In Conversation with Author Smita Bhattacharya

I had the wonderful opportunity to pre-read Smita Bhattacharya’s upcoming novel. In addition, I have been lucky to collaborate with her on an interview.

Read on to know more about Smita and her upcoming novel Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney?

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Threw-Draco-Chimney-Nandkarnis-Misadventures-ebook/dp/B08FR4JL3J

The two previous books in the series are

Kiss of Salt: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SB4MIn 2M6

The Secret Angels: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZMR9MB4

Tell us a little about yourself

Author of cosy and psychological thriller mysteries, management consultant, coffee lover, gipsy-in-my-head, living in Mumbai for over 15 years, have travelled to over 40 countries, about 30 of them solo. I have about five published books and counting. I have too many stories to tell, and not enough time.

From where do you draw inspiration for the books you write?

There is no straight path, no direct answer; different books have had different birth stories. It could be piece of gossip someone told me over lunch; I might make a different ending to it, and give a whole new spin to the story. Or it could be a movie I watched and thought about a side character; how interesting she might be if she were to be the main one and what kind of a life might she have. I endure the joys of an overactive imagination. I say endure, because I never sleep well. I have so many stories in my head all the time.

Which book(s) are you currently reading?

I am reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I intend to also take it on my vacation to Goa soon. Yes! Finally! The lockdown eases and we can live as normal people. I am loving this book. It is engrossing, warm, and witty, and a welcome break from the sort of dark books I usually read.

Which is your favourite genre?

I like psychological mind twisters and atmospheric cosy mysteries. They are my ‘go-to’ books, i.e. when I don’t want to focus too much and want the pages to simply turn. I’m specifically fond of British and European fiction thrillers. Something about the dark dreariness of the surroundings, a trickle of blood on the snow, the brooding actors, languages I can’t follow, fascinate me. A few of my favourite authors in this genre are Tana French, Henning Mankell, and Andrea Camilleri. I know most people love fast action, gun fights, and sharp dialogues, but I love soaking in the rolling hills, empty streets, and a small town vibe. ‘Atmospheric’ is the word to describe the kind of books I like. I feel like I’m wrapped in a blanket, drinking a warm cup of coffee during Christmas when I read them.

Who is your favourite author?

That’s a tricky question because I doubt anyone has ONE favourite author. But if I have to mention someone whom I admire because he has managed to blend in good writing with a genre that’s otherwise difficult to master i.e. horror—yes, you guessed it right, it’s going to be Stephen King. He has been churning good content, never losing his touch, rarely getting boring. I think he has the pulse of the market and so, does very well in it. He is an inspiration for authors who aspire to be mass market, and yet, want to be taken seriously.

On the other hand, I have evergreen favourites, those whose books I cherish and will remember all my life. Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Donna Tartt, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth, Chimamanda Adichie. Most recently, I was impressed with ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller and ‘Where the Crawdads sing’ by Delia Owens. I love a mix of authors and genres as you can see, and I can go on and on listing them because I read voraciously.

If you had to pick one book to take away with you on vacation, what would it be?

To reread? One in the Harry Potter series. Or maybe Calvin and Hobbes. Or Agatha Christie.

To read for the first time? If it’s a global location, I try and buy local fiction, if possible local crime fiction. I have shelves filled with books from all around the world, inscribed with postcards and notes from book keepers and store owners. Sometimes, traveler friends.

With reference to your new book, Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? How did you get the idea for the plot?

I don’t know how. I am serious! It all just came together. I wanted a story that referenced the strange eyelets on the roofs of Sibiu—they were everywhere, and they looked so eerie, just as if eyes were following me around. I was also fascinated by the gypsies in Romania. Did you know these nomadic people landed in Romania during the seventh century and they came from Punjab (India)? In addition, I knew Romania had loads of old stories and legends. Of course, you’ve heard of Dracula. So, I decided to mix everything: crazy legends, unfounded rumours, gypsies, eclectic local characters, and the beauty of its villages and towns. A true potboiler of a story!

Why did you decide to focus on Draco in the title of the book?

