Sarwat Chadda is the author of the YA novels Devil's Kiss and The Dark Goddess, featuring kick-ass heroine Billi SanGreal.
tall tales & short stories would like to welcome Sarwat back to the blog to talk about his latest book, and new bad-ass hero, Ash Mistry.
ASH MISTRY AND THE SAVAGE FORTRESS
Ash Mistry hates India. Which is a problem since his uncle has brought him and his annoying younger sister Lucky there to take up a dream job with the mysterious Lord Savage. But Ash immediately suspects something is very wrong with the eccentric millionaire. Soon, Ash finds himself in a desperate battle to stop Savage's masterplan - the opening of the Iron Gates that have kept Ravana, the demon king, at bay for four millennia...
Varanasi: holy city of the Ganges.
In this land of ancient temples, incense and snake charmers...
Where the monsters and heroes of the past come to life...
One slightly geeky boy from our time...
IS GOING TO KICK THE DEMON HORDES BACK TO HELL.
Colouring in Heroes
Remember the last time a black guy saved the world?
I do. 1996, Will Smith in Independence Day. Cinema has a lot of ‘ethnic’ (hate the word but it sounds better than ‘non-white’) heroes. Will is regularly doing the good guy gigs, we’ve Wesley on vamp-slaying duties and Jackie Chan and so on. Have you seen any of their movies? I have. And that’s without being Chinese, of African descent or anything like that.
But when you write a kids’ book with an Asian hero, you’ll have a bookseller come up to you and say ‘I can’t see anyone in my area buying you book because we’ve not got any Indians living around us.’
By that logic you need to be a hobbit to buy Lord of the Rings.
‘Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress’ began as a conversation with my agent way back in the day. I knew my next project was going to be about India but we came to the discussion on the hero. Basically, should he be white? Could readers handle a non-white hero? Now, that may sound stupid, but all evidence in children’s fiction implies they can’t. They’re there in the nursery, Aladdin, Sinbad, Mulan, etc. But as kids grow up, they steadily disappear. Sure, they float around as sidekicks and in books about terrorism, forced marriages and religious fundamentalism, but not within the mainstream. They never get to save the world.
Ash Mistry is of Asian descent. So what? He’s a 13 year old geek, likes computer games, eating junk food and hanging out with his mates. I think that covers most 13 year olds.
He goes off to India for his holidays and is forced to face the demon king, Ravana, and between the front and back cover of my novel goes from geek to demon-slaying badass.
Now, don’t we all love stories of underdogs making good? Isn’t the Hero’s Journey a universal myth? Don’t we love books about monsters? I know I do and given what’s out there (from Harry to Percy, from Alex to Valkyrie) there are plenty of other readers who feel the same.
It would be great if this could be the beginning of something new, no matter how small. Children’s fiction, more than anything else, should be the wellspring of new ideas and fresh views of the world. Kids, more than anyone, take diversity in their stride. They can handle heroes from different backgrounds. We just need to get some in front of them.
It’s been about 150 years since we last had an Asian children’s hero (that’ll be Mowgli). Seriously, isn’t it about time we had another?