Hunted by the Sky: Behind the Scenes with Tanaz Bhathena

May 28, 2021 | 3:00 PM

Hunted by the Sky: Behind the Scenes with Tanaz Bhathena

By Team Fierce Reads
May has been a wonderful month for a variety of reasons—the sun coming out, general good vibes, and of course, this month's Read Fierce Book Club pick Hunted by the Sky. If you've been spending your days with Gul and Cavas in the magical kingdom of Ambar like we have, then here's a special behind-the-scenes treat from author Tanaz Bhathena! Plus, below is an actual visual of how we looked reading outside this month. Favorite character? My protagonist, Gul. The story pretty much began with her; she drew me headlong into this brutal, beautiful world with a single sentence—the first line of Chapter 1. She’s ferocious in a way I am not and her determination spurred me on personally while writing this book and also dealing with real life problems.  How was writing this book different than writing your other books? This is going to sound corny, but writing this book just felt a lot more magical. Once I decided that my setting would be inspired by medieval India, everything poured out: exquisitely designed, labyrinthine palaces, court dramas and politics, sari-clad women fighting in battles, and fascinating hybrid human and animal beings who were inspired by Hindu and Zoroastrian mythology—stories that I would hear growing up as a child.  The most obvious difference is that while writing contemporary novels, I’m often confined by real world limitations. However, in Hunted by the Sky, no one could stop me from making Gul telepathically communicate with animals or shoot spells with daggers.  A less obvious difference: While writing fantasy, I could draw inspiration from Indian history, while also decolonizing it and reinterpreting what it might have been like without British influence.  For instance: In 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized homosexuality after years of activism by the LGBTQ community. (The Indian penal code is—as you guessed—based off the British one.) However, in my research for Hunted by the Sky, I came across wonderful medieval poetry where men expressed their love for other men. So it made perfect sense to me that the kingdom of Ambar (despite its other problems) would be very open about love and would cement this by celebrating an annual festival honoring two gay moon goddesses.  List books and movies that inspired this world and why? I have a list of books, documentaries and TV series, on my website here: https://tanazbhathena.com/extras/ My sources are a mix of mythology and historical non-fiction. Even though I was writing a fantasy, I knew I still wanted it to be deeply rooted in Indian history. While researching, I would not only focus on popular historical figures, but also question why they were so lauded. I also looked for stories about powerful Indian women—these are often relegated to footnotes in the texts with the exception of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi (who was one of the leaders of the 1857 rebellion against the British—also, the first war of Indian independence).  There is a great deal to unpack when it comes to Indian women and how they are expected to behave to be considered “worthy of respect.” A great podcast to listen to about this is The Seen and the Unseen where the host, Amit Varma interviews author, Ira Mukhoty. https://seenunseen.in/episodes/2019/10/28/episode-144-women-in-indian-history/  What can we expect next in Rising Like a Storm? You can expect to see more of Gul, Cavas and the Sisters of the Golden Lotus. There is also a new character, who I’m really excited about. And there will be a war with tons of action-packed scenes!    Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Tanaz Bhathena's Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India. Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge. Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl—Gul—in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance—and discovers a magic he never expected to find. Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort...a world with secrets deadlier than their own.

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