Today on ILF we have talented Falguni Kothari, who is a multi-genre author. She has written two romances, and as we talk to her she is promoting her mythological saga ‘Soul Warrior’ which is the first one in a three book series. Going by the list of her future projects it seems we are going to get entertained in various other genres as well. Over to the interview…
ILF: Tell us something about yourself and how you began writing?
Falguni: I grew up in Mumbai with absolutely zero ambition – workwise. I’d always imagined myself as an academic. I love reading all kinds of material. I’m one of those annoying creatures who actually enjoys learning…even studying. So, when I was young, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say an astrophysicist or a researcher in a lab. In other words, a more or less sedentary person who gets paid to read and impart her vast vats of knowledge. But surprisingly, I’d never considered writing as a career. I’d actually detested writing in school – esp. the insipid writing in an ICSE school where creativity was choked and only comprehension and grammar were considered. I wasn’t terrible at school writing, just not motivated. Anyway, writing school essays and drama scripts is a far cry from novel writing, isn’t it?
Fast forward many years, a marriage, two kids and a move to the US…
A point came in my life where my daily routine was so pointless that my mom sat me down and shouted at me. She told me to stop hiding behind my homemaker persona and take charge of my intellect, which according to her had been atrophying behind the kitchen counter and kitty parties. Now, that was a wake-up call. I started looking for things to do, settled on getting my interrupted education back on track again, and looked at online courses I could take to earn my degree. I fatefully stumbled across a 6-week writing course on “Romance Writing Secrets.” I took it. Loved it. And I haven’t stopped writing since.
ILF: What or who is the inspiration behind your writing?
Falguni: Many things and many people inspire me:
My love for books and the people who craft them.
My mother and her relentless energy.
My brilliantly mathematical father who flunked 10th grade. (ILF muses: Oh wow!)
Social issues, psychological issues, mythology, religion, history…everything except politics inspires me.
ILF: Tell us in detail about Soul Warrior. Your favorite character in the book.
Falguni: Soul Warrior is an urban fantasy novel based in the cultural myths of India. It’s the first book in the Age of Kali series, and its protagonists are Karna and Draupadi, two central characters from the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata, who were perfect for each other but legend did not bring them together. The myth-geek in me couldn’t resist tinkering with the idea that Karna and Draupadi deserve an epic love story and I just had to pen “Marvel’s Thor with an epic Indian star cast, and a dash of Bollywood drama.”
Draupadi isn’t my only favorite character, but she the one I want to talk about. In legend, Draupadi is a passive-aggressive woman. She had ambition: to help her father get his revenge. She knew her mind and her politics and helped her husbands get out if sticky spots on several occasions. Her station in life and her gender did not allow her to be loud, so she manipulated quietly.
In Soul Warrior, I’ve begun her character where mythology left it – a strong but wronged woman – but by the end of the book, she’s no longer passive. And that is because the man she is with in this book allows her to be as bad-ass as she wishes. It’s something I’ve always deduced her legendary character had craved – a man who understood her completely – but never realized. (ILF muses: This really sounds intriguing)
ILF: Any future writing projects in the works? If so, tell us about it, and any pertinent dates to go with it.
Falguni: Always future writing projects. ☺ I have a women’s fiction novel coming out in May 2016 called My Last Love Story. It’s about a fate-battered woman who learns to love life again at the insistence of her dying husband. The novel is a departure from my previous books in that it’s written in 1st person POV and is slightly melancholy in narrative. I’m very proud of this work, and hope many good things for it.
And…I am currently writing a romantic suspense novel (TMCRA – I will reveal the title in due course) based on the sex trade in Mumbai. The female protagonist will be familiar to those readers who have read my contemporary romances. And as a treat to them, I have the characters of Wordfreak and the Beast make an appearance in TMCRA.
ILF: That would be really interesting for your fans, to read about their favorite characters again. Any hidden talents or crazy facts about you?
