Debut Author Interview: Olivia Chadha Interview and Rise of the Red Hand Giveaway and IWSG Post
Today I’m excited to start 2021 with an interview with debut author Olivia Chadha to celebrate the release of her YA dystopian, Rise of the Red Hand. It sounds like a fantastic story that deals with really timely issues like climate change and a possible pandemic. What's amazing is that she wrote it before all this happened to us.
Here’s a blurb from :
A rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia.[/b]
The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives inside a climate-controlled biodome, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. Outside, the poor and forgotten scrape by with discarded black-market robotics, a society of poverty-stricken cyborgs struggling to survive in slums threatened by rising sea levels, unbreathable air, and deadly superbugs.
Ashiva works for the Red Hand, an underground network of revolutionaries fighting the government, which is run by a merciless computer algorithm that dictates every citizen’s fate. She’s a smuggler with the best robotic arm and cybernetic enhancements the slums can offer, and her cargo includes the most vulnerable of the city’s abandoned children.
When Ashiva crosses paths with the brilliant hacker Riz-Ali, a privileged Uplander who finds himself embroiled in the Red Hand’s dangerous activities, they uncover a horrifying conspiracy that the government will do anything to bury. From armed guardians kidnapping children to massive robots flattening the slums, to a pandemic that threatens to sweep through the city like wildfire, Ashiva and Riz-Ali will have to put aside their differences in order to fight the system and save the communities they love from destruction.
Before I get to my interview with Olivia, I've got my IWSG Post.
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The awesome co-hosts for the December 2 posting of the IWSG areand [/b]
Optional Question:[/b] Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?
My daughter's 9th grade English teacher gave her an excellent piece of advice that I've followed since I heard it. She said that if you don't like a book by page 50, put it down and start something new. For me, I need a fast-paced plot and characters I care about to keep reading. Flowery words, "literary" works, lots of description, and too much telling turn me off when I'm reading, and I don't finish those stories.
What about you? What frustrates you when you read?
Interview With Olivia Chadha
Hi Olivia! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
Thanks for having me! I was one of those little kids who asked for notebooks and pens instead of toys. I studied literature and creative writing at UCSB, CU Boulder, and did my doctorate at Binghamton University where I studied creative writing, folklore and literature. Professionally, I got my start writing a few comic book scripts for Michael Turner’s Fathom. My first adult literary novel, Balance of Fragile Things centers on teens but is written for adults. It took me a while to realize that the young adult arena is the place I wanted to be. But when I did, I joined my local SCBWI and dove right in. The kid lit writing community is the most supportive I’ve found.
2. I agree with you on how supportive the kidlit and writing communities like the IWSG are. Where did you get the idea for The Rise of the Red Hand?
I wanted to write a story about two characters who live across a border from one another to highlight the impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, particularly in South Asia. Early on, I drafted a few chapters with a similar story in a fantasy landscape, but it wasn’t working. Finally, I realized it needed to be in a near future setting in South Asia. At its heart, Rise of the Red Hand is about empathy. How to dig deep into your being and cultivate it even when you’re full of anger. It’s a story about two teens in a future South Asia from opposite sides of the domed city: Ashiva is a hard-hearted smuggler who has spent her life fighting for scraps outside in the Narrows slums. Riz-Ali is a wealthy uplander who exists in a world filled with every luxury imaginable. When their lives unexpectedly crash together, they’re propelled on a thrill-ride of a journey to take down fascist regime. But their larger story is something much more difficult than a mech battle and survival: it’s about working together to facilitate change during an environmental crisis and envisioning a world in which we can all thrive.
3. What made you decide to have your plot deal focus on climate change and a pandemic crisis, which are both really big issues in our own times? Did it feel weird to discover that you were writing about a world in danger of a pandemic and then find yourself experiencing one yourself?
Definitely. Like most, I was not prepared for 2020 and all the challenges it has presented! I wrote the
first draft of Rise a couple years ago, so I could easily imagine a difficult future, but little did I know we’d be experiencing one. I’ve spent years researching the environment. My first novel, Balance of Fragile Things is literary eco-fiction and I did extensive research on pollinators and invertebrates, mostly butterflies. I’m an avid gardener who is obsessed with animals, and passionate about the natural world. In my research I’ve been focused on how the impacts of climate change go far beyond rising temperatures in our day to day lives. The most terrifying discoveries are being made in melting glaciers. Scientists are discovering that the melt is exposing viruses and bacteria that haven’t seen the light of day for centuries, or longer. The physical boundary between humans and wildlife is narrowing. So, in many ways climate change and pandemics are intrinsically linked.
4. That's great that you could bring your passions to your story. Your world building sounds fantastic. What research did you do to create your world and what was your world building process like?
