Colleen and Zoë from Teen Press Corps were able to chat with authors Roshani Chokshi and Rick Riordan before our April 14th event for Chokshi’s Aru Shah and the City of Gold! We’re huge fans of both Rosh and Rick around these parts, so we were thrilled to listen in as they discussed the Aru Shah series, Rick’s amazing imprint, TV and movie adaptations, and much, much more. Check out the interview below!
COLLEEN: If you could describe your author journeys from your very first book to where you are now with one sentence, what would it be?
ROSHANI: One sentence or one word? If it’s one word, it would be “humbling”. Full sentence? I don’t have full sentences! It was just really joyous and wonderful, and really humbling in the best way, it’s a dream come true. AH! That’s my sentence: It’s a dream come true.
RICK: Yeah, I’d agree with that. I guess it’s always unexpected. It never went where I thought it was gonna go, it went to a lot of places I never anticipated.
ZOË: It seems that Rick gets to work closely with all the authors who work under the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. How does that work?
RICK: From my point of view, it’s evolving. But like with the first book that any author does, it goes through Steph Lurie, our editor, and she’s really the one doing most of the editing work. I’ll take a step back– I’m involved in picking who we’re going to be publishing– I read the pitches, and the sample chapters, and get all excited, but then I don’t really get into it. I let the author do their thing and work with Steph, and later on I’ll take a look and if there’s anything I can suggest I will. But basically 90% of the time it’s just me being really excited, being a cheerleader, and saying, “This is a fantastic book, you need to read it.” Is that about right, Rosh?
ROSHANI: You missed the part when my soul fell out of its cage and bones. I mean, when we’re working with the editor, it’s amazing. Steph Lurie is just the tiniest magician in the world. She’s brilliant, working with her is amazing. And then afterwards, to have Rick’s comments in the book? Rick, I think you left 150 comments in it. And that’s all I saw: Rick Riordan has 150– at least– changes to make to this book. And I thought never mind, I will just go set it and myself on fire. But they were really nice! And it was Rick taking the time to type, like, “L. O. L.” I don’t know why! But it was so delightful. It was especially delightful to see the Microsoft Word tracking changes said, “Richard Riordan.” I don’t know why, I just got a kick out of that. I screenshotted that and laughed to myself, alone. But it was wonderful. The way Rick writes, he is obviously amazing, but with such a great eye to what keeps a story propulsive. What gives it that quality that makes you say, “How DARE you end a chapter on such a page? Grr!” And then flip it. So it was wonderful to learn how his mind works in terms of pacing and that sort of thing, and it was invaluable.
COLLEEN: Pulling back with a funny question: if you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be and why?
RICK: I don’t know why this springs to mind, but I love lime squeezers. They’re just so cool. And I don’t even use them that much, but the physics behind it is just fascinating to me. They’re so efficient. And they only do one thing, but they do it really well.
ROSHANI: I spent too much money during the pandemic on stuff that my husband was like, “We’re totally going to use this,” and we never used it! Like the Ninja air fryer, we don’t use it. So I guess I would be that: looks shiny, too complicated, no one really approaches it. The end.
ZOË: We’ve been in COVID for about a year now. It’s changed a lot in the reader and author world for sure. Canceling in-person events, it’s been kind of a sad thing. But we also get to do stuff like this, which is cool. How has this whole experience changed you as a person and a writer? Have you gotten into new habits?
RICK: I love virtual events, actually. Because it lets readers attend who don’t live in a city where you have a BookPeople. And people from all over the world have attended the virtual events. People from tiny tiny towns who would never be able to go to these in person. So I know that we miss the in-person stuff, and it’s not the same, but it has really opened up the events to a lot of people who would otherwise never get to go. And I think that’s really cool. The last time I had an event, the bookstore said that 75% of the people that signed in were new. They were from out of town, out of state, out of the country. And I think that’s really neat. I mean, that’s the good part of the virtual world, is that it brings everybody together. At least it has the potential to do so. In terms of changes personally, really for me, it hasn’t changed that much. I work from home anyway, and I’m not a big social person, so they tell me I have to stay home for a year, I’m like, “Okay.” But you know, I’m lucky. I get to work from home. My family’s here, my dog is here, we get to go to the park. I don’t feel like a complete shut-in. I spend my days as I had before, reading and writing, and doing all the things I normally would do.
ROSHANI: I pretty much echo all of that. We’ve been very, very fortunate to have escaped this pandemic largely unscathed. I feel like the one good thing I felt as a writer this year is that I have had no excuse not to prioritize mental health. Whether that means Skyping with a therapist, talking to someone, taking care of yourself, going on walks, trying to attempt photosynthesis and pretend you’re a plant just to get some vitamin D– wonderful! On the creative side, well, I love traveling, and not being able to do that meant getting inspired to learn new things. I don’t know how my mother managed to do it, but she did guilt trip me, and this time she used Rick as an example. She asked, “Doesn’t Rick speak other languages?” And I was like, “Mom, don’t you dare!” So, since October, I have been learning Hindi. I can read and write it now. I’m very proud of it. It’s come in handy now that my husband and I have gotten vaccinated, we can go to a restaurant, and I can sort of gossip, which is super exciting. But I do make mistakes. I was trying to impress my in-laws so I was trying to ask them what was on the news, but I said, “What’s in the grave?” which is a BIG difference, and rather unfortunate.