Naming a book is a tough task, I suppose somewhat like naming a baby: you fear you can never get it perfectly right, and once you’ve given it, it’s stuck for life. Draco is a distinctly Romanian name, and it would be easy to guess where the book is based. Also, a question in the title always piques my interest and that’s what I wanted to do.

Did the town of Sibiu inspire the plot for the book? If so, how?

I already had the basic plot in mind. The town embraced it into its arms and gave it a shape of its own. As I roamed the streets or wrote in my Bed&Breakfast, I could almost imagine Darya walking on the cobbled streets, staring in wonder at the eyelets on the roofs, wondering why they came about.

What did you like the most about Sibiu and why?

Sibiu is a ‘big-small’ city. I had read a lot about it, and when I landed there, I had 6 days to kill, and, so I thought to myself, why not here? Darya could well have come to Sibiu and stayed for her break, as I had myself had come for my sabbatical.

Sibiu is a Romanian city from the 12th century built by the German settlers known as Transylvanian Saxons. It is located in central Transylvania and has a population of around 400,000. Despite the flurry of tourism after being designated European Capital of Culture in 2007, it has retained much of its old world charm and grandeur. In 2008, it was designated Europe’s 8th-most idyllic place to live. It has great people, lovely food, and many many things to see and do. And you will not have tourist feet trampling your own as you explore.

Moreover, the Romanians are extraordinary people: blunt, warm, garrulous. Their inimitable personalities and rich culture and traditions added a whole different flavour to Draco’s story.

Where did you get the inspiration for the main protagonist of the series: Darya Nandkarni?

Three years ago, I wondered why there were not too many books with normal female leads in them. What I mean is, the women in the books I read were usually tragic, struggling, or getting over some difficulties, or simpering women waiting for a glance from a hard-hearted (but rich!) man. I wanted to create a normal female lead, like you and I, who did not have to have suffered in their lives and could do fun things. Hence, was born a series and a couple of standalone books, with strong-willed women, who are imperfect and gutsy, not waiting for a man to rescue them, using their cleverness and wit to navigate through their life and its many mysteries.

Do you base any of your characters on people you know? Would you like to give an example, if yes?

I often always do that, but never one hundred per cent. I am guilty is using names of my friends, and selecting their quirky mannerisms, but never replicating any one whole. I think all authors are guilty of being inspired by their near and dear ones, and also their selves. Some parts of Darya are definitely me. Some parts of Alina and Irina are my girlfriends. I often also replicate my real-life situations in my books, because ‘Fact is stranger than fiction’ has not been vainly said.

What about your other books, where did you draw inspiration for them?

My very popular mystery ‘Dead to Them’ was inspired by my workplace. The first of the Darya Nandkarni series – Kiss of Salt – was inspired by my many trips to Goa. ‘The Secret Angels’ is based in Chapel Road in Bandra, a lane I find fascinating and close to where I live in Mumbai. And Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? is based on superstitions and old stories, the kind I read and heard in my trip to Romania. Inspiration can come from random comments, unfinished stories, a book or a movie watched accidentally. One merely needs to pay attention, use one’s imagination, and have the will to write.

What is an average writing day like for you?

I write every day, even if it’s for 30 minutes. I write for at least 3 to 4 hours on weekends. Creating is a lot of fun, but getting out a good book is continuous effort and dedication. A lot of discipline! Rewriting and revision takes up a lot of time and that’s where it becomes a bit of a grind. Don’t even get me started on the marketing aspect of it. In conclusion, what I’m trying to say is this: writing is a lot of fun and I can do it every day. I have too many stories in my head and not enough time to jot it down. But if only writing was enough, and we didn’t have to do all the peripherals.

What message would you like to share with your readers?

You have everything. You are enough. If you have a dream, you have everything to do it already within you.

Book Review: Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? by Smita Bhattacharya

A huge thank you to Smita Bhattacharya, author of the books in the Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures Series, for reaching out to me and introducing me to her wonderfully eccentric character, Darya.

Read on to know my thoughts on her upcoming novel in the series, to be released in November 2020.

The review is my own honest opinion of the book.

About the Book:

Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? (Darya Nandkarni's Misadventures #3)

Sibiu, Romania. 1947.

A boy’s dead body is discovered in the chimney of an abandoned farmhouse.

Sixty years later, more bodies are discovered in the same place.

Who did it then? Who is doing it now?

Can it be the same killer, or is it another, inspired by the first?

A backpacker is missing. Impressed by Darya’s past exploits, the owner of the missing boy’s hostel tasks Darya to look for him.

After some digging, Darya leads the police to an old farmhouse. They find the backpacker’s two-week-old dead body wedged inside the chimney. Along with two others.

The locals think it is the devil’s work. Darya knows not to trust local superstitions, of which there are many. But the crime is so diabolical, so unique, it begs the question: who could be doing this?

Darya needs to find out urgently before she is forced to leave Sibiu. And as she races to solve the mystery, she has to make sure she doesn’t let new friendships or the town’s insidious secrets get in her way.

The book’s Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Threw-Draco-Chimney-Nandkarnis-Misadventures-ebook/dp/B08FR4JL3J

The book’s Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55024921-who-threw-draco-down-the-chimney

My Thoughts:

This is the third book in the series based on the eccentric character of Darya Nandkarni. Darya is a an accidental and amateur detective who seems to find her way towards mysteries or do they find her? That is a question for the reader to ponder!

Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? is a very well-crafted mystery filled with the right amount of intrigue in a wonderful setting. Smita introduces the reader to the town of Sibiu in Romania. It is easy to imagine the town even without visiting it thanks to the detailed descriptions and precise explanations of the setting, the people, their mannerisms and lives! She paints a wonderful picture that draws the reader in and would even make the reader want to visit and explore this place!

What sets the book apart are the characters. Each one is shrouded in mystery, suspicious, hiding something and anyone could be guilty! I also enjoyed reading about how they band together and support one another. They are also welcoming and make outsiders feel very much as home. At every point, the reader is forced to pause and wonder at the involvement of each character in the death of the backpacker. It is not clear until the very end with an unexpected twist.

I particularly enjoyed how Smita weaves the past and present, narrating the story in two timelines: one in the weeks leading up to the particular incident that kickstarts Darya’s involvement in the investigation; the second in the present day when Darya is explaining the outcome of her investigation and discussing her findings. A lot of research seems to have gone into the plot line which is well represented through this book.

Smita handles the story and characters very well, with detailed descriptions and a steady pace that takes the reader until the very end. The story can be read as a stand-alone one even though there are some minor references to cases that Darya solved previously and to her family.

This is a must read for everyone who enjoys mysteries set in unique places and with wonderful twists and turns!

Book Review: The Queen of Corvids by J.C. McKenzie

I found this book on NetGalley and immediately requested for a copy as the blurb sounded quite fascinating. Read on to know my thoughts.

About the Book:

Queen of Corvids (Raven Crawford, #3)

Truth can be ugly and part-time waitress, casual PI investigator, and half-fae shifter, Raven Crawford, can’t deny she owes the Lord of War a favour. If she defaults on her debt, she relinquishes all her power to a man who doesn’t know the meaning of mercy. And she thought her bank loans were bad.

With her new role in the Underworld contending with her debt to a dictator, a budding romance with the Lord of Shadows, and her need to pay the bills, Raven is in serious need of balance. But the moment the dark fae walked into her diner months ago, she’s been off-balance.

It’s time for Raven to pull up her big girl socks and prove to everyone she’s no longer the burnt-out waitress with a nifty parlour trick.

She’s the Queen of Corvids

My Thoughts:

First off I have to mention that I have not read the first two books of this series! However, it was quite surprising that I was able to grasp most of the context from this book. Of course it did take me a little time to get used to the characters and the setting and the magic!

The book is fast paced and well-written in a no nonsense manner! The story moves quite fast and is quite enjoyable as it is mixed with both action and romance. The main character, Raven, is strong and though there could have been more depth to her character, she is quite interesting. I particularly enjoyed her dynamics with her guard and with the Lord of Shadows. Another particularly interesting part of the story is Raven’s dynamics with her family and friends.

This story follows her journey towards gaining confidence in herself and taking up the mantle of the Queen of Corvids completely. We watch her navigate the meeting halls of the dark fae and even watch as she works to outsmart most of the villains including the Lord of War!

An enjoyable read, this story is gripping and fun in equal measure! I do hope to read more books by this author soon!

Cover Reveal: The Vengeance of Indra (Vikramaditya Veergatha #3) by Shatrujeet Nath

~ Cover Reveal ~
The Vengeance of Indra 
(Vikramaditya Veergatha #3)
by Shatrujeet Nath
VENGEANCE IS A CAGE
FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM
In their greed to possess the deadly Halahala, the devas and the asuras have employed every dirty trick against Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine. But the humans are still standing, bloodied but unbowed.
When the wily Shukracharya discovers the secret to breaking the Council’s strength and unity, he forges an unlikely alliance with his arch-enemy, Indra, to set a deceitful plan in motion.
As cracks emerge between the councilors and their king, ghosts from the past threaten to ruin Vikramaditya and Kalidasa’s friendship, signaling the beginning of an eclipse that will cast a long shadow over all that Vikramaditya holds dear. And into this shadow steps Indra, bearing an old grudge — and a devastating new weapon.
How much longer before the Guardians of the Halahala finally fall apart?
Other Books in the Series:
 
(Click on the Covers for more details)
About the Author:
Shatrujeet Nath is the creator of the runaway national bestseller series Vikramaditya Veergatha, a four-book mytho-fantasy arc which includes The Guardians of the Halahala, The Conspiracy at Meru and The Vengeance of Indra. Described as “a new face to Indian mythology” by DNA, Shatrujeet writes for movies and web shows as well. He is also the author of The Karachi Deception, an Indo-Pak spy thriller.
 
 

 

Book Review: Christmas at Mistletoe Cove (Hope Island #3) by Holly Martin

About the Book:

Christmas at Mistletoe Cove

Growing up on Hope Island, Eden Lancaster always believed that if you wished hard enough for something, dreams really could come true. But Eden’s greatest wish is also her biggest secret: she has been completely in love with her childhood friend, the charming and attractive Dougie Harrison, for as long as she can remember. And he has no idea.

When Dougie leaves his successful life in New York to return home to Hope Island for good, Eden can’t escape her feelings. Her heart is full of hope that her romantic dreams are finally, at long last, going to come true…

This Christmas could change everything. But can a lifelong friendship really turn into the perfect romance? And will Eden get the happily ever after she’s always wished for?

My Thoughts:

 Christmas at Mistletoe Cove is the story of childhood friends Eden and Dougie, who have always loved each other but don’t realize that the other has the same feelings until much later. They both shy away from telling the other about their feelings which seems quite clear to everyone else around them. As much as I enjoyed the concept of magic and hope at the time of the holidays, the romance did not do much for me. It all felt rushed and sudden and then quite over the top. All of a sudden everything just works out and is perfect with a lot of over the top gestures to prove that dreams can come true. It seemed a bit too easy for me and thus I ended up skimming through some parts of the story that didn’t hold my attention. The characters are nice, but everyone seems to be rather perfect in how they are and their lives.

The concept of a happily ever after and finding love at the time of Christmas is wonderful and I am sure that fans of romance will enjoy this story!

Release Blitz: Curiosity and The Sentient’s Oblation by Zachary Paul Chopchinski

2016-742 eBook Zash Chopchinski, Gabrielle B03


Curiosity and The Sentient’s Oblation by Zachary Paul Chopchinski

Series: Gabrielle Book #3
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: February 27, 2017

BUY NOW
AMAZON

add-to-goodreads-button

The widowed wife of a North Carolina plantation owner, Gabrielle awakens in this life with a broken heart and a sharpened spirit. Living in one of the darkest times in American history, she finds herself running a safe house for the underground railroad during the American Civil War. In order to save a life, Gabrielle must make a sacrifice that could damn her host for eternity.
Everything’s different this time. The rules have changed, Morrigan has changed, and Arawn is more dangerous than ever. He has sent a hunter after Gabrielle and she has to use every ounce of her new powers if she is going to survive.

Continue reading