Saturday, September 8, 2012

An Interview With Author Laxmi Hariharan

Bio: While originally from India, Laxmi Hariharan is now based in London. She has written for various publications including The Times of IndiaThe IndependentInside Singapore, Inside Hong Kong and Asian Age. Indian mythology inspires her work. When not writing, this chai-swigging technophile enjoys long walks in the woods, growing eye-catching flowers and indulging her inner geek. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan won the Summer 2012 Readers' pick award and is available on Amazon Reach Laxmi here:

If you like her writing, and would like to be profiled on her blog as part of her Reader Avatars series, then please send an email to:

Please give a warm welcome to Laxmi Hariharan, author of The Destiny of Shaitan (#1 Chronicle of the Three). She generously gave away three copies of her debut novel for my 20,000TH Hit Giveaway, and she won an interview during some of the fun on the Facebook event page. If you missed those, shame on you. We had a blast!

Highgate Wood
Let's get on to the dirty business of author interrogation. Laxmi, tell the Unwritten readers about yourself. What do you do when you're not writing fantastical tales full of Indian mythology?

When I am not writing I enjoy walking in the woods near my home in London. I lived in a few different countries before moving to London. It’s a well-kept secret that London is one of the greenest cities on this planet, really!  You are never more than ten minutes away from a park or a heath or woodlands. Highgate Wood near my home in North London is my all time favourite place to walk. It has trees many centuries old, and I swear they talk to me as I glide between them. I also love growing flowers – jasmine, rose & lavender are my favourite. Walking out on my decking my morning cup of sweetened chai, inhaling the aroma of fresh leaves and the drizzle on the grass is my favourite time of the day.

I loved the trivia questions you provided for our giveaway event page. Give us the scoop on your series and how Indian mythology ties into it.

Buy it HERE!

It is a constant surprise how much I use Indian mythology as a North Star. To understand this, I had to trace my memory back to when I was very little, about five or younger, and recall my grandmother telling me stories of the Indian gods and goddesses. My subconscious had soaked this up, using it as a springboard in my writing.

The three  key protagonists Tiina, Yudi & Rai are inspired by the concept of the Trimurti  — The great trinity; a concept in Indian mythology in which the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer or transformer.

 Indian mythology features some very strong feminine role models and goddesses. In The Destiny of Shaitan, #1 Chronicle of The Three, I modeled Tiina, the protagonist, is on Uma or Parvati, the divine mother, the supreme goddess of power in Indian my. She is divine life energy (or Shakti), stronger than any other god. Tiina is a manifestation of the divine feminine.

Yudi the other protagonist, is based on Yudhishtra. In the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharatha he is the righteous one, the one who always speaks the truth, showing unflinching adherence to satya (truth) and dharma (righteousness to fulfill one's moral duty), which were more precious to him than royal ambitions, and material pursuits. Yudhishtra is also a very conflicted character in mythology, because his weakness is gambling. He loses his entire kingdom, brothers, and even his wife in a game of dice. This is the story at the heart of the Mahabharatha, and that is how I saw Yudi. Trying to do the right thing, but always conflicted by his weaknesses that hold him back.

Vishnu as Lion Man
Many of the other characters such as Lion Man – who is half man, half lion, comes from a very well-known figure in Indian mythology who was half man – half lion, and an avatar of the powerful God Vishnu, who takes on the form of the Lion Man to destroy evil on Earth. The same with the Nagas who are half human – half serpent.

The battle scenes in The Destiny of Shaitan, themselves were inspired by the epic battle of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Writing this proved to be too ambitious, however. I was already working with a wide canvas, spanning an entire solar system I had created, and the task became breathtaking in terms of outlining the battle scenes in such detail.

I always snoop around and find out about people before I interview them. Kinda like looking in their medicine cabinets, I suppose, but not quite so intrusive. I did find that you've given yourself a goal of finishing your second book in nine months. How's it coming along? Are you following any strict outlines or writing routines?

I seem to work best under pressure and with crazy deadlines. It took me nine years to write my first novel in fits and spurts, but just six weeks to re-write about 80% of the final draft, edit it, find a great cover and get in on Amazon. Hence my challenge to myself is to complete my second in The Chronicle of The Three in nine months. After all if a baby can be created in nine, surely I can create my book too right? I am much more organised this time around. While The Destiny of Shatian, was a seat of the pants, organic, stream-of-fantasy novel, for Return to Seven Islands, #2 Chronicle of The Three, I am plotting it right now. Then am going to join Nanowrimo, and try and write the first draft in November. Then edit and re-write for a spring 2013 launch. I hope to time the release with Holi – the Indian spring festival of colours next year.  Do you think I am too ambitious? Hope not!

On your email signature, you have a little link that says "About Me" (told ya I snoop), and within it is a picture of a little girl with a beautiful white owl. The caption reads, "I Love Owls". Is that you in the picture, and if so, what do you like about owls?

Lakshmi with Owl

Ha! You are one of the few who actually caught this Mysti J. The Owl personifies the wise one, right? Interestingly in Indian Mythology, Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth & Good Fortune who I am named after is said to favour the owl as her mascot too. 