Falguni: It’s not hidden that I’m a dancer. I used to be a Kathak dancer, and now I have a ball (literally and figuratively) in my ballroom and Latin dance class. There’s just something about spinning about to music that frees my mind and stress-levels.
Crazy fact: I make my dance partner/ coach set samba, swing and rumba steps to Bollywood music. Doing samba on Sheila Ki Jawaani is crazy fun!
ILF: Indeed. Thanks Falguni for those lovely insights on your writing and projects. Wishing you all the best!!
WIN THE MEDALLION. TAKE PART IN THE RAFFLECOPTER
Fight fate, or succumb to destiny?
In the dark Age of Kali, the Soul Warrior alone stands guard over the Human Realm, protecting its denizens from evil-willed asuras or demons. When a trick of fate appoints him guru to a motley crew of godlings, he agrees to train them as demon hunters against his better judgment. Suddenly, Lord Karna is not only battling the usual asuras with sinister agendas, but also rebellious students and a fault-ridden past.
Spanning the cosmic realms of mythic India, here is a tale of a band of supernatural warriors who come together over a singular purpose: the salvation of Karna’s secret child.
Kuru Kshetra Battlefield.
Day 17 of the Great Kuru War, seven thousand five hundred years ago.
Death is hot.
That surprises me. I’d imagined death as cold and brutal. Merciless. But in truth, death is hot as blood, and constant like a heartbeat.
Thrum. Thrum. Thrum. My lifeblood ebbs to the rhythm. My head ripped from its torso by Anjalika, the arrow of death that burns even now with the energy of the sun. Struck from behind like some novice. Felled in battle by that lily-livered usurper the Heavens smile upon—Prince Arjun. Brother Arjun.
What have I done?
I harness the thought. Cease all reflection and wrench free of my mortal body. I soar up, up into the gloaming, snapping the ties that tether me to life. Dead, I have no use for ties.
“A matter of perspective, Karna, O son of my godsire.” The unearthly words strum through the air, and I quiver like a plucked bowstring, overcome as much by the voice as its blasphemous claim. “Bonds of devotion nourish the soul, brother.”
There is that word again. Brother. Unpleasant laughter wells up in me. Alive, I am abandoned, denied my birthright—Celestial or royal. Death, it seems, changes everything.
A bright, nebulous light brings forth Lord Yama, the God of Death, atop his divine mount. His elephantine thighs ripple beneath a silken dhoti, ochre and crimson of color, as he guides the mammoth water buffalo to a halt. An iron medallion sways against the God’s powerful cerulean torso, its center stone an ethereal blood orange.
Hypnotic. Pulsing with life. I am drawn to the stone.
“Piteous waste,” Lord Yama mutters, surveying the carnage of war far below us.
I trace the trajectory of his gaze and behold the battered remains of my army drenched in the evidence of its mortality. Is it true? Have we died in vain?
Words form inside me and I will them out. “Shall we go, my lord?”
“Ha! Impatient to be judged, are you? Anxious to have your fate revealed?” asks the Judge of the Hell Realm. His red-black eyes burn with intelligence and compassion in a blue-tinged face that is long and lean and hard. “Rest easy, brother-warrior. You are not bound for the Great Courtroom.”
Not bound for Hell? Where then? Fear has eluded me for so long that I take a moment to recognize it. A hollow-bellied feeling it is, as annoying as a bone stuck in my throat.
“My lord, I have done bad deeds…terrible deeds in my life. I have waged wars, this horrendous bloodshed, and all because my pride could not—would not abide rejection. I have sinned. I must atone for my actions.”
Lord Yama smiles in a way I do not like. “You have redeemed yourself admirably, Karna. You forfeited your life for the greater good today. The deed far outweighs any misguided ones. Be at peace, brother, and enjoy the fruits of your karma.”
There is but one place to enjoy such fruits—the Higher Worlds.
