Roshani Chokshi discusses Aru Shah and the End of Time, the importance of diversity in literature, and having the first title under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint.
About ‘Aru Shah and the End of Time’
Best-selling author Rick Riordan introduces this adventure by Roshani Chokshi about twelve-year-old Aru Shah, who has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?
One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.
But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them.
The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
Exclusive ‘Aru Shah and the End of time’ excerpt
Interview with Roshani Chokshi
What does Rick Riordan Presents mean to you? What does it mean to be the first book published under this new imprint?
Oh jeez. Um, well, my soul has been YODELING ever since we got the news about joining the RPP family back in October 2016. And then when we got the news that Aru would be the launch title, my spirit literally broke free from my body and started screaming. It sounds roughly like this: ASLDJFLASJFO;IUWORU3JDLSJFALSDJFLKJFLKJASDF. But with a Southern twang. I’ve had Aru’s story sitting impatiently in my heart for years. This is the kind of story I have always wanted to write, one of found family and female friendships and tales that span the cultural spectrum. Aru feels like validation. Growing up, I never saw stories about my heritage, and I assumed that meant my culture was less important. This entire experience has shown how very wrong that assumption was, and I couldn’t be happier.
Did Rick give you any advice prior to this publication?
Rick’s advice really shone on the craft level. It was harrowing to open up my draft and read his comments in Track Changes because, you know, IT’S RICK FREAKING RIORDAN. (God, I hope that’s not his middle name.) But Rick’s advice — on plot, strengthening emotional arcs, pointing out scenes that would set off a middle schooler’s fine-tuned BS detector — was spot on. The best part was that he delivered it with all the grace of a teacher. The story was still 100% mine, but he helped illuminate the path of how to get there and his guidance (along with the insight of the brilliant Steph Lurie) was like a security blanket.
How do you hope ‘Aru Shah’ will influence younger and older readers alike?
I hope it makes readers, from all backgrounds, feel seen. I know what it’s like to have a weird name that never gets spelled right on a Starbucks cup. I understand having to explain your heritage and navigate well-meaning, but ultimately insensitive, questions. I 100% get wanting to meld into the background and stand out at the same time. But Aru isn’t just for kids of a diverse background. It’s for any reader hungry for new settings, and curious about different traditions. Writing for children is the best job in the world because their hearts are so open. Their curiosity comes with no strings and it’s an honor to write for them.
What was the most challenging part of writing ‘Aru Shah’?
The most challenging part was balancing how much of the source material to include and how much to explain. Though Aru and her sisters are based off the legendary Pandava brothers from the ancient poem, the Mahabharata, this is not a cut-dry Mahabharata retelling. Readers will not find the classical Hindu pantheon in this series, but an older pantheon from the Vedic tradition. I wanted to make sure I was reinventing these stories as respectfully as possible, while still honoring the tales I heard throughout childhood.
What are some of your writing inspirations, either in general or in relation to this book?
Ah, so very many. Obviously Percy Jackson and Sailor Moon. I’m also a huge fan of Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson series, which always made me die laughing as a kid and certainly contributed to the humor of my main character, Aru.
About the author
Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen. She grew up in Georgia, where she acquired a Southern accent but does not use it unless under duress. She has a luck dragon that looks suspiciously like a Great Pyrenees dog. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. She is the 2016 finalist for the Andre Norton Award, and a 2016 Locus finalist for Best First Novel. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.