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Success Story Interview - Roshani Chokshi

An Interview with Roshani Chokshi (oenone on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Thao Le of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
Roshani Chokshi:
Since I’m of (half) Indian descent, a lot of the mythology found in the manuscript represents the stories I heard when I grew up. As I grew older, I noticed that those stories — which were vast, beautiful and epic — hadn’t really found a home in bookstores. Every fantasy title I saw was, for the most part, based on European civilizations. When you’re growing up, it’s impossible not to imagine yourself in the role of your favorite hero/heroine and it’s hard to do that when you don’t see yourself represented in these novels.
QT: How long have you been writing?
Roshani Chokshi:
I was always making up stories! Probably 12?
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
Roshani Chokshi:
The idea marinated in my head (sorry for the food imagery, I’m in a constant state of hunger…) for about two years. I had gone back and forth with writing chapters, cutting them out, etc…but I worked on it seriously from October-April and then again to rehaul it during the summer after an R&R.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Roshani Chokshi:
Yes. Querying is a soul-sucking process. And nothing is worse than having something you’ve lost sleep, tears and blood over than to receive a “just not for me” response on a full. What helped me stay the course was simple: escape. During summer, I made peace with my inbox, double-checked that all the right queries went out and then I left for a 7-week backpacking trip.
QT: Is this your first book?
Roshani Chokshi:
No. I’ve written 3 before, all of which failed gloriously and catastrophically in the submission process.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
Roshani Chokshi:
I was an English major?
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
Roshani Chokshi:
I should…but I don’t. I try to take time out during the day to commit at least 1,000 words to the page, even if all the words are bad and filled with “WHY WON’T YOU MAKE SENSE, CANTANKEROUS FIEND OF A SENTENCE?!”
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Roshani Chokshi:
HA. 12. No joke.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
Roshani Chokshi:
I did and they are the most fabulous people in the world. I’d never had my work critiqued (apart from my best friend giving it her glowing stamp of approval). So when I sent out my first couple of chapters to a CP I found (courtesy of Ladies Who Critique), I was *floored* when my manuscript returned mangled and torn up. I almost cried. But then I realized it was constructive and I became incredibly grateful and, if not willing, at least determined to get more eyes on those pages and make it the best it could be.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
Roshani Chokshi:
I outline, but my outlines are always changing.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
Roshani Chokshi:
I queried for three months on this book.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
Roshani Chokshi:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
Roshani Chokshi:
I read a lot of their interviews (thank you so much, bloggers!) and that really helped point me in the right direction about how to tailor the query and whether they would even like my premise.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Roshani Chokshi:
Yes! (see above). I usually didn’t add more than a line of personalization though.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Roshani Chokshi:
Don’t rush. I rushed with my first “practice” novels and only when it was too late realized how arrogant I was. Everyone needs chapter feedback, everyone needs to understand their character. No one gets it right the first time.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
Roshani Chokshi:

Query Letter:

I’m seeking representation for my YA fantasy, THE MEMORY TREE, which is complete at 85,000 words and re-envisions Indian folklore.

Sixteen-year-old Maya can outmaneuver a soldier, decipher political double-talk and slip out of the tightly guarded harem with her eyes closed. But when her father announces she’ll be married within the week, nothing can change his mind. In less than a day, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets — a room where time stands still, a garden of glass and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. When she breaks Amar’s trust and explores the Memory Tree, her discovery not only ruins the balance of the human and Otherworldly realms, but also unleashes Chaos incarnate.

Determined to protect the people she loves, Maya sets out to restore the fractured balance. But to succeed, she must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives, travel through the seamy underbelly of the Indian Otherworld and perform the impossible: trick Death himself.