In many ways, Rise of the Red Hand deals with boundaries: between people, governments, humanity
and machine. I’ve spent years researching environmental literature and India’s Partition so I was ready to jump into a novel that could highlight both a climate crisis and changing borders and boundaries at the same time in a science fiction landscape. For this book I looked to the future while looking at the past. I tried to imagine what the world would be like if all efforts to curb the inevitable impacts of climate change were ignored. My research consisted of pouring over maps envisioning how the water would rise and change the borders of continents. I looked into how some governments and people might rely on technology to solve the problems, while others would look to nature for solutions. Extreme climate changes cause drought, flood and famine. Inevitably there will be massive groups of vulnerable refugees who will be forced out of their land into new areas. I also wanted to write a novel that thinks about the border between humanity and machine with mechas and cyberpunk influences as I adore that genre.
5. Was it more challenging to develop Ashiva or Riz-Ali as a character? Why? Share something that surprised you about each character.
Ashiva and Riz-Ali are both characters whose lives are balanced atop the edge of a knife. At first glance they appear opposite in every way. Riz is posh, wealthy, and genetically perfect but he has to appear perfect or else suffer the consequences. Ashiva is rebuilt with scrap technology, poor, and deemed unfit for the future by the algorithm Solace. Ashiva seems simple, all smash now and ask forgiveness later, but it’s a defense she’s relies on in a world that continues to make life impossible for her and the others living in the orphanage, The Children of Without. Riz could have easily become a caricature of a rich, spoiled kid. And Ashiva could have been a victim. That was probably the most complicated part about writing them, pushing both of them into the grey space that makes up the distance between their binary opposition. I wanted to show that assumptions we make about others aren’t always true in order to show the similarities between us and build that bridge to empathy.
6. You started out writing comic book scripts for Fathom. What did you learn from that experience that helped you when you wrote this story?
Comic books are my first love. I was a lucky twenty-two-year-old who stumbled into an opportunity when I wrote scripts for the late Michael Turner. He was a genius illustrator with a generous heart and just gave me a shot. I learned a lot, mostly that I needed to work on my writing craft to reign in the crazy ideas I had. I also learned that writing a book can seem like a solo study, but publishing a book is definitely a team effort. I look forward to writing comic books again.
7. That's awesome that you could start writing comic scripts in your early 20's. Eric Smith is your agent. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?
I revised Rise and felt ready to query and sent a few out. At the top of my list was Eric Smith because he’s such an amazing advocate for diverse authors. Then I saw that #DVpit was coming up. So, I polished some pitches and entered. Eric liked my pitch, requested my novel, and offered representation right away. Funny enough, he was one of the agents I queried before #DVpit, so it was meant to be! I was in tears reading his email. After I signed, we touched up the book, then went on sub. It was a few months before we connected with Erewhon Books, and the rest is history. All this sounds so easy. But keep in mind I wrote three novels and published one of them before landing an agent. It was literally the right book at the right time with the right agent. The lesson here is, don’t give up. Keep writing new things. If one book doesn’t work, write another one.
8. That's great advice. You’re a member of The 21ders, a debut middle group and young adult group. How has this helped you navigate your debut year? How did you find out about this group?
The21ders are my life! I love them all so dearly. Each member is so supportive, kind, and generous with their knowledge. I don’t know what I would do without them. Seriously, if you’re a debut author, seek out and find your debut group. I think I originally googled them or found them on a social media site. Our slack has been a lifeline. I’m gushing, but it’s true. Check out the upcoming 2021 novels at . Debuting is terrifying anytime, but debut during a pandemic is so difficult because we need support and guidance. I am so thankful for The21ders!
9. I would definitely want to be part of a debut group. How are you promoting your book given the pandemic? What advice do you have for other writers who will have a book published in 2021 or early 2022?
Promo seems to have gone into hyper drive now that all events can be done virtually. While we miss seeing people, I think there are even more opportunities to connect with a larger audience now. From podcasts, to interviews, IG live events, online classes, and live panels my schedule has been quite full. I only wish I could do school visits and connect with the teen readers in person. The best advice someone gave me for this year was to say no to promo opportunities that don’t bring you joy. And to remember that while you’re busy doing other things, that you are first a writer, and it’s your duty to protect your creativity.
10. That's great that you have a lot of opportunities to connect to more readers. What are you working on now?
I’m polishing up the second book in The Mechanists duology and working on two other YA projects that I can’t say much about right now. But just know they are hopepunk through and through. J
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Olivia. You can find Olivia at:
@ockaur on twitter
@okchadha on Instagram
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and Canada.
Monday, January 18th I have a guest post by debut author Dana Swift and her agent Amy Brewer and a query critique giveaway and book giveaway of Dana's YA fantasy Cast in Firelight
Wednesday, January 20th I have an agent spotlight interview with Tricia Skinner and query critique giveaway
Monday, January 25th I have an interview with debut author Chrystal Giles and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Take Back the Block
Wednesday, January 27th I have an interview with author Gita Trelease and a giveaway of Everything That Burns as part of her blog tour
Hope to see you on Monday, January 11th!