do you relate to the most?

Elaine and Arthur but there’s a big part of me that’s Billi. How could it be otherwise? I access my memories and emotions when I write about hers. But Elaine is the most fun to write. She’s cranky, wise and nobody’s fool. She’s a great foil to the solemnity of the Templars.

I LOVE Elaine! (It's a three-way tie between her, Billi and Percy as my favorite characters). She is the key source of humor and the book and no one can push her around. I want to know more about her past. *hint hint*

You are a heartbreaker in both Devil's Kiss and The Dark Goddess, not hesitating to kill off beloved characters. Why?? Is it difficult to get rid of certain characters or is it necessary to keep the story moving?

Billi lives in a dangerous world, there will be those who fall. But while I write very violent stories what matters is the cost of the violence. No one walks away from a fight without scars, physical and emotional.

The deaths you refer to are also about heroism. It’s blatantly clear the biggest hero is the one willing to sacrifice everything for the other. It’s not just for the ones we love, but also the strangers who we’ll never meet. That’s true humanity and the fundamental belief of the Templars. Their duty is to protect the innocent and are willing to die to do it. It’s one of their Rules, their principles. You shall keep the company of martyrs.

I firmly believe that the Devil's Kiss series would make a great movie. Any ideas for who would play Billi, Ivan, Arthur, Percy, Elaine?

Billi would be either of my daughters, she’s based on them. Ivan is based on a younger Christian Bale, Arthur is James Purefoy, Percy is Idris Elba and Elaine would be someone like Betty Davis.
Ohmygosh Idris Elba! <3 <3 <3 *ahem* I love him and he would be perfect as Percy (especially since I saw him with his British accent in Luther). I am doing a post about my casting ideas (hey it could actually happen!) next week. I'm sure either one of your daughters would rock as Billi since they were your inspiration. Hmm a younger Christian Bale, I'd need an actual photo for that but James Purefoy would be really good as Arthur. And that picture I found of Bette Davis screams Elaine.

A quote from The Dark Goddess really resonated with me "'the world's not black and white. The bad guys come bright and beautiful and the good guys might look like monsters." The paranormal creatures are beautiful and bright, but why did you decide to make your heroes so..almost morally ambiguous? At times it's hard to cheer for The Knights Templar because they can be cold and driven to a fault. Why not make heroes that everyone can easily love? ;) Same goes for villains. Baba Yaga is touched in the head and yet you force the readers to see where she's coming from, yes our world is bad but should it really be ended? How can you make us empathize with the villains and want to yell at the heroes?

It’s impossible to know who the good guys are, especially in real life. The Templars were responsible for massacres and Arthur himself was dishonourably discharged for pursuing his own vendetta while serving as a Royal Marine. I think you should always be wary of making heroes of warriors. Having the power of life and death over anyone, which is what a warrior has, is something few people I think have the moral strength to handle. That’s because there is a fundamental conflict at the heart of being a warrior. You must follow orders but to be just, to be moral, you must question and have doubt.That’s the only way to survive in a world that is so morally grey.

That’s Billi. She doubts. She questions. She doesn’t automatically believe her cause is the right one. Maybe the enemy is just as right. Maybe she’s on the wrong side. How do you know?
So when I wrote Baba Yaga I wanted her to be right. Her cause is just, face it, she’s trying to save the world! What better conflict could there be that Billi, the hero, being on the wrong side. And knowing it.

Please share two truths and a lie about yourself that would make Arthur proud.

I kept human body parts in my fridge while I was at college.
I found true love at McDonalds.
I’m descended from the Mongol horde

Highlight below to see if you guessed correctly, but comment first telling me your guess. Please, no cheating!

1) LIE (it was my best friend who did that, not me)
2) TRUE. I met my wife at McDonalds in Hong Kong.
3)TRUE. From my mother’s side
Thank you so much for joining us Sarwat! And I NEED another Billi book so everyone needs to buy the other two books.


  1. Love this interview! I can't wait to read these books. FABULOUS point about Mowgli--wow. That's a kick in the head for sure.

    As to the, I love the ideas of body parts and the Mongol horde so much, I'm going to have to go with finding true love at McD's.

  2. I'm Elaine - that part is MINE MINE MINE ( i actually growled there, sorry about that...)

  3. How fun and exciting to read! Thanks, Ari, for exposing me to Sarwat Chadda's books. I wasn't familiar with The Devil's Kiss, and requested it from my library. I look forward to diving into it.

    Sarwat (if I may), I second Ari: you have a great sense of humor. :D

  4. Love this interview. I'm amazed to see that the romantic scenes are the hardest to write because they're so hot. Craftsmanship triumphs :)

    'I think you should always be wary of making heroes of warriors.' This is my favourite part. Moral ambiguity is always somehow reassuring to see in characters who actually fight the good fight.

  5. I received a copy of Dark Goddess recently with the intention to review. Ari, you already know I'm a chicken when it comes to reading. I didn't realize there would be paranormal in this book, I just wanted to support Mr Chadda, and this interview makes me want to support him that much more. I do find the context of the story appealing as well as the way Chadda cares about people and situations. Maybe I'll read it, if only bit by bit during daylight.
    Maybe he really didn't find love at McDonalds? McDonalds seems uncharacteristic somehow.

  6. Fantastic review! I really enjoyed reading Sarwat's insights on YA fiction and his own writing. His comment about Mowglie is sad but true. There are authors out there like Sarwat and Mitali Perkins who are making a difference in that but their books need more exposure.

    I loved Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess and look forward to reading more about Billi.

  7. @Christine-You haven't read these books yet? *gasp of horror* GET ON THAT! :p

    Love at MickeyDs is really cute and yes the Mowgali part is really a kick in the head (couldn't have said it better myself).

    @Kathryn-Heehee should I include you in my movie casting post then?

    @Nathalie-I'm all about seconding compliments! And YAY you requested Devil's Kiss from the library, I just did a dance around the room =D

    @Jodie-AGREED, the scenes between Billi and any potential love interest are excellent. I almost liked them better than the actual action scenes in the 2nd book!

    The bit about moral ambiguity was brillant and yes it is nice to know that our warriors have doubts and realize they are not always on the right side (or at least we realize they are not). Your interview was really hard to follow up!

    @campbele-You know I'm an absolute chicken, I had to read Half World at spurts in the daylight. That is not the case for this series. It's bloddy yes but not really scary. Hard to explain but as long as you read them, I don't care where you do it (although I have a feeling you will get so wrapped up in the story it won't matter....)

    @Christina T-Mitali Perkins and Sarwat Chadda need way more exposure, that's what we book bloggers are here for :)

    We need a Billi #3 campaign! And so glad you liked the interview.

  8. All of those lies seem possible...yoiks!

    I've entered the giveaway--Devil's Kiss has been on my Must Read list far too long.

  9. Eh. I was wrong. I figured body parts in the fridge was weird enough to have some basis in fact. (Which... there were.)

    I guessed McDonalds.


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