Interview: Shveta Thakrar

Shveta Thakrar is a part-time nagini and full-time believer in magic. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies including Enchanted Living, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, and Toil & Trouble. Her debut young adult fantasy novel, Star Daughter, is a finalist for the 2021 Andre Norton Nebula Award. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp. “Heart Shine” is her fifth appearance in Uncanny, a beautiful story of identity and self-acceptance, fireflies and magic.

 

Uncanny Magazine: You’ve created a lovely world for this story, with fireflies, faerie gates, and magic that comes at a very personal price. What was your starting point for the story, and how did you decide on the rules for magic in this world?

Shveta Thakrar: Thank you so much! This is actually an extremely personal story, because I’ve always believed in and longed for magic and am still—impatiently—waiting for my door to Faerie. For me, being a writer is a way to share with others the enchantment I see and feel.

But the spark, if you will, was an evening spent in a forest in upstate New York a few years back. At dusk, the fireflies came out en masse, and as I watched them, holding out as long as I could against the equally numerous mosquito battalion eating me up, all I could do was marvel at their wordless opera. It literally looked like glowing jewels in song. I knew right then that this wondrous image would need a story of its own, a love letter to fireflies and their luminescent magic.

Uncanny Magazine: The story opens by mentioning a craft project that Komal is working on—a silver lotus charm. Do you enjoy crafting? Do you have a favorite project/creation?

Shveta Thakrar: I used to do quite a bit of crafting, and I hope to get back to it at some point. My favorite creation would probably either be a paper mobile complete with dolls of my niece and me—which her younger brothers ripped up almost the second after I gave it to her; oops—or a mixed-media dollhouse room set in a cigar box with the lid cut off.

Uncanny Magazine: Your YA novel Star Daughter came out in 2020, and like “Heart Shine,” it deals with themes of identity and self-acceptance. What draws you to these themes? What other topics or themes tend to show up frequently in your work?

Shveta Thakrar: Thank you so much for reading Star Daughter! As for the themes in question, I don’t believe anyone ever truly stops coming of age. I’m well into adulthood, and I’m still figuring out what I want and where I belong. The answers have shifted as I’ve gotten older and gained perspective and distance, but the questions are still valid.

Other themes I’m drawn to include family, female friendship, and food. Mmm, food.

Uncanny Magazine: Komal does some deep-dive research into folklore to find a way to get into the faerie realm. Do you have a favorite folk/fairy tale, or a favorite bit of folklore more generally?

Shveta Thakrar: I love fairy tales and consider myself an amateur folklorist. I’d say my favorite fairy tale (which happens to be one I’ve retold elsewhere under the title “Daughter of the Sun”—and interestingly enough, in that retelling, the characters have sun and moon hearts, so I suppose radiant hearts are another recurring theme in my work!) is “Savitri and Satyavan,” found in the epic Mahabharata.

Uncanny Magazine: If you were entertaining a firefly prince for two weeks, where would you take him? If you could send firefly spies into the faerie realm, what would you want them to look for?

Shveta Thakrar: This is an excellent and intriguing set of questions. I’d take my prince to forests, nightclubs, immersive theatrical experiences, mermaid tea parties, masquerades, fancy restaurants as well as holes in the wall, outdoor markets, old bookstores, beaches at night, caves where dragons’ eggs might be found… We’d definitely find lots of reasons to travel around the world.

A way into Faerie! But also garments made of cloth-of-sky, fabulous secrets, silver lotuses, harps and dilrubas that play themselves, fire-gem jewelry, enchanted swords, (spell)books, and food like crystallized dreams and skyberry cordial. I know some folklore cautions mortals against consuming faerie food or drink, which is probably wise. However, not all mythic traditions share that prohibition, and anyway, after all my daydreaming, how could I not try it?

Uncanny Magazine: What are you working on next?

Shveta Thakrar: My second novel, which I can’t say much about yet, but it involves nagas and dreams and will be out in summer of 2022.

Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim is a two-time Hugo and four-time Nebula Award finalist. Her short stories have been translated into several languages and reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including three times in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Yoachim’s short story collection Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories and the print chapbook of her novelette The Archronology of Love are available from Fairwood Press. For more, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com.

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