RICK: But you gotta try! That’s the only way you learn a language. You make the mistakes, and that just makes for good stories later.
COLLEEN: Bringing this back to Aru Shah, what are your feelings about the series coming upon this release?
ROSHANI: I don’t think I could have ever imagined the reach that Aru Shah has been fortunate enough to have. I would have never been able to imagine a little girl in my parent’s neighborhood dressing up as Aru for Halloween. It is immensely rewarding. And to be able to write a series that has five books in it, has meant that at a certain point, the characters’ emotional journeys, it just seems like they decide on their own what they want to do, what they’re going to talk about, what their feelings are that day, and I’m just the scribe chasing after them, being like, “Hold up! That was a good line! I have to write it down!” I am very, very happy. And at the same time, there’s this sense of some sort of cathartic thing? Writing is very difficult. There’s lots of people talking in your head, sometimes you mutter to yourself in the street as you’re pushing your cat in a stroller and people avoid you. So I’m excited about the next stage, when they’re out on the page and out of my brain.
ZOË: Roshani, you write YA and middle grade. Is that a hard transition? Do you have to take yourself away from certain areas just for your mindset to adapt?
ROSHANI: Yes! I absolutely do. It’s hard! Why did I do this? What was I thinking? Once upon a time, when I didn’t have carpal tunnel, waking up like a T-Rex clawing for existence, I was like, “I can totally do two books a year!” Now I’m so tired. At the same time, I’m so immensely happy I get to write them. And they’re so different. In terms of what I put into them. I think Aru Shah has all my hope and my whimsy, and Gilded Wolves has all of my existential crises. So it’s nice to go back and forth. And in terms of writing them, so the way I keep the books straight in my head is with different candles. Scent memory reminds me of what it is that I’m working on. So as I’m working on Aru 5, my brother got me this candle called “Teddy’s Anguish”. Teddy’s the name of my cat. It was my birthday gift. So, yeah. My family are all trolls.
COLLEEN: Rick, you’re coming out with DAUGHTER OF THE DEEP this October, which everyone is super excited about. It’s definitely a step in a different direction, can you tell us about it? There’s not a lot that we know, on your website you have all these houses listed and it’s super mysterious.
RICK: Well, Rosh has read it for me. She was one of my beta testers, she wrote an intro for me, and gave me all these really great comments. I’ve been wanting to do this book, thinking about it since 2008– that’s how long it’s been percolating. It originally came about from a conversation with the folks from Disney who said, “Would you ever want to do a Disney property?” And the first thing that came to mind was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Because when I was a kid, I just loved that. I love everything about the sea, it’s really fascinating to me, submarines are super cool. So it kind of clicked, the kind of path I needed to take into the story. And it’s basically about a modern day descendant of Captain Nemo, who is the last of her family, and the last one who can unlock all these technological breakthroughs that Nemo had centuries before his time. He’s sort of the Leonardo da Vinci character. He came up with the idea of cold fusion, which we’re still working on. He’s invented all these navigational techniques that the navies of the world are still trying to figure out, but he’s had them for 200 years. But they’ve been lost. And so Ana, the main character, has to figure out how to unlock these secrets. And it’s basically a freshman class against the world. They have to figure this out on their own while they’re being chased by sinister forces.
ROSHANI *hyperventilating in the background*: It’s so good! It is so good. I know we’re not gonna put this video up, but I hope there can be brackets of like, Rosh hyperventilating in the background. It’s just so fun, it’s action-packed, it’s fascinating, I felt so smart after reading it. I loved everything about it.
RICK: Much appreciated. I am looking forward to it. It’s fun to do something different. It was kind of my pandemic thing. I didn’t learn to bake bread, but I did write this weird novel about Captain Nemo that is probably not something I would have done otherwise.
ZOË: Speaking of mysterious stuff, TV and movie adaptations happening… is it really happening?
RICK: Fingers crossed, we think it’s really happening. I’m very superstitious about these things, so I’m not going to be able to tell you it’s 100% going to happen. This is Hollywood, it could fall apart for any number of reasons, but knock on wood. Everything has been going really well for a year now, but until we get the series order, the green light, nothing is 100%. I think we’re close to that, I really do, but it’s been a long process. And that’s the bad part of me trying to let the fans know as soon as I possibly could. The bad news is now we actually have to make this happen, and it’s going to take a lot. But I’ve also learned a lot.
COLLEEN: A rapid-fire question for Rosh before we wrap up: which of your books would you put into TV adaptations first, off the top of your head?
ROSHANI: Well Aru is currently optioned by Paramount Pictures, so things seem like they’re happening. And my husband and I are watching this show on Netflix called Lupin.
RICK: It’s so good.
ROSHANI: Oh my God, it’s so good! But anyway, the only reason I heard about Lupin is because Gilded Wolves was listed on one of those, “If you like Lupin, you should read Gilded Wolves” and I was like, “What’s Lupin?” And I watched it, so I guess I’d say Gilded Wolves.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to chat with us!
You can order a copy of Aru Shah and the City of Gold here.
Pre-order a copy of Rick’s Daughter of the Deep here!