Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Blog Tour: The Star-Touched Queen

Hey, everyone! Today is a very special day in the YA community! A very special book, The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi publishes today! I've got some awesome content for you today, but before we get to that, let's get to the book's details!

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: May 3, 2016

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire. . .

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . . including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

An Excerpt from The Star-Touched Queen

The archives were cut like honeycombs and golden light clung to them, dousing every tome, painting, treatise and poem the soft gold of ghee freshly skimmed from boiling butter. I was only allowed to visit once a week—to meet with my weekly tutor before I inevitably scared him away. Every time I left the archival room, my arms brimmed with parchment paper. I loved the feeling of discovery, of not knowing how much I wanted something until I had discovered its absence.

The week before, I had lost myself in the folktales of Bharata. Stories of elephants who spun clouds, shaking tremors loose from ancient trunks gnarled with the rime of lost cyclones, whirlwinds and thunderstorms. Myths of frank-eyed naga women twisting serpentine, flashing smiles full of uncut gemstones. Legends of a world beneath, above, beside the one I knew—where trees bore edible gems and no one would think twice about a girl with dark skin and a darker horoscope. I wanted it to be real so badly that sometimes I thought I could see the Otherworld. Sometimes, if I closed my eyes and pressed my toes into the ground, I could almost sense them sinking into the loam of some other land, a dream demesne where the sky cleaved in two and the earth was sutured with a magic that could heal hearts, mend bones, change lives.

It was a dream I didn’t want to part with, but I had to settle for what magic I could create on my own. I could read more. Learn more. Make new dreams. But the best part wasn’t hoarding those wishes to myself. It was sharing everything I learned with Gauri, my half-sister. She was the only one I couldn’t scare away. . . the only one I didn’t want to.

Thinking of Gauri always made me smile. But as soon as I caught sight of my tutor of the week, the smile disappeared. He stood between two pillars of the archive section marking the kingdom’s history. Beyond the sheer number of things to read in the archive room, what I loved most was its ceiling. It was empty, wide enough to crawl through and conveniently linked to my father’s inner sanctum.

The tutor, as luck would have it, stood directly below my hiding spot.

At least Father’s announcement hadn’t started. The courtiers still murmured and the footfall of tardiness fell on my ears like music. But if I was ever going to get to hear that meeting, I had to get rid of the tutor first.

“Punctuality is a prize among women,” said the tutor.

I bit back a cringe. His voice was sticky. The words drawn out like they would morph into a noose and slip around you in the dark. I stepped back, only to see his eyes sharpen into a glare.

He was heavyset and tall. Soft-rounded jowls faded into a non-chin and thick neck. Greasy black eyes dragged across my body. In the past, my tutors had all been the same—a little doughy, a little nervous. Always superstitious. This new tutor held my gaze evenly. That was unexpected. None of my other tutors had ever met my eye. Sometimes the tutors sidled against the dark of the archival chambers, hands trembling as they pushed a set of notes toward me. History lessons, they said. Why did they always start with history? Show me a dream unrealized. Don’t show me unchangeable paths.

The tutor cleared his throat. “I have no intention to teach you history or letters or speech. I intend to teach you silence. Stillness.”

This time I didn’t even try to hide my scowl. I did not like this replacement. Tutors generally left me alone. I never had to raise my voice. I never had to scowl. I didn’t even need words. What scared them most was much simpler and sweeter than that—a smile. The moment I smiled—not a real one, of course, but a slow, crocodile reveal of teeth and a practiced manic gleam—the tutor would make an excuse, edge along the wall and flee out of the archive rooms.

Who wanted to be smiled at by the girl that trailed shadows like pets, conjured snakes and waited for Death, her bridegroom, to steal her from these walls? Never mind that none of it was true. Never mind that the closest I had come to real magic was making off with an entire tray of desserts without anyone noticing. The shadow of me always loomed larger than the person who cast it. And sometimes that had its benefits.

My Q&A with Roshani Chokshi

Q. It’s always fun to know more about the writing process. Where were you when the idea for The Star-Touched Queen popped in your head, and why did you know that you had to tell this particular story?

A. I first got the idea in summer of 2012 when I worked as a teacher for incoming 9th graders. It was really nothing more than an idea of a girl with an awful horoscope who went unnoticed. She reminded me of fairytales I’d loved hearing when I was younger, so I revisited them. I tried writing the story for a couple months, but eventually gave up when I started my senior year of college and ran out of time. When I completed my thesis in 2013, I realized I finally had those building blocks for the story. I understood why I’d been so drawn to certain other fairytales. But, again, I didn’t have the time to write it. After I started working, I started writing the story in summer 2013. Mostly as procrastination for LSAT studying. I had to tell this story because I thought it was my last chance. I’d tried querying other stories before with no success. This was the first one that felt personal and important to me. And I knew that if I didn’t give myself this chance now, I’d never have the time in law school.

Q. What did you feel like when you received the news that The Star-Touched Queen was going to be published?

A. I felt…fizzy. Like I’d eaten a gallon of poprocks and I was just zinging and alive and glittery. My agent had emailed me when I was in the middle of class and I ran out, nearly got hit by a car and stumbled into my apartment. And then she called. And we talked. And I cried. And then I sat down on the couch with my boyfriend (who was equally in SHOCK) and we just stared out the window like we’d never really seen the sky until now.

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