The Daevabad Trilogy — An Interview with the Author
Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Interviewer: Papatia Feauxzar at Fofky’s
Interviewee: S.A. Chakraborty
From her Amazon page, S. A. Chakraborty is a speculative fiction writer from New York City. Her debut, The City of Brass, was the first book in The Daevabad Trilogy and has been short-listed for the Locus, British Fantasy and World Fantasy awards. When not buried in books about Mughal miniatures and Abbasid political intrigue, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and recreating unnecessarily complicated medieval meals for her family. You can find her online at www.sachakraborty.com or on Twitter at @SAChakrabooks where she likes to talk about history, politics, and Islamic art.
Read Book 1 and Book 2's reviews here.
Q1 - Assalamu aleikum Shannon, welcome to Fofky’s. Can you please tell us something we don’t know about you?
A1 - Wa aleikum salaam! Thank you so much for having me and discussing my books!
So, I’ve just come back from a book tour in Ireland and the UK, so actually the first thing that popped into my head that’s utterly unrelated to books is the slightly embarrassing fact that I am utterly terrified of flying. “Panic attacks while looking out the window” I'm afraid of flying. It’s one of those things that I know is ridiculous—I can chant all the safety statistics I want—but oof, I get up in the sky and everything in my head is telling me people don’t belong up here. It’s certainly made traveling for book promotion interesting!
Papatia : Aw! I don't like heights either. My legs become weak. It's funny that you say, "My people don't belong up here." It's exactly how I say it too, lol! May Allah make it easy on you for the sake of your book tours, aameen!
Q2 - I’m a very picky reader, and I enjoy entertaining and sultry books first. I mean the whole point of reading a book for me is to get lost in it unless I specifically want to read a depressing book or a book to slow down my normal hyper-active pace. So, books that captivate me are rare and far in between but they are there. Your books were in that category alhamdullilah. I found it VERY hard to put them down. The cryptic prose, the looks of Dara, the poker face of Nahri and the peculiarness of AliZayd among many things stole my heart. Muntadhir was another colorful character I liked. I’m very curious to see how it pans out with him in the rest of the series. Anyway, to get to the question, so how many books and real persons did you have to read and observe to pen them; especially AliZayd? He is my favorite character by the way.
A2 - Aw, thank you! The City of Brass was the first book I wrote, and I think the characters resulted more from a lifetime of reading plus my own experiences and relationships more than anyone in particular. I try to take my feelings of impostor syndrome, being a worried mother, a protective sibling, a religious youth and then see how they could apply or deepen what’s going on with my characters.
Alizayd is quite easy for me to write! I think I was more like him at eighteen than I like to admit. I definitely share his social awkwardness and insular bookworm tendencies! On a more serious note, I wanted to write a Muslim character who felt more true to my experiences; that when it comes to my faith, it’s something that inspires me to fight for a better world, not reject for some of the comforts of our current one—which I think is the usual narrative the mainstream pushes.
Q3 - When did the idea to write this book come to you? How did the inspiration hit you? For instance, for me it usually comes in a dream or in a strange vision or trance. Were you reading historical books when the thought hit you or the thought hit you and you went to do research to be able to write the book?
A3 - It wasn’t a book at first—it was actually a sort of an exercise in world-building that I never intended to show a soul. I’m a big history buff and with The City of Brass I wanted to recreate some of the stunning worlds I’d read about while also exploring traditional beliefs about djinn. Djinn are said to be intelligent beings similar to humans, created from smokeless fire and living unseen in our midst—a fascinating, albeit slightly frightening concept; this idea of creatures living silently among us, dispassionately watching the rise and fall of our various civilizations.
It’s also a concept that offers a great opportunity to imagine how djinn might have built their world, mimicking the ways of their human neighbors. So in The City of Brass, there’s a djinn version of Baghdad’s great library, filled with the ancient books humans have lost alongside powerful texts of magic; they battle with weapons from Achaemenid Persia (enhanced by fire of course); the medical traditions of famed scholars like Ibn Sina have been adapted to treat magical maladies; dancers conjure flowers while singing Mughal love songs; a court system based on the Zanzibar Sultanate deals justice to merchants who bewitch their competitors… not to mention a cityscape featuring everything from ziggurats and pyramids to minarets and stupas. I also pushed a little further with the idea of the unseen, imagining a world of enchanted creatures created from other elements passing through ours: marid raising rivers into great serpents, peris whipping the air into tornadoes, djinn conjuring maps of smoke and racing birds of fire. I then set short stories in this world, fleshing out the history and various characters.
Q4 - How long did you take you to write these two books? And how did you manage house chores and mommy duties in the process? By the way, I would love to try your Medieval recipes in Fofky’s Kitchen. Nahri is a foodie like us and the food in your books made me very hungry!
A4 - Very, very long! I worked on the first book for about a decade, but like I said, this wasn’t with any true aim of getting it published for years. Honestly, I found more direction after my daughter was born. I was a stay-at-home mom, far from my family, while my husband worked some pretty brutal hours. Carving out a bit of time while my daughter napped or super early in the morning before the sun came up to slip into this magical world that was just for me felt like it brought me back to myself while I was trying to navigate early motherhood. And it’s still very hard. I’m fortunate enough to be a full-time writer now, but it’s the same struggle so many of us have with trying to balance work, family, and chores.
Oh, I love putting as much food in my books as possible. The new paperback version of The Kingdom of Copper will actually have a few recipes!
Papatia : Yay! I can't wait to get my copy insha'Allah!
Q5 - Can you please give us some scoops on the much awaited and anticipated upcoming Book 3 ?
A5 - I don’t know how much I can say without totally spoiling the end of the second book, but suffice to say that Nahri and Ali will be having some adventures in the human world, as well as exploring part of the magical one we haven’t seen yet. And that the cover is awesome!
Papatia : Oh yes, the cover reveal for Book 3 sent us bananas!!! We can't wait to read it insha'Allah. And that's the end of this interview. Thank you SO MUCH for being with us Shannon. Fofky’s wishes you much even more success with the last book in the series, aameen! We pray that your travels send you to Dallas, Texas so we can get our books signed insha’Allah.
Dear Readers, Fofky’s rates The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper five-stars novels. Check them out on Amazon today and join our book club discussion about the two books while we await Book 3's release in 2020 insha'Allah!
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