I feel sometimes like I am a peacock on the outside and an owl inside. Hence my blog is called Young Adult – Old Soul. I am one of those born old people. Yet as a Leo, I am vain about my appearance, I take pride in looking good. My life reflects this interesting set of contradictions all through. I hope that through Chronicle of The Three series I can share some of my quick spots of insights with my readers, one of them being that the destination is not important, the journey itself is key. How you go through your life, the adventures you have, what you learn, and how you live in the moment are what it is all about. While we are all influenced by the past and live in the hope of realizing our future, it is the realization that this current moment, the now and what you do with it, holds the key to your happiness. Buddhism also calls this ‘true spirituality.’ This is a big theme of my writing. I hope my readers will also take this message away too, from The Destiny of Shaitan.

You've written for various news publications over the years. What's been the most challenging aspect of writing fiction vs. journalism?

Journalism is a great way to meeting interesting people and find out more about their lives. It inspires fiction. I truly believe that the best stories exist in the voyage of the soul which everyday people undertake. Everyone has a secret, even that teller at the bank who spends every day, banking your cheque, he then probably goes home, changes into his superhero costume and becomes a vigilante. So the two are complimentary.

Everyone gets a random question when they visit Unwritten. Here's yours: What's your guilty pleasure when it comes to snacking?

Dark, chocolate chip cookies. I love them when they are soft, very American style!

Now, Ms. Hariharan, would you be so kind as to share an excerpt of your work?


It is the first time she has been so aggressive in her lovemaking. Where earlier he had been the one hungry for her, this time it is she who catches fire. Ravenous, she consumes him whole, as if she had joined her soul to his and transfused all the energy, draining him and filling herself until she was replete and he had nothing left to give. He didn’t think he could move.
 They lie on the floor of the spaceship, their legs still intertwined. Yudi pillows her head under his left arm. Her right leg is flung over his left. They had not bothered to remove their clothes before making love. Both of them had been so impatient to simply touch and feel her living breathing vitality that it was almost as if they had wanted to assure each other that after all that death that there was still hope, that life still went on. The taste of her fills his mouth, wiping away the flavour of loss, replacing it with something more heartrending.
Love. I am in love with her.
He hadn’t known Rai very well, but Rai had been Tiina’s best friend. Somehow they had understood each other, communicating on a level where he hadn’t been allowed to enter. Rai had propped her up emotionally when she had fallen apart after Yudi had cheated on her.
For the first time, Yudi acknowledges the consequences of his actions, understanding he had been wrong to do that, but perhaps one has to make mistakes to grow up. Mimir had been right. This journey was changing all of them.
Feeling Tiina shiver, he turns and puts his arm around her, covering as much of her with his body as he can. Burying his face in her neck, he breathes of that essence that is so uniquely her. He raises his face and sees her staring into his eyes.
“Shaitan will come after us for revenge, to take back the Isthmus.”
He nods, wondering what was going on in that mind of hers.
“You must avenge Rai. You must kill Shaitan.”
“An eye for an eye, Tiina?”
“Rai was innocent. He gave up his life for us.”
“He knew what had to be done for the greater good, for the mission.”
“And, what about Simh? Will you let his death be in vain?”
More disturbed than he cares to admit by her words, he retreats from her and lies back on the floor, his skin barely touching hers. His thoughts are in a twist; he understands Tiina’s need for revenge. As for him, he just feels numb, somewhat insulated from the reality of death. Is Rai really dead? Was Lion Man really my guardian angel? And if he is gone, who will look out for me now? Is it selfish to think of myself first?
Probably. He mentally shrugs, but then again, he was a selfish bastard to begin with, and topmost of his concern is how to take care of Tiina so that she does not do anything stupid. Adamant as she is, chances are she is going to do something reckless. Unless he promised her, told her what she wanted to hear, so that she would calm down.
He looks at the Isthmus on his wrist. Wearing it makes him feel responsible for his actions. It is as if he is being made to pay for years of being happy-go-lucky. Ah! To be able to act without worrying about the consequences.  He wishes for a simpler time, when all he had to do was worry about where his next adventure came from.
“I will take revenge, Tiina. After all, Rai was also my friend. I promise that he did not die in vain.”
Her face is devoid of emotions, as if she has shut off, refusing to let him in.
Why can’t I tell what she is really feeling? Trying to get a rise out of her, he blurts out, “I love you, Tiina.”

Thank you so much for being here, Laxmi! I hope you can return and I wish you much success!

Thank you Mysti. The best part of being an author is having the opportunity to meet incredibly inspiring people like you. Thank you for giving me the chance to share my words with your readers. 


  1. Hi Mysti,
    Hope your readers will find this interesting :)

  2. Fascinating piece, Laxmi. I studied comparative myth at uni and never ceased to be amazed at the similarities between the different bodies of myth. I am presently writing a book based on Greek myth and my heroine is Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, whose symbol is the owl.

    1. Jenny, there are so many parallels between different mythologies! However - I discovered in my research that which in Greek mythology there is a lot around the concept of the Odeipus complex - in Indian mythology - there is none! I was so amazed to find out about this! Do keep me posted about your novel too!

  3. I saw "Shaitan" and immediately thought "giant sandworm." I was pleasantly surprised to discover the book was not Dune fan fiction. ;-)

    This looks to be a good read. Your choice of present tense is bold and well-done.

    1. Thanks Daniel! I struggled between present and past, but I naturally write in present (reflection of how impatient I am - and prone to action in my writing too). Shaitan has a double meaning in Hindi - it means the Devil - but also if a child is very naughty you would scold him and say that you are a real brat - a Shaitan :) Thanks for the encouragement!


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