This was a difficult post to write, only because I was a little stumped. The brief was, Why do I write fantasy that is not a retelling of Indian mythology?
Like many, I grew up listening to the Ramayana and Mahabharata, narrated first by my grandmother. Later, I consumed all the Amar Chitra Katha comics I could find. I also read every single superhero comic, my favourite being the brooding Bruce Wayne aka Batman. Only, I wanted to be Batman. I was the one who would save the world rather than be the damsel saved by the superhero.
Cut to me devouring every single Mills and Boon I could lay my hands on. I got told off for this by my father (when I read the said romances under the covers, by torchlight), and later by my husband (for sneaking off romances during long-distance business trips on transatlantic flights. Go figure.)
When I started writing, my default was to draw themes from Indian mythology. Indeed my novel Bound by Destiny resembled a video game brought to life through words: a mash-up of fantasy, mythology and romance. However, what excited me the most in this story was a character set in a futuristic, dystopian Bombay. There was an instant click.
I found myself revisiting this theme with the next book, then the next, and the next… A Bombay that had been swept away by a tsunami in 2014 and went back to being the original seven islands. The seven islands which, as we know, were handed over as dowry to Charles II, King of England, when he married the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza.
What’s less known is that Catherine had three miscarriages and produced no heirs. Growing up in Bombay and commuting the length of those seven islands — now a teeming metropolis — I had long been fascinated by her story. Later in life, after suffering a miscarriage that almost cost me my life, I was brought closer to this queen whom history forgot. That I was tapping into the story of her illegitimate descendants in the ‘Many Lives’ series was something I realized later.
With my sixth book, a novella, Feral, shifters made their appearance. I started with wolf hybrids—in my ninth book Taken—then, vampires in my eleventh novel Redemption.
And of course we do have werewolves and vamps in Indian mythology too. And I am as influenced by Dracula and Twilight in this. I am a huge fan of popular culture, and mainstream commercial fiction, for that is after all what I love to read and write.
The real breakthrough came when I read books in which I found the confluence of what I loved to read, with themes of longing, loss, betrayal, intense hurt, intense passion, intense lust…intense. Intense relationships between lovers, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends, cousins, half brothers, sisters, enemies.
I am compelled to explore what lies below the surface. I have always guarded myself against showing those deeper emotions that are always there. When you care about something or someone deeply, you get hurt. This is precisely the emotion I dig into in my books — all set against a futuristic, slightly dystopian background where we may not all be human.
But then, this is how I see the world today. I see the unseen. The ‘innocence’ of children. The ‘perversion’ of men who want to hurt. The ‘longing’ of women who want to belong. I hear the unspoken, feel the signals of the souls around me.
Ultimately, the stories from Indian mythology that my grandmother narrated to me have universal themes that are echoed in stories we hear from around the world. My stories are only a mash-up of all these influences. Only, they are told through my perspective, in this case, a parallel future that I have created in the ‘Many Lives’ universe in which Taken is also set.
Will you walk away from everything you know to save the woman you love?
Three years ago Jai let the only woman he ever loved walk out of his life, but Aria is back now. And she’s in danger. This time, Jai will do anything, even break his vow to protect his city, to keep her safe. A second chance paranormal romance, featuring shifters, Taken is set in a near-future where successive economic downturns in the West have resulted in refugees seeking shelter in the East. A standalone story in the Many Lives series.
Laxmi Hariharan, is a New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Join Laxmi’s newsletter and get her best three novelettes free here.