Labyrinth Lore: Author Interview with Tanvi Berwah

Hey there everyone, welcome back to my blog! Today, I’m super excited to be interviewing the author of one of my anticipated reads of this year —Tanvi Berwah, author of Monsters Born and Made.

Monsters Born and Made was a book that I couldn’t ever see coming. Stressing on themes of privilege and caste systems, this book is truly a masterful debut and I can’t be more excited for it to be out in the world! Join me with Tanvi Berwah as we chat about marginalization, inspirations and maristags!

synopsis

You swim with monsters, these people cannot scare you.

Sixteen-year-old Koral and her brother Emrik risk their lives to capture the monstrous maristags that live in the black seas around their island. They have to, or else their family will starve.

In an oceanic world swarming with vicious beasts, the ruling elite have indentured her family to provide the maristags for the Glory Race, a deadly chariot tournament reserved for the upper class. The winning contender receives gold and glory. The others—if they’re lucky—survive.

When they fail to capture a maristag for this year’s race, her family can’t afford medicine for Koral’s chronically ill little sister. Koral decides her only choice is to do what no one in the world has ever dared: cheat her way into the Glory Race.

But Koral must race against contenders who have trained their whole lives and have no intention of letting a low-caste girl steal their glory. And when riots break out Koral has to do more than win the trace, she’ll have to stop the whole island from burning.

Monster Born and Made is an epic South Asian inspired fantasy that will leave you breathless until the very last page.

interview

Q1: Hi Tanvi, thank you so much for agreeing to be on my blog today! Can you introduce yourself and your debut, Monsters Born and Made?

Happy to be here! I’m a writer based in India and before this, I was an entertainment blogger–something I really wish I still had time for! Monsters Born and Made is a dystopian fantasy set in a harsh oceanic world where 16-year-old Koral hunts and captures vicious sea beasts for the deadly chariot race tournament called the Glory Race. It’s a story of defiance, existing in the margin of marginalization, complicated families and complicated romantic histories.

Q2: What prompted you to write a dystopian novel influenced by South Asian culture? The idea seems really unique so did you have anything in particular that made you want to write this?

I have always been a reader of dystopian novels, but it is no secret that a lot of these stories take real-world atrocities happening to Black/Indigenous people, People of Color and other marginalized people and apply it to cishet white people. The stories seem to have value only when bad things happen to these specific norms. I wanted to have a story like that but from a particular viewpoint: that of existing as someone who is an outcast within low caste people in India. Where you are neither here nor there. I’ve seen reviews of Monsters Born and Made that seem baffled about the economics and social existence of caste, asking why these people simply don’t dictate their own price for the sea beasts, or what stops other people from hunting and earning. This is a valid question from someone who has no idea of the reality of caste system of India. The answer to it is the same: because society dictates this. And yes, it is baffling. It does make no sense. But it is what it is.

We have a small but growing number of South Asian fantasy stories. Most of them simply erase casteism instead of dealing with it. To ignore that narrative is to ignore a reality that sits with us everywhere we exist. But I don’t expect every story to deal with it either, so I wrote it myself.

Other than this obvious thing, I have also taken little bits of mythology, such as the Farasi Bahari horses which live in the depths of the Indian Ocean, and transformed them to fit the story. For the physical setting of Monsters, I also used Bactrian Indian inspiration because it lends itself well to the idea of a dystopian worldbuilding.

South Asian culture is incredibly vast and even when it overlaps with other cultures, there is a lot to mine and build stories on.

Q3: What did you first have in mind when you were planning out a maristag and how did the first drafts differ from the final ones?

The very first idea of a maristag was not a maristag at all. It was the emerald green horses, called the Farasi Bahari, that live at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. But as we all know, horses from the sea is done very well already in The Scorpio Races. So I sat down and began looking up mythological beasts, mixing and matching to come up with my own. It was a long process and maristags as they will be in the final book are completely different to what I first imagined.

Q4: My favourite scene in the book was when Koral lashes out due all the things happening in her life. Her expressing all her anger and realising she might have anger issues was so deep! How was writing that scene for you?

Oh wow. That scene. I think of that scene as the pivot of Koral’s story. I wrote it without planning to during revisions, as if it came from deep within me, and I knew immediately that that is what the book had been lacking before. It made me sad, and I thought on it a lot, reading it over and over again, and realizing that I had finally written what I was trying to from the beginning.

Q5: Are there any deleted scenes that couldn’t make it to the final draft? If not, what is your favourite scene in the entire book?

This book went through so many revisions that I think it’s more like deleted drafts than deleted scenes haha. But when I finally wrote the draft that became the book, I only added things in, and did not take away much. Though I did write a lot of scenes to understand the family dynamics but they weren’t supposed to be in the book anyway.

My favorite scene is Koral’s outburst, but since we’ve already talked about it, I’ll mention another. It’s the Celebration after the first race event. I really loved getting to explore the setting that was so different from anything else in the book, it was fun to write!

Q6: Do you have any book ideas that you’d love to write in the future or are currently writing? I’d love to read more from you if I could!

I’m currently working on book 2, set in the same world and continuing the story but with a different leading MC. Outside of the Islands of Ophir, I definitely have a lot of ideas and would love to start working on them once this is done.

Q7: Lastly, what are your recommendations for people who would enjoy Monsters Born and Made and love to read more books like yours?

Meg Long’s Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, Marie Lu’s Skyhunter, Mira Grant’s Into the Drowning Deep, Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward.

about the author

Tanvi Berwah is a South Asian writer who grew up wanting to touch the stars and reach back in time. MONSTERS BORN AND MADE, her debut YA novel, is forthcoming from Sourcebooks Fire. Her short story, Escape, is out now in Foreshadow anthology from Algonquin Young Readers. She graduated from the University of Delhi with a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Literature of English, and always found ways to fit in The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones in her academic life. A history and space enthusiast, she would’ve loved to be an astronomer, had her lack of mathematical skills allowed it. Find her at tanviberwah.com.

THANK YOU FOR READING!

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12 thoughts on “Labyrinth Lore: Author Interview with Tanvi Berwah”

  1. ok but CAN WE START WITH HOW INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL I AM TO YOU FOR THIS INTERVIEW???? its CRIMINAL how i’d never heard of the book before this BECAUSE EXCUSE ME ITS SOUTH ASIAN FANTASY WHAT DO YOU MEAN DO YOU WISH TO READ IT I NEED THE BOOK DROPPED INTO MY HANDS THIS VERY MINUTE PLEASE???? also THE INTERVIEW definitely helped in all the convincing part AND AM EXCITED NOW!!!! thank you so, SO much for this <33

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  2. This is a lovely interview! I enjoyed reading about Tanvi’s writing process and I am so intrigued that the second book will center on a different MC. and now I have to add this book to my TBR so thank you!

    Like

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