Friday, 9 April 2010

Featured Author Interview with Vijaya Schartz, author of Red Lepoard

Today we welcome Vijaya Schartz to the blog, author of Desert Breeze's April Release, Red Leopard.

STEPH: Vijaya, I see that you've lived in France. For how long? Where? Can you speak French?

VIJAYA: I was born and raised in France, near Paris, and lived there until my late twenties. French is my native language. I did all my studies in France, and I speak English with a trace of French accent (a stronger accent when I'm tired). The funny thing is, after all these years I now think in English, so the words flow in English. And when I return to France to see my family, it takes me several days to start thinking in French again and find my French words and syntax.

STEPH: You've traveled all over. What were some of the places you've been to? Have your travels resonated in your storytelling?

VIJAYA: I lived in India (where I studied Yoga), I spent a few years in Hawaii, I've visited Japan, Thailand, traveled all over Europe and Scandinavia. I've seen the Sphinx and the Pyramids. My first novel, Ashes for the Elephant God, is a reincarnation love story set in India. I especially like to study different customs. Writing Sci-fi romance, it helps me create imaginary societies with idiosyncrasies and customs that make sense.

STEPH: Chocolate, Vanilla, or Strawberry?

VIJAYA: French Vanilla as a flavor, definitely. But also sometimes coffee (can't resist Tiramisu). Hard, dark chocolate, however, is definitely a staple of mine.

STEPH: How long have you been writing? What's the most rewarding aspect of it?

VIJAYA: I've been writing since I was six, poetry, journals, essays, articles (in French). I was always an avid reader. It's only after I came to the United States and settled down in Phoenix, Arizona in the nineties, that I decided to write seriously for publication (in English). So I took a bunch of English classes, creative writing, novel writing classes, joined writers groups, etc and embarked on this exciting new career. My first book came out in 2000.

As for the rewards, they are many. First I love what I do, and I can do it in my yoga pants, drinking tea and eating dark chocolate peanut Reese's. I've also earned the respect of my peers and I now speak at writers conferences and teach writing seminars. My students are wonderful. But whenever a reader emails me to tell me about my characters, or just loves my books, I'm in seventh heaven. The first time someone I didn't know came to me at a book signing in a Barnes & Noble, gushing about my stories, I was stunned.

STEPH: What's the latest movie you've seen.

VIJAYA: I see many movies, but the latest one that sticks in my mind is AVATAR. For a sci-fi author, it's extraordinary to see on the screen the stuff that could so far only be imagined and described in books.

STEPH: I just started watching Caprica and I love it. Are you watching it? What are your thoughts on the series?

VIJAYA: I watch the Syfy channel religiously (except for horror movies). I usually like to see or read a story from the beginning, but Caprica, the prequel to Battlestar Galactica, couldn't have been aired first. It would have spoiled the intrigue about the origins of the cylons. I also suspect that the idea for the prequel came as a consequence of deepening the characters in Battlestar Galactica. I'm very interested to see how this develops, and how it ties into the known Battlestar story.

I also watch "V" and "Legend of the Seeker" on other channels. I'm glad Syfy took over the "Merlin" British series. I'm a fan of medieval fantasy. Love Arthurian legends. Maybe that's why the Chronicles of Kassouk have this dual thread, medieval society vs. galactic race.

STEPH: How did the idea for RED LEOPARD come to be?

VIJAYA: It's kind of serendipitous. White Tiger, Book One, was an award-winning novel originally published by my former and now defunct publisher, and was a single title. When I signed up with Desert Breeze, I suggested that White Tiger could become the start of a series. They liked the idea and asked me for titles. The name of the series was easy, since the citadel of Kassouk is the center of the world I created for the first book. Then, without any idea about what the next book would be, I had to provide titles for two more books.

Since felines are a very important part of Human life on this world, and Human warriors liken themselves to felines, I chose feline titles. Just as White Tiger was the nickname of the heroine in Book One, Red Leopard is the name of the hero in Book Two, and Black Jaguar is the hero of Book Three. I have more titles in mind for future books, but it's not set yet.

STEPH: What is Red Leopard about?

VIJAYA: It's about a young medieval warrior placed in a position of power when an alien invader shows up at his doorstep, and about a powerful, space-traveling woman who has to deal with prejudice and betrayal. It's about winning against impossible odds, it's about courage, sacrifice, and about Human resourcefulness. He must learn to ask for help, and she must learn to respect the values of what her people consider a primitive race.

STEPH: Why the fascination with felines?

VIJAYA: I dedicated Red Leopard to all the cats in my life. This fascination with felines in Kassouk society did not happen by chance. I'm a shameless cat lover. As I was writing Red Leopard, my test readers kept asking me to write more about the felines. So I did. And if you like cats, you'll recognize the truth of their behavior, habits, reactions. In Book Two, these large felines are fully developed characters.

STEPH: The covers for the series are stunning. Did you have anything to do with them?

VIJAYA: I wish I did. I only provided the information for the book, and Jenifer Ranieri came up with the fantastic cover for the first book, White Tiger, which won the Quasar Award for best eBook cover of 2009.

STEPH: Do you plot your stories in advance, or just start writing and see where the story goes?

VIJAYA: I do both. Writing from an outline goes faster, and I do like a solid plot. But I also like discovering and deepening my characters as I go. Sometimes they are full of surprises. If the plot is flexible enough, I can include the new elements that surface as the story matures. I found this method rewarding. it however requires more rewrites and takes longer than just writing from a set outline.

STEPH: What are you writing now?

VIJAYA: I'm working on book three, BLACK JAGUAR, which is scheduled for release in November 2010. The hero is absolutely delicious, with dark skin and emerald eyes, and his pet is of course a black jaguar. I'm learning a lot about jaguars in my research. Did you know the word means "who kills in one leap?" Jaguars also do not roar like other large felines, they have a kind of coughing cry. This story is one of exploration, and the heroine is a mind reader. Each book is a story unto itself, but the characters are related to previous characters in the other books.

Thanks for popping in Vijaya! It was fun getting to know a little more about you and your writing. Bon Chance avec Red Leopard. (I hope I said that right!)


  1. Vijaya,

    I love your books. I will be in AZ soon We are moving on May 3rd.

    I would love to take some of your classes

    Walk in harmony,

  2. Thanks, Melinda. Looking forward to meeting you.

    And Steph, it's "Bonne chance" but you were pretty close.


  3. Great inteview! This series is fantastic! I've only read one of the books, but I had to get the other after I read it. Really great!

  4. Great interview Vijaya! I love all your books and can't wait to get my copy of Red Leopard.

  5. Thanks Vijaya - my high school French - well it was years ago. **blushes**

    Your series sounds great and I intend on putting your books on my reading list.

    I just want to say I really enjoyed this interview. It was a lot of fun. Thanks for popping in, Vijaya.

    Moderator Steph

  6. Great interview - your series sound marvelous! Congrats on your success. I enjoyed learning more about you.