Interview: Amalie Howard, Author of ALPHA GODDESS

Today is publication day for ALPHA GODDESS by Amalie Howard. ALPHA GODDESS is a YA multi-cultural Indian mythology novel published with Sky Pony Press, and I can’t WAIT to read it.

KO: Hi Amalie! So nice to have you here! First, can you tell us a little about ALPHA GODDESS?
AH: Hi Kate! So great to be here, thank you for having me. In a nutshell, ALPHA GODDESS is about a girl who finds out she’s a reincarnated Indian goddess who has to reconcile her reincarnated selves to stop her archenemy before hell is unleashed on earth.

KO: It sounds brilliant! What inspired the idea?
AH: Thank you. I have always been a huge fan of Greek mythology, particularly the story of Hades and Persephone. However, Persephone’s story has been retold in YA fiction several times over and I wanted to bring something new to the table—something that evoked a similar feeling but was fresh and different. As a child, I was also lucky to grow up with a very different kind of mythology, one steeped in East Indian culture, and I found myself inspired by another tale of star-crossed love among the gods—the epic tale of Rama and Sita. I decided to focus on that mythology as the foundation for my story. I wouldn’t say it’s a retelling; rather it is an imagining of what would happen if these two lovers met in a contemporary time within different incarnations of themselves.

KO: How much research did you have to do for this? And what did you particularly enjoy looking into?
AH: Notwithstanding what I knew of the mythology just from hearing the stories as a child, I had to do a lot of research and enjoyed every moment of it. I wanted to incorporate actual mythological elements, but use my creative license to really make the story my own. I used various elements in Hindu mythology within the world building of my story. For example, Hindu texts and scriptures reference celestial creatures called Devas, which literally means the “shining ones” and loosely translates to “heavenly beings.” In the scriptures, the opposite of the Devas are the Asura, power-seeking deities who are considered to be demonic or sinful in nature. They are both an important part of Hindu culture and appear in mythological scriptures, art, and poetry. In Alpha Goddess, the Daevas and Azuras appear as they do in Indian mythology, influencing our main characters to do different things. They are pivotal to my story, especially because everything is centered on a war between these two factions and the battle for human souls in the Mortal Realm. This is just one example, but I created a guide at the back of the book, which references the actual Hindu mythology. This guide was vetted and endorsed by my father and great-uncle, both Hindu pundits (priests).

KO: Your cover art is particularly beautiful, and I remember you mentioning that the colour yellow is quite important to the book—can you share a little more about the image and why it relates so well to the story?

AH: Great question, and thank you for asking it. You are the first to do so. Yellow is an integral color to this book. Vishnu is the second god in the Hindu trinity, along with Brahma and Shiva. In the Hindu Trimurti, Vishnu is known as the preserver of moral order and the protector of life, balancing the processes of creation and destruction. He is described in the scriptures as having blue skin and wearing yellow clothing. The yellow color is associated with life on earth and when he appears as a terrestrial avatar, taking mortal form to avert human tragedy. Vishnu is known for taking the form of ten avatars to restore order in the world, the most popular of which are the incarnations of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. In addition, in Hinduisim, yellow is also associated with learning and knowledge. Many people praying to Vishnu offer him garlands of yellow flowers (usually marigolds).

KO: If your book had a theme song, what would it be?
AH: I do have a playlist for ALPHA GODDESS, which you can see here as part of the blog tour (http://www.ladyreader.net/2014/03/blog-tour-alpha-goddess-by-amaliehoward.html). If I had to choose a theme song from the playlist, it would probably be Jaan by Talvin Singh. I like the sound of Indian music with a modern edge—that’s what I hoped to accomplish with this book: traditional mythology with modern appeal.

KO: Can you share one of your favourite scenes from the book?

AH: Of course, here is one of my favorite scenes from the book where Sera is starting to envision glimpses of her past life as a goddess.

“Something electric unfolded inside of her, and her vision tunneled. This time it was different, though, full of light instead of darkness.

A flutter of firelight from the magical little clay pots lit all around them . . . the discordant aching sounds of a sitar strumming in the background. It was a glorious display, a triumph of good over evil in celebration of their love. His kiss was light upon her cheek, his touch a gossamer caress. She spun in a slow circle, the light on her beloved’s face glowing from within him. She laughed because she was glowing, too.”

KO: The book was officially blurbed by Colleen Houck. How did it feel getting such great feedback?
AH: It was amazing! Considering that she is one of the few YA authors who has written about East Indian culture and mythology, it was such an honor that she read and enjoyed ALPHA GODDESS. I was humbled and grateful.

KO: What was your favourite thing about writing ALPHA GODDESS? And what was most difficult when writing?
AH: I really enjoyed delving into the Indian mythology, and being able to share something that I’d grown up with—part of my background and culture. The most difficult piece was managing the challenging task of going from actual mythology to fantasy. It’s a fine balance staying true to the mythology while inventing something different and fresh that isn’t just a re-telling of an existing story. It was also nerve-wracking to take something that people believe in (i.e., their actual religious beliefs) and create a fictional account of it. At the end of the day, my hope is that Alpha Goddess will make readers more curious to learn more about actual Hindu mythology. If that means that they do an online search for the story of Rama and Sita, or more information on Indian gods and goddesses, then I have accomplished my goal.

KO: You have a busy year ahead! And 2013 was a great year for you, too! Can you tell us about your other projects and what we can look forward to?

AH: I do! I have four books coming out this year, so 2014 is definitely going to be an exciting time! In addition to ALPHA GODDESS, THE ALMOST GIRL with Strange Chemistry came out a couple months ago in January, and it’s about a female soldier from a parallel universe who is sent to Earth to find a mysterious boy, and is forced to question everything she’s ever been taught. Following WATERFELL, which came out last November about an alien sea princess who must decide whether to defend her throne or hide in the human world forever, the second book in the Aquarathi series, OCEANBORN from Harlequin TEEN, will be out in August. This sequel takes off from when Nerissa is crowned, but things aren’t always as they seem and enemies once thought defeated resurface with sinister and deadly plans. Lastly, the sequel to THE ALMOST GIRL is scheduled for November. Our protagonist, Riven, is on the hunt for her father, but it turns out there are worse things brewing in Neospes than her mad scientist father, and she may need his help after all.

KO: And to wrap up, can we end with a quote from ALPHA GODDESS?
AH: Of course! Here is one of my favorite quotes from Dev. It’s short, but succinct.

“Life and loss are the fabric of the realms.”

We are born and we die, but what we do between those two points and how we make our mark on the world are what defines us.

KO: Thanks so much for stopping by to chat about your gorgeous books!
AH: Thank you for having me! I really hope you enjoy ALPHA GODDESS. I love to hear from readers so if you have any questions or comments, or simply want to learn more, feel free to email me at mail@amaliehoward.com.