newsletter issue #12 - book trailer + thoughts on diverse worldbuilding
Another re-organization of the newsletter because I’m nothing if not consistently inconsistent :)
FIRST! We're less than FORTY days away from the release of MONSTERS BORN AND MADE and I'm so excited to share the book trailer with yall!
Makings of a trailer for books has always been kinda mysterious?? So it was super interesting to watch this go from the first draft to the end product. It's pretty different from what I first saw, including the music and the vibes. My favorite part is definitely the scales of the creature and at one point I was wondering if we couldn't have the whole trailer just be a montage of those clips ala Game of Thrones intro lmao
I was recently interviewed by The Fantasy Hive UK for their #WomeninSFF segment, and it's one of my more interesting conversations where I talked about Monsters, my writing process, inspirations and lots more, so please head here to check it out! :)
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
I’m evangelical about Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (one of Seanan McGuire’s many pen names). It’s a horror fantasy that starts as an investigation into a maritime tragedy and is just the perfect book in my opinion! [More]
Moving on, by the time you’re reading this, I will have finished and sent the draft of Book #2 along with some working titles to my editor. It is the shortest draft I’ve ever written because I needed to get the bones of the story in place very quickly.
This is my first project under deadline so I’m trying hard to not berate myself over the absolute mess it is right now–only prepping myself for the next few months to make it what I want it to be. The vision of this story in my head.
This also means I'm now free to make a fool of myself over at tiktok so uhh here's my username: @tanviberwah. Idk what my ~niche will be but I'm just starting out so no one make fun pls
I was recently asked to write a listicle for an SFF blog, which I don’t think I can speak of just yet, but it opened up a dialog with myself about writing craft in South Asian books and I begin thinking about it specifically in the context of MONSTERS BORN AND MADE.
Craft is a complicated word when it comes to writing. Worldbuilding, exposition, narrative decisions–these are all aspects of the elusive “craft” that is seen as the standard in a “good” book. As silly as I feel writing this as a professional author, I don’t actually know what any of this means. And I don’t think anyone can authoritatively speak on it, either. I mean, go to Goodreads or Storygraph or any retail website and the same things that absolutely delight one reader makes someone else start a personal enmity with the author.
So, what is “craft” supposed to mean, in general? Something that is well-paced with minimal exposition and clever worldbuilding? But the stories I first heard in my childhood were oral bedtime tales–specific South Asian stories, for those who require these qualifications. None of them followed the rules of “craft” as expected in the Western contemporary literature of any age category. They made up their own rules. They start with exposition, or with a character’s backstory up front, or any number of things that will be deemed “wrong” by a Western audience. It doesn’t matter to these stories, though, whatever fits best at the time for any particular story is good enough.
Which makes me think there is nothing like “rules” or, rather, these rules apply differently to different stories.
Which brings me to MONSTERS BORN AND MADE and the “South Asian” worldbuilding in it.
I noted on Twitter recently about how this qualifier has been challenged in several reviews–from all kinds of readers–because they cannot find anything “South Asian” in MBAM.
Not only does this erase me, a real person who wrote this book, but it is also simply not true.
A perception of South Asia is not the perception.
MBAM has all the hallmarks of a South Asia-inspired world–a specific type of clothing, a specific set of family values, a specific social and cultural setup, a group of white folk in the mix to stand for the Britishers/Dutch/Portuguese and small number of other Europeans, and world architecture inspired by the Bactrian Indian era. And I think the confluence of Bactrian culture is what confuses readers–because they are unaware of a large history of the Graeco-Indian kingdom. Stories are a result of not just realities but myths and truths and ideas.
Even the maristags–the sea monsters that pull chariots in the Glory Race–are inspired by the Hindu myth of green horses that dwell at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. The only difference is that I primarily use English to name it all rather than any of the myriad Indian languages.
[Now before I get accused of “English supremacy,” I have a fun fact: English, in India, has been used as a tool of emancipation by the Dalit community.]
And I find that this hang-up on language and set decoration is not just disingenuous but also reductive of a story. How does using the word lehenga vs a long skirt make a difference when ultimately both of those clothing types function similarly? And how does a lehenga become the standard South Asian attire when it is only worn by a subset of people and not unanimously by the whole of India [or Pakistan or Bangladesh?]. This might feel like a very small difference to a Western reader who wants the aesthetics in a story suited to their idea of what they want in a South Asian story–but as a writer, this is my choice to make.
Because what I want from a story is not the very safe idea of aesthetical representation. Or our myriad real religions seen as “fantasy.” Or Maa Durga treated as “fantasy deity.”
The worldbuilding of Monsters Born and Made is inspired from what I know to be true, exaggerated for fantasy fiction by a lot. But then again, maybe not.
31 Fairly Obscure Literary Monsters: Very to the point, I guess. It's a fun list, I'd completely forgotten about Tash from the Narnia books which means a re-read is overdue. My favorite entry, though, is Kafka's father because oh my god that man.
Charlie Jane Anders Wants You to Know Daydreaming Is Important, Serious Work: CJA is, anyway, one of my favorite authors and craft essayist so of course I had to include this. In this interview she talks about daydreaming, community, making space and joy of writing. Highly recommend reading this and checking out her craft book, Never Say You Can't Survive.
What’s unfortunate about the creative life is that it inherently contains a lot of insecurity and a lot of vulnerability. We always put pressure on ourselves to achieve a certain level of success, and I just think that even though vulnerability and insecurity are inescapable, you can mitigate them by setting realistic expectations and thinking of writing in terms of finding satisfaction.
VIOLET MADE OF THORNS is now out in the world! Pick it up if you like: I-know-best heroine, fairytales, hate and love at once, and spooky forests!
gina chen! on Twitter: "VIOLET MADE OF THORNS is now out in the world in your hands 💜 I hope you fall in love with its prickly heroine as she stumbles through her fairy tale and makes her own fate. More info + purchase: https://t.co/vRMvvWNiyG https://t.co/iqZ03gqGg3" / Twitter — twitter.com “VIOLET MADE OF THORNS is now out in the world in your hands 💜 I hope you fall in love with its prickly heroine as she stumbles through her fairy tale and makes her own fate. More info + purchase: https://t.co/vRMvvWNiyG”
The Darkening by Sunya Mara: I’m so glad I picked this book up. Sunya is a fellow ‘22 debut so I’d heard of the book for sure but between the business aspect of publishing + drafting Book 2, my reading has obviously slacked. But this book! A super-inventive story of a city trapped within a storm, and a delicious enemies-to-lovers-to-WHAT??, The Darkening is just the perfect YA fantasy. Even more, it’s a really interesting meditation on our inner selves and how true light of being comes with acknowledging all our sides rather than cutting our personalities into binaries. This is one of those books I’ll be returning to over and over again.
This has been a loooong newsletter so let me just shut up now. See y'all next month! And if you like this newsletter, please consider forwarding it to your friends :)
Love and light. Take care <3
Amazon.com: Monsters Born and Made: 9781728247625: Berwah, Tanvi: Books — www.amazon.com Amazon.com: Monsters Born and Made: 9781728247625: Berwah, Tanvi: Books