I’d rather burn in Hell for eternity. I say so. “I won’t live amongst the Celestials.” Coexisting with the very souls who’ve spurned me is unthinkable. Watching her—for she would surely reside in Heaven soon—will be eternal torture.
Yama shakes his head, the horns on his crown slashing to and fro. “I thought you might say that. Relax. Your destiny lies elsewhere.”
“Am I to be reborn then? Am I to begin a new life, and forget the past?” Pain, sharp as a blade, lances through me at the thought. Forget my past? My family? Even her? Was that my punishment? To forget all that made me human?
It must be so. For have I not betrayed them as surely as I’ve betrayed my prince regent?
“Human rebirth is not your destiny, either. You are chosen, brother. Your war skills are needed for a higher purpose.” The God slips off his mount, his garments rustling in agitation. “This unjust war has pushed the Cosmos to the vortex of a cataclysm. Tomorrow, the Kuru War will end. Fearing its outcome, the Celestials rolled the Die of Fate and have unwittingly bestowed on Demon Kali untold powers.” Lord Yama bares his fangs in disgust at the foolish gamble. “Imagine the havoc that asura and his minions will wreak on the weak if left unchecked. The Human Realm must be safeguarded during Kali’s dark reign.”
I can imagine the horror only too well as I have battled with evil all my life. But I am done with wars. I am done with defeat. I won’t waste another lifetime fighting.
“With due respect, my lord, I am not the man for this task.”
“You are not a man at all,” Yama thunders, fists shaking. “You are the son of Surya, the Sun God. Accept that you are no ordinary soul.”
I say nothing. I think nothing. I feel something but I squash it down.
Lord Yama’s thick black brows draw together. “Demon Kali will try to pervade every particle of good that exists in the Cosmos, beginning with the corruptible Human Realm. Once he obliterates all of humanity, he’ll set his sights on the Celestials. Kali will not stop until he’s destroyed our way of life. But you can stop him. You are light to his darkness. Do you understand now why you had to betray him? Your beloved humans need you, Karna. I need you. Our father believes in you. Claim your rightful place in the Cosmos.”
Impatiently, Lord Yama removes the iron medallion from his neck and holds it out. The vermillion sunstone glows as if its soul is on fire. Nay! It is my soul that is on fire.
Indescribable energy curls through me. I gasp, though not in pain. I shudder and feel myself grow large, grow hot. Was this rebirth?
I am strong, full-bodied and lethal once more. Then I roar as light bursts forth from my very core and I throb with glorious, blinding power. When I come to myself, my world has changed again. Bubbles of color shimmer all around me: cobalt and saffron, azure and rose. By karma! They are souls. Infinite floating souls.
“Behold the spectrum of life: the worthy, the notorious, the righteous and the sinners.” The God of Death’s soul was a worthy sapphire blue with a tinge of silver. “Your duty, should you choose to accept the office of the Soul Warrior, is to hunt down the red-souled asuras and crush them. Whatever you decide, I wish you a long and successful Celestial existence, Karna,” Yama booms out and vanishes into the purpling sky.
The parley has stunned me. The world of color holds me in thrall. I was dead. Yet, now I am not. A new path lies before me. Unwanted, unwelcome, I insist on principle. I close my eyes. Open them to stare at the medallion cupped in my hand—a golden-hued hand at once familiar and not—and know myself for a fool. I do want this. It’s what I am.
Bastard-born. Rebel. Son. Husband. Father. Warlord. And protector. I fist the talisman, buoyed by its concrete warmth. This is who I am.
I am the Soul Warrior.
Falguni Kothari is a New York-based hybrid author, and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a semi-professional background in Indian Classical dance. She writes in a variety of genres sewn together by the colorful and cultural threads of her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. She is published in India in contemporary fiction with global e-book availability, and launches her mythic fantasy series, the Age of Kali, with SOUL WARRIOR. When not writing, dancing or being a domestic goddess, she fools around on all manner of social media, and loves to connect with readers.
Stalk Her @
Beautiful Medallion. Take part in the Rafflecopter