Interview With an Author: Roshani Chokshi

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Roshani Chokshi and her latest novel, Once More Upon a Time
Author Roshani Chokshi and her latest novel, Once More Upon a Time. Photo credit: Aman Sharma

Roshani Chokshi is the author of commercial and critically acclaimed books for middle grade and young adult readers that draw on world mythology and folklore. Her work has been nominated for the Locus and Nebula awards and has frequently appeared on Best of The Year lists from Barnes and Noble, Forbes, Buzzfeed, and more. Her New York Times bestselling series includes The Star-Touched Queen duology (The Star-Touched Queen & A Crown of Wishes), The Gilded Wolves, and Aru Shah and The End of Time, which was recently optioned for film by Paramount Pictures. Her latest book is Once More Upon a Time and she recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Once More Upon a Time?

I was inspired by a rather sad ending to an Irish fairytale, the tale of Diarmuid and Grainne, which ends with the lovers having to give up their love for each other to restore one of them to health. I thought it would be an interesting beginning rather than an ending.

Are Imelda, Ambrose, or any of the other characters in the novel inspired by or based on specific individuals?

They are the individualized versions of stock characters in fairytales…the siblings forgotten about in the particular birth order which determines protagonists. Middle children, essentially.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

Interestingly, Once More Upon a Time came out very cleanly. More so than any of my other projects.

Once More Upon a Time is a decidedly humorous look at some of the tropes in traditional fairy tales. Do you have a favorite fairy tale? If so, what is it?

My favorite is Bluebeard by Charles Perrault. It is bloody and tragic, and yet leaves so many questions unanswered that it becomes an endless feast for the imagination.

Do you have a favorite version/retelling of your favorite (novels, film, or television)? A least favorite? One that is so bad it is fun?

I have many favorites for different reasons. Here are a few: Penelope with James McAvoy and Christina Ricci ; Jean Cocteau’s Le Belle Et La Bete, the 2015 absurdly strange and decadent film Tale of Tales with Salma Hayek and Vincent Cassel and the 2006 film The Fall with Lee Pace.

Do you have an idea or theory regarding why/how original/traditional fairy tales continue to be a source of inspiration to artists centuries after they were first written down?

Fairytales are a set of immortal, enchanted bones, and through each successive generation, we are able to hang upon them the skins of inherited dreams, the flesh of nightmares wrought by the past, and the fragile silks of all our hopes. That is why fairytales never cease to feed us. They can be anything to us at any time, and yet one only has to peel back to the bones of a story to see how familiar and ancient it really is.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges and an army of supplements.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison.

Is there a book you've faked reading?

The Silmarillion.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

Essex Serpent.

Is there a book that changed your life?

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

Wildwood Dancing by Juliette Marillier.

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

Hadestown by Anais Mitchell, although I’ve grown to love the Broadway version too.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

Acquiring fresh flowers with my husband, bookstore visit, lunch outside with prosecco, grocery store for dinner supplies, sunshine silvering into rain, a table laid for friends, an hour to read on the couch with teddy the cat before I put it away because now our front door is opening and the sounds of pleasant evening company are spilling into the hallway.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

What is your favorite word? Ophidian.

What are you working on now?


Book cover for Once More Upon a Time
Once More Upon a Time
Chokshi, Roshani