Today I am joined by fellow South Floridian, Lyra Shanti–author of the book series Shiva XIV.
1.Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a novelist, singer-songwriter, poet, and playwright who lives in South Florida. Having grown up in Bellingham, Washington, I’m a nature and animal lover with a ferocious love of epic stories of every genre, but especially sci-fi and fantasy.
At first, I was drawn to writing songs, even at the tender age of 7 years old. Then, it was playwriting, and eventually, musicals (that I co-write with my insanely talented partner and spouse, Timothy Casey.) It wasn’t until much later that I began writing novels, but there’s no stopping me now!
2. Why did you start writing?
I truly feel like I wouldn’t be able to keep inside all the stories and thoughts in my head if I didn’t write them all down; I’d probably explode! I don’t think I had a choice, so it was inevitable. It was just a matter of time before I had the courage to try, especially when it came to novels, which I really didn’t have the confidence to try until my thirties. Now, I can’t imagine not writing them.
3. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
When it came to attempting the first book in my Shiva XIV series, I had no idea what it would be. I stared at the blank page, completely unaware of what would take form. Then, I suddenly got hit with the vision of a priest figure, holding up a newborn baby at an altar. I began writing whatever came to my brain, and what followed was the embryo for the messianic, interplanetary story of Ayn. I soon realized that I needed to map out what would happen, and all the details followed. The notes I started taking and the huge amount of storyboarding took me on a journey I never thought possible. I am now about to release the 3rd book in the series, and have finished writing the 4th, and it has been one of the most fulfilling, wonderful things to have ever happened in my life. I honestly can’t imagine a life without Ayn and the other main characters of Shiva XIV; they’ve become an integral part of my being.
4. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
Shiva XIV refers to Ayn’s kingly title. His royal ancestors are all The Shiva, and he is the fourteenth one. He is also the one the priests have prophesied to become their savior. Now, it may seem like my book is about the Hindu God, Shiva, but it’s not. I certainly knew about Hindu myth and religion, but I didn’t set out to write about it. The title just plopped into my head, as if it were always meant to be there. The world of Shiva XIV is like a far distant, other dimensional reality, slightly the same as our world, but rather different as well.
5. Does your story have a moral?
Yes, it does, though I don’t think it hits people over the head with it. There are themes of self-discovery, science vs religion, and most recurring, the theme of nature vs man’s greed. I think I try to subtly layer morals within the story, but in a way that the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed or annoyed by it.
6. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
I love a lot of my characters, but Ayn comes to mind first and foremost. He is very much a part of my own soul. He is raised very secluded and sheltered, so he really has no idea about the world in the beginning, though he learns as he goes. He has a very innocent and pure heart, and yet, he’s been given a huge burden early on. He’s deeply hurt by his past, but he keeps going, no matter what. I love how emotional and giving he is, despite how much he goes through. He could become bitter and closed up, but he keeps being his open-hearted self.
I also really love Axis, who I hesitate to reveal much about. I will say, though, that he’s extremely fiery and fun to write.
7. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
I don’t have a set regiment, but I do like to have music on, if I can. The best way for me to get out my thoughts is when I can get lost in the world I’m writing. Music can help create the environment needed. I prefer to be left alone during a writing session, but I’ve learned to adapt to whatever the situation. One can’t always have a perfectly quiet surrounding, so I just do my best to tune out the noise or interruptions. I don’t require anything in particular, though I write better at night. I just try to do it as often as I can, following no particular rules.
8. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
Totally for them. Without storyboarding out where I’m going, I’m lost. Having said that, I also believe in allowing yourself to go with your instincts when needs be. There has to be a balance, I think. You need to follow your muse wherever it wants to go, but outlining the major plot points is absolutely helpful, especially for more epic stories, like in a series.
9. What is your favorite book genre?
I prefer fantasy and science fiction, both to read and to write. I like going to far off places and dreaming about worlds that don’t exist, save for in our minds. I like other genres, but I’ll always come back to fantasy/sci-fi.
10. What is your favorite book?
I have a few favorite books: Siddhartha (I am a HUGE Hermann Hesse fan,) Lord of the Rings, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Harry Potter series, Illusions, Clan of the Cavebear, The Sword of Truth series, and probably more my mind isn’t remembering at the moment.
11. Any project in the works?
I am in the process of editing book 3 of Shiva XIV (Riddle of the Gods) for release this autumn, but I am done writing the series. I have a prequel planned, but before I do that, I’m going to write a few other novels. I plan on finishing a book I started about an artist and his quest to be sane and good enough for his true love. I also have another series in the beginning stages – a young adult fantasy with dragons and wizards!
12. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
It varies, but I suppose a 1-3 years. I wrote each book of Shiva XIV very quickly – about a year or so each – but it may take longer for other books. It’s the editing that takes forever!
13. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Likable, intriguing characters for starters. Without main characters that are enjoyable to read, who wants to keep reading? Then, one must have an environment that feels real and authentic. It doesn’t have to be heavily detailed, but it has to feel like a real place. After that, there has to be some kind of adventure and growth, and ultimately, an ending that makes the reader feel like they’ve been taken somewhere for a reason. It can be a cliffhanger, but it has to feel like the characters went somewhere and learned from it. But ultimately, if you like the characters enough, you’ll pretty much follow them anywhere.
14. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Never give up, no matter what. Don’t worry about what other people think or if the story is perfect, just write. You can always edit and perfect it all later on. Just get it out there and don’t stop!
And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
I love them both!
2. Dogs or cats?
Both. I love ALL animals… except maybe roaches, fleas, and mosquitoes, but they’re bugs. They don’t really make good pets.
3. Summer or winter?
Definitely winter! I can’t stand the heat, which is a cruel joke, considering I live in one of the hottest, most humid and sunny places in the world! I prefer snow to sun, and I love the winter holidays. If I had my way, it would be autumn and winter all year long.
4. Cake or ice-cream?
Both, though I’m lactose intolerant, so the latter can be a little challenging at times.
5. Nights out or nights in?
Nights in. I’m a total homebody who is addicted to pajamas.
6. Living in the city or living in the country?
Country, but with the city in reachable distance.
7. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telepathy. I have no need to move stuff with my mind. I can get up and get the thing. I’m not lazy like a Jedi.
8. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Definitely text. I hate talking on the phone.
9. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Hotel, thanks. I’m not a camping person. I love nature, but I think I’ve established I do not like bugs.
10. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
Neither. I want to be Apollo or Perseus. Comic book heroes are cool and all, but yeah, I’d rather go Greek.
11. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Wow, hard choice. I think being able to speak to all humans everywhere would be a tad more useful. I’d love to talk to animals though.
12. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
No internet?! I’d probably die. It’s not an option.
13. Losing your ability to speak or losing your ability to hear?
I would rather lose my voice. I could type. I’d deal. But being deaf must suck, especially for a musician, which I am.
14. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
Oh, gods, without chocolate, there would hardly be any point in living! I’ll omit coffee, thanks.
15. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
Haha! That question made me laugh: Attack of the fifty foot Lyra